Quite a number of Rosslanders are getting ready for the upcoming B.C. Senior Games, being held in Trail, Castlegar and Nelson from August 16 to 20.
Les and Vi Anderson, who have a horseshoe pitch carved into the back of their property amongst the trees, spend five or six hours per day practicing their throwing techniques.
“I like sports a lot so I put everything into it and practiced as much as I could,” said Les, who introduced himself to the game in 2001. His wife, Violet, began three years later.
“We practice together so are good competition for each other,” he said.
Les’s first gold medal came at the 2003 B.C. Games in Chilliwack; and at the Canadian Championships in 2007, he came in third.
“Those with first and second practiced eight to 10 hours per day.”
He has since earned quite a collection of medals.
The game of horseshoes can be dated back to the time of the Romans. Soldiers occupied their spare time pitching metal rings at stakes stuck in clay. The game continued to be a viable pastime throughout the centuries. It was even outlawed in 1388 because it distracted soldiers from their training.
“All the Legions and beer parlours had horseshoe pitches,” Les said. “But then it became a stigma that all players were older persons.”
But the game is making a comeback and is being taken up by younger generations.
“In the Penticton school, they have them in the gym. Horseshoes has to be the only sport in the world where a 14-year-old can compete with adults. And you can practice all day long and it doesn’t cost anything.”
The couple go to a dozen or more tournaments in a year but they say they aren’t in it for the money.
“First place in Penticton recently was $65. It paid for our gas.”
That, after paying $10 to enter.
The Anderson’s tried to get a public pitch built at Nickleplate Park but plans fell through. And so did the dozen or so people who wanted to form a horseshoe club in Rossland.
Despite lack of support and having to compete with a persistent black bear for space against the forest behind their home, the Andersons spend most of their days practicing their pitch.
They each have their own sanctioned set of horseshoes.
“They’re like golf clubs. There are different styles,” Les added. “We guard them with our lives.”