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Rules to Horseshoes

The Court Layout:

The Court:

A horseshoe court is a rectangle 6 feet wide and 46 feet long. It must be level and flat. At either end of the court is a “pit,” which can range anywhere from 43 to 72 inches long and 31 to 36 inches wide. Orienting the court north to south is wise—as it avoids having the sun in the pitchers’ eyes.

The Pit:

The pit needs to be at least 4 inches deep with a filler substance, which can consist of sand, dirt, sawdust, or clay—the top of which needs to be level with the rest of the court.

The Stakes:

In the center of each pit lay the stakes. The stakes should be driven into the filler substance until only 14-15 inches exceed the surface. The stakes can be angled towards the opposite end of the court, but only by a maximum 3 inches (see diagram below). The two stakes should be exactly 40 feet from each other.

Foul Lines:

Finally at either end of the court, foul lines are drawn off at 3 feet and then again at 13 feet from the stakes, measuring in the direction of the opposite stake.

How to Play:


From the players available form two teams. Each team gets 2 horseshoes. Flip a coin to see which team pitches first.

The Pitch:

The exact technique of horseshoe pitching is differs widely from player to player—but to summarize, it closely resembles the form and movement of bowling. The most important attribute of a proper pitch is a smooth, natural, fluidity of motion throughout its entirety. When a game starts the first pitcher throws both horse shoes, one at a time. If the player is an adult male, he must throw from behind the first foul line (37 feet from the targeted stake). If the player is female, younger, or elderly they may throw from anywhere behind the second foul line (27 feet from the targeted stake). The next team then pitches from the same end, aiming for the same stake. The scores are tabulated and the horseshoes are retrieved. The next pitcher from each team then pitches from the opposite end—back towards the initial side. Pitching is alternated like this from one end to the other until the game is complete.


· A shoe landing more then 6 inches from a stake earns 0 points.

· A shoe landing within 6 inches of a stake earns 1 point

· A leaner occurs when a shoe is touching a stake but not encircling it. Officially a leaner is awarded 1 point, but in amateur games it often earns 2 points instead.

· A shoe encircling a stake gains 3 points. This is called a ringer.

Game Over:

In a point-limit game, the game ends when at the end of an inning (an inning occurs every time all players have pitched) a team has at least 40 points. A shoe-limit game is over when 40 shoes have been pitched. The team with the most points wins. In the event of a tie, extra innings are played until a winning team emerges.

Good luck and have fun! For more information read about horseshoe regulation sizes and dimensions, horseshoe terminology, or see the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America’s official rules.

About the Author: Andy Morrison is a writer, webmaster, and chief administrator for—an online distributor of horseshoe pitching equipment.

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