Perfect pitch

It started off as a leisurely pastime. But these dozen or so diehard players are pitching horseshoes into the air in the hopes of scoring a ringer.

The Souhegan Valley Tournament Association is a local organization of horseshoe players in Milford who gather Wednesday evenings for open-pit night. They are looking to recruit members in hopes of hosting annual tournaments.

Matt Schwab started the organization two years ago and since their first tournament last year, they’ve moved their home to a cleared field on the Riley Brothers Lumber Inc. farm. The group constructed a tournament area that accommodates 14 sets of horseshoe pits with the financial support of its many sponsors.

“We are really appreciative,” Schwab said. “They’ve made it possible for us to get started and grow.”

Dale Riley, who owns the sawmill operation where they host game play, has been tossing horseshoes since he was a farmhand growing up on his family farm. Unlike most of the other players who pitch horseshoes in a flipping motion called a “flip shoe,” Riley pitches his horseshoe in a turning motion, what they call a “turn shoe.” Most professional players use a turn shoe and no tournament has ever been won with a flip shoe.

Riley, who is an admitted veteran of the game, enjoys it as a simple backyard game.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “We’re a motley group of people.”

Bill Davis, who’s organized the Milford Horseshoe Club for 15 years, is another player who regularly attends the open-pit nights.

“It’s just a good time,” he said. “It’s where we can hang out and relax.”

Open-pit nights are open to anyone interested in learning how to play or in socializing with other horseshoe players. They usually play three games and compete in a round of best two out of three. Admission to Open-Pit Nights costs $5.

A portion of this year’s proceeds will be donated to the SHARE program, which provides food, clothing and emergency financial assistance to those in need serving the towns of Milford, Amherst, Mont Vernon, and Brookline. “In the end, we want to help,” Schwab said.

The Souhegan Valley Tournament Association currently hosts the Summer Classic and annual Milford Horseshoe Tournament. This year the third annual will be held Saturday, Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. An antique tractor show was also added to this year’s tournament.

The Souhegan Valley Tournament Association is hosting open-pit night every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to dusk through Sept. 28 at SVTA/Riley Field or a physical address of 40 Christmas Tree Lane, Milford. If you are interested in registering as a member or trying your hand at horseshoes at one of their open games, visit the group’s Web site at

Alexandra Churchill can be reached at 594-6411 or