A quick skim at the sports incorporated in the National Senior Games, and you’ll be quick to spot events that are common in the Olympic Games — basketball, track and field, swimming and softball.
Scroll down about midway through the list, and you’ll find a game you’d never see on television. Horseshoes. It’s commonly viewed at as a casual game, similar to cornhole (beanbags), that can be enjoyed with an adult beverage in your non-throwing hand.
“They think, ‘Oh, that ain’t nothing to do,’ ” Gail Guidry said. “Which is wrong; it’s competition. We get a lot of good ones.”
The only drinks on hand at the Valley View Playfield on Tuesday were sodas and waters. Tucked between a softball field and an aquatic center and hidden behind 10 giant pine trees, about 80 seniors were on hand for the first day of horseshoes for men and women over 70.
Many came from small town backgrounds, like Guidry. The 71-year-old started playing in her hometown of Waggaman, La., which holds just over 10,000 people, about 30 years ago.
“A bunch of guys got together and built a horseshoe pit, and they invited the women to play too,” Guidry said. “We had a league back at the gym where I started playing and then I just a horseshoe club.”
But there are plenty of Minnesotans on hand as well from small farm towns. Harold Schrader, 93, joined the sport late after he retired from working on the farm. The Easton native has played over the past 31 years and was inducted into the Minnesota Horseshoe Pitchers Hall of Fame.
He doesn’t travel as much as he once did, but Schrader, who now resides in Mankato, takes part in local tournaments around the state. Like many pitchers, Schrader said the competition along with the companionship is what drew him to the niche sport.
“It’s really the only thing that keeps you going anymore is looking forward to the next match,” Schrader said.
Sig Armitage competes in 30 tournaments every year and has an indoor horseshoe pit in his basement in Canby. The 76-year-old said he threw 18,000 horseshoes last winter to remain active when he is not working as a school bus driver.
And to think, Armitage first started playing when he turned 15 in order to avoid working on the farm.
“I never thought about getting older and playing, it was just there,” Armitage said. “It was something to do along with pitching in softball and bowling. You all have the same delivery.”