The game of horseshoes

Ever played the age-old game of horseshoes? Chances are you’ve played the game in some guise without even knowing it. It’s great fun but also serious stuff if you’re going to play by the proper rules. There’s an official National Horseshoe Pitchers Association in the USA, a governing body of the sport which oversees an up-to-date set of rules, guidelines and specifications for playing the game.  Let us guide you through some of the basics – good luck!


Horseshoe pitching

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horseshoe pitching
The Horseshoe Pitch

The Horseshoe Pitch

The area for playing the game is a long, narrow pitch with two definite ends, each with its own pitching box of six square feet marked clearly on the ground with chalk or paint. Inside this box in the middle, a smaller rectangle is marked out which constitutes the ‘pit’ and this is filled with sand. In the centre of each pit an inch thick, fifteen-inch long metal stake is positioned, tilted slightly toward the players by a couple of inches. Stakes must sit forty feet apart. Players stand within the pitching box - but outside the pit itself - when they throw their horseshoes.




horseshoe pitch set
Horseshoes for pitching (picture from Amazon)

The Horseshoes

If you’re playing the horseshoe game strictly by the rules, each horseshoe would weigh two pounds eight ounces, and measure between seven and five eighths of an inch long by seven inches wide. If you’re really playing by the NHPA rules, the gap between the horseshoe’s prongs should be three and a half inches wide. The game is played by two opponents who are given two horseshoes each to play with. Players’ horseshoes are best painted different colours to easily differentiate them from one another during play.


the horseshoe game
The game!

The Horseshoe Game

Toss a coin to decide who starts to play. The first to pitch throws their two horseshoes one by one towards the stake at the opposite end of the pitch to where they are standing, aiming to plant their horseshoe over or as close to the stake as possible. Once both shoes have been pitched, players swap ends and play again until one opponent wins – see scoring rules below. A horseshoe that falls around the stake is known in the game as a ‘ringer’ and scores the player three points unless landed upon by another player’s subsequent ringer. In these cases, the first ringer is null and the player’s three points deducted.



horseshoe pitch scoresheet
Scoresheet

Horseshoe Points System

  • If no ringers are thrown in a round, the horseshoe lying closest to the stake gets one point 
  • When both players throw one ringer each, both ringers and their points are cancelled out. Scorers should look to the next closest lying horseshoe, and award the thrower one point    
  • If both players score two ringers each, they cancel out one another and no points awarded to the thrower of two ringers 
  • If one ringer has been achieved in a round, that player wins three points plus an extra point if their other horseshoe is the closest to the stake of the other three horseshoes thrown 
  • If one player achieves two ringers and the other player throws none, six points are awarded 
  • First to twenty one points wins the game of horseshoes


Good Luck!