Lindsay Hodgins looks at the ground, her arm swaying slightly as she feels the weight of the horseshoe in her hand. It's a ritual that builds focus, and continues with her tossing the shoe in a high arc, and ends with a satisfying clank of a ringer.
The 16-year-old member of the Greater Victoria Horseshoe Pitching Association is the reigning junior female Canadian champion and is perfecting her throw for the World Tournament in July, in St. George, Utah, starting July 22. The long-running Saanich-based club is also sending the junior male Canadian champion, 16-year-old Mathew MacDonald.
Lindsay has been tossing horseshoes for about four years, thanks to her grandfather, Wayne Hodges. In the past year of competition she's placed first or second in 12 of 17 tournaments and holds a 47 per cent ringer average.
"I don't think about anything. I just look at the pole, and move my arm back and forth a few times," Lindsay says, describing her technique. "I practice a lot, just about every day."
Pitching association junior coach Bruce Bodnaruk said Lindsay is natural, but who also works hard at perfecting her game.
"Lindsay has got a lot of help from the ladies league. Her grandfather has been a huge influence. He's spent a lot of time coaching," he said. "We try not to force 'win' or 'lose.' It's an individual sport. It's about beating our own scores."
Lindsay's grandfather Wayne Hodgins said horseshoes has helped his granddaughter with her autism and with concentrating at school.
"She throws about 200 shoes a day. She is very very dedicated. She wins the majority of tournaments she enters," he said. "She plays against the best players on Vancouver Island. Nobody in juniors except Mathew (MacDonald) is close to her."
"It is an individual sport. The more you keep throwing, the better you will get. It's all about concentration and relaxation," Bodnaruk remarked. "It makes you slow down and concentrate."
Mathew MacDonald, 16, is the top junior male in Canada with a 43 percent ringer average, and has played for for eight years in what is a family sport. "My husband and I play and he took it up. It's been a family affair every weekend off to play in tournaments," she said.
The world tournament is a chance for Victoria's young players to meet the best of their peers, and to make new friends, MacDonald said.
"The kids should have a good shot (at winning). And they're looking forward to meeting other juniors in the states," she said. MacDonald herself and a few other adults from the club will compete at the worlds too.
"Going to the worlds is a huge expense. You basically have to make it a holiday. It's definitely not a money sport. You do it because you love it, for the people and friendship," she said. "You meet so many wonderful people."
For more on the Greater Victoria Horseshoe Pitching Association, see gvhpa.org.