There’s nothing like the sound of a metal horseshoe chiming as it snags a stake and whirls down into the sand, said Myrna Kissick of Innisfail.
“It’s a beauty, that,” she said, going into detail about the best position to strike a “ringer” from the horseshoe pits in town which are located near the Innisfail hospital off of 42nd Street.
It’s no surprise that Kissick, 77, wears a horseshoe necklace and matching ring. The sport is her longtime passion and it’s taken her across the world.
“My husband and I went over to Japan in 1988 as part of a group and we taught the kids how to throw shoes,” said Kissick. “We were the only Canadians that went. Those kids were sure thrilled with it . . . We went to Hawaii too, all over.”
Kissick, a former Caroline area farmer, is a world champion and has played multiple times in the women’s division at the World Horseshoe Pitching Championships. She’s also a national and provincial champion numerous times over, setting records for highest ringer percentage.
At one point her ringer percentage was in the 90s, she said. An injured wrist has lowered that percentage.
“The way to become a champion is simple: practice, practice, practice,” said Kissick.
“I used to throw 400 shoes a day.”
Kissick’s game began in 1972, after she earned a bronze medal at the Alberta Summer Games in Innisfail. She hasn’t stopped playing since then and can still be found out at the pits every Wednesday evening, helping new players with the Innisfail Horseshoe Club and measuring throws.
“The club has been growing by leaps and bounds and we just had four new ones join the league,” said Kissick. “A family joined up, with three kids ages nine to 12 so that’s great to see. They’re all entered into the national championship this summer.”
Standing strong at about 20 members now, the club consisted of only Kissick four years ago.
She was tossing horseshoes one afternoon when Charlie Whatley, another retired farmer, passed by.
“He called out, ‘Is that horseshoes I hear?’ and said he’d like to play,” said Kissick,
With Kissick’s coaching, Whatley, 81, went on to secure the Canadian championship title in his seniors’ division in 2012, and second in the provincial tournament this year. His ringer percentage is at 48, which means a ringer almost every other throw.
Another Innisfail club member, Cornelius Taks, 82, had been playing horseshoes since he was a kid — but always just for fun.
“It was a family thing, something you’d do when everyone got together, when you’d go camping but no one ever wanted me as partner — I wasn’t very good,” Taks said with a laugh.
He participated in his first tournament this spring, winning first place and later fourth in the Red Deer tournament.
“He was walking 10 feet high,” Kissick said.
All three seniors say horseshoes is more than just a competitive past time; it’s a great way to keep fit.
“It really uses all the muscles in your body. We call it a sport of aerobics. And you know it’s one of the oldest sports in history too,” said Kissick. “It’s not expensive to play either. All you need are some shoes and they cost about $65 and have to be sanctioned but they last forever.”
The Canadian Horseshoe Championships is Aug. 13 to 16 in Calgary. The Innisfail Open Tournament is on Aug. 30.