Hidden Horseshoes: Victoria’s secret sanctuary

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Victoria Horseshoe

Written by Lachlan Ross (ISN) – Photos by Erich Eichhorn – (ISN)

August 12, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Clinks and clanks echo the hidden park of shallow sandy pits and lone metal poles. Standing 30-feet from each pole, a person in royal blue polo shirt and white three quarter pants prepares to throw.

Above each concrete throwing mark, tin roofs protect the players for yearlong practice during Victoria’s wet months. A memorial shelter built earlier this year sits beside the 10 main pits, remembering the six original club members with gold plaques on a cross beam. The names of members that have passed in the club’s 78 years lay on smaller plaques below.

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Nine year old Dalton Moffat demonstrates his winning form for ISN at the Victoria Horseshoe Club Wednesday night – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca) 

“I always tell everybody you can play horseshoes from age six to ninety-six,” says 11-year member of the Greater Victoria Horseshoe Pitching Association (GVHPA), Tom Moffat. As Vice President of Horseshoe Canada, Moffat can proudly educate newcomers to the game in minutes. “Everybody thinks of it as a picnic sport,” he says. “We say this is Victoria’s best kept secret.”

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Victoria’s own Dalton Moffat shows how he has won the last three Canadian Horseshoe Championships in his PeeWee Division throwing the “six pack” for ISN – Erich Eichhorn image            (www.allsportmedia.ca) 

What might break the club’s secrecy this year is the success of two GVHPA youngsters. Despite the club mostly catering to retirees, 16-year-old Lindsay Hodgins and nine-year-old Dalton Moffat’s three years in the sport have had the impact of a horseshoe clanking its metal mark. Dalton is the three-time Canadian champion of the boys peewee division for under 12 years, while Lindsay has just returned from St. George, Utah where she became the 13 to 18 year world champion. While being only the third Canadian and first British Columbian to win the event already places Lindsay in Canadian horseshoe folklore, she has done so whilst battling autism. 

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Victoria Horseshoe Club member Lindsay Hodgins demonstrates winning concentration as she throws the “Ringer” – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca) 

“Six weeks before this championship started, she was having a real bout with the autism,” says Lindsay’s grandfather, Wayne Hodgins, who lives with the family in Duncan. “You couldn’t even talk to her. She didn’t want to throw horseshoes. She wanted to do nothing for about three days.”

Lindsay’s left arm sways back and forth four times “like a pendulum clock” as her grandfather taught her. The top of the line Snyder horseshoe sits in her palm, fingers closed over in a tight grip. On the fifth sway, Lindsay releases the horseshoe as her right foot steps forward. Her left leg follows through in a stride and the sky blue tie-dye t-shirt that separates her from the group shakes. The horseshoe drifts 30-feet in a backward somersault like a slow motion stunt rider and levels back to flat as it strikes the pole. The inner middle of the shoe hits with a harsh clank and drops to the sand, wrapped around the pole. It’s another “ringer” for Lindsay. She walks back to her mark.

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Throw enough of these like Victoria Horseshoe Club’s Lindsay Hodgins and you too could be a world champion . Hodgins would be the first Canadian woman to bring back the World Championship Crown go Canada in twenty years – Erich Eichhorn image   (www.allsportmedia.ca) 

“She doesn’t really care about nothin’ else,” Hodgins says, “she just cares about horseshoes.” But Hodgins credits his granddaughter’s improvement to straight A’s this past school year to her confidence with horseshoes.

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A family affair, Girls Junior World Champion Lindsay Hodgins poses with her grandfather Wayne Hodgins showing off her hard earned hardware – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca) 

Lindsay holds her two-foot tall trophy up for photos with a shy smile as club members congratulate and a news camera films her. Lindsay’s modesty is astonishing, but it’s clear how much it means to everyone. “I didn’t sleep for three nights after she won this,” Wayne Hodgins says.

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Lindsay Hodgins of Victoria is truly number one in the world in the Junior Girls Division, besting 1035 other competitiors from around the world to take the title back to Canada for the first time in 20 years – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca ) 

Tom Moffat’s grandson, Dalton, also suffers a learning disability, yet has still been Canadian champion of the sport all three years he’s played it. Moffat credits the sport to helping both Lindsay and Dalton, and says, “It’s good concentration if your kid needs to learn how to focus on things.”

Dalton agrees that focus is the most important part of the game. “If I miss one, I just concentrate on a ringer,” he says, demonstrating his throw.

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Lindsay’s throw is automatic, finding the pin on most attempts. At the World Championshis she would throw a championship round 56.91% average and go undefeated at 5-0 – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca) 

Because Saanich Parks and Recreation own GVHPA’s land, anyone is welcome to play at the club for free. With 160 current members, and only four junior members, the GVHPA encourages all Victorian’s, especially kids, to come out and try it. With over 20 total pits, the GVHPA hosted the 2010 Canadian Championships and is now looking forward to the upcoming annual GVHPA Open this Saturday, August 17, and the Saanich Open Sunday, August 18. Both competitions are open to participants of all levels.

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World Champion Lindsay Hodgins of the Victoria Horseshoe Club, taking no time off from her recent accomplishments, practices amongst her peers Wednesday night to keep sharp – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca) 

While the purpose of the club is horseshoes, it’s clear within minutes of arriving that community is what keeps the members there. In the presentation to Lindsay from her grandfather, he mentions the club members who welcomed Lindsay home at the airport on her return from Utah. “All you folks have been super with her and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making her day… It’s just turned her life around.”

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Scott – Owner of ISN, Scott Harrigan, trying his luck at horseshoes would look good early, but finish with poor form as his horseshoe ricochets off the roof at the Victoria Horseshoe Club much to his surprise – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)

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