How to play tournament horseshoes
Horseshoe Pitching- The modern Sport
No other sport offers a combination of skill and healthful exercise at such a low cost. You can lay out a horseshoe pitching court in your backyard or in a vacant lot. Plus, you can invite your friends to play at a moment’s notice! Tournaments and clubs can be easily organized and when you become adept at the sport, you will find other enthusiasts to furnish competition. Time was when horseshoe pitching was a farm-yard sport. Old Dobbin furnished the shoes and the stakes were crude affairs improvised perhaps from bits of pipe. Now the sport has assumed national popularity and thousands of people are pitching horseshoes for recreation and health. Shoes of sturdy drop forged steel and stakes of the same material, made in style and weight to meet the specifications of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association, are necessary to play the modern sport properly. This little book of suggestions and rules of the sport are included with this outfit to aid you in becoming an expert horseshoe pitcher. Follow the instructions carefully and you will soon make plenty of ringers.
Laying Out the Pitching Court
While you can merely drive stakes in the ground 40 feet apart and start to pitch, a permanent court of exact dimensions can be easily laid out and will help you to enjoy the game. The illustration shows how an Official Court should be laid out. Place sections of two by fours and nail together so as to make two 6 foot squares. The stakes should be driven in the ground in the center of these boxes inclining slightly toward each other. Fine clay or sand should then be placed around the stakes and tramped down. Clay should be moistened occasionally. The diagram on page 2 indicates the outer dimensions of the court. If it is not convenient to install the clay or sand-filled boxes about the stake, the ground should be spaded up so as to prevent the shoes from bouncing and sliding when they strike.
How to hold the shoe
While no two experts will agree on the best way to hold a horseshoe (and you will doubtless develop your own particular grip) two methods are herewith illustrated for the benefit of the beginner. It is important for your success at the game that you adopt one hold and continue to use it. The man, woman or child who makes ringers consistently must practice until the pitch is made easily with the eye judging the distance and directing the movements of the arm and wrist. Experts can pitch ringers when the stake is hidden behind a blanket, or when they are blindfolded. You, too, can do this if you practice. Just take the shoe in your pitching hand, feel the weight and grip it in any one of the two ways illustrated. Next, take your stand at the stake and make ready to pitch the shoe. All ready? Now read how to pitch the shoe.
How to Pitch the Shoe
The first rule of pitching the horseshoe is to keep the eye on the stake. The illustrations will aid you in assuming the proper position and “follow through” as they say in golf. First, you grip the shoe and stand with feet together close to the stake. Next you bring the shoe up at arm’s length and sight it as would a rifle so that the opposite stake appears in the center of the shoe. Second, you drop the pitching arm with an easy swinging motion and bring it back past the body, at the same time stepping forward with the opposite foot. Third, you pitch the shoe by bringing the pitching arm forward and at the same moment step forward with the foot on the same side as the pitching arm. The rhythm with which you perform this motion determines the accuracy of your pitch, provided you have properly gauged the distance. Your forward step must not carry you beyond the three foot foul line.
Horseshoe Court Latout
(highly recommended to prevent injury from stray and rolling shoes)
Height 12 inches
Width 3 feet
Distance behind stake 4 feet
Material 2 x 12 hardwood
Paint color Contrast Stake Color
Fence Minimum distance from stake8 feet
Official Rules for Horseshoe Pitching
Rule 1-court layout
Section a. A court will occupy a level area of at least 50 feet in length (in a north, south direction if possible), be at least 10 feet in width and consist of two pitcher’s boxes. Each six feet square with a stake in its exact center. The pitcher’s boxes shall be located in such a manner that their front edges are parallel and the stakes are 40 feet apart in the middle of the total area.
Section b. When a number of courts are constructed adjacent to each other as required for tournament play, the stakes of one court shall be at least 10 feet, 12 feet is preferable, from the stakes of adjacent courts. Foul lines in front of the pitcher’s boxes shall be in a straight line across the entire layout.
Rule 2- pitching distance
Section a. The pitching distance for men shall be 40 feet between the bottoms of the stakes where they emerge from the ground with a foul line three feet in front of each stake.
Section b. pitching stakes for women, juniors, handicapped and 70+ men who choose to do so shall be 30 feet apart, with a foul line three feet in front of each stake. When 30 foot pitchers paly on a court constructed for 40 foot pitchers, foul lines shall be marked 10 feet in front of the men’s foul lines, parallel to, and the width of the men’s platform. An imaginary stake should be marked on the ground. All 30 foot pitchers’ may pitch a distance anywhere from 30 to 40 feet, but must pitch from a platform on either side of the court. No 30 foot pitcher will be allowed to stand in the middle of the court.
Section c. A 70+ man shall declare himself to be either a 30 foot pitcher or a 40 foot pitcher and shall establish his percentage at that distance.
Rule 3- pitcher’s box
Section a. Each pitcher’s box shall be six feet square with the stake in the exact center and consist of an area of clay, synthetic substance, dirt or sand into which the players throw their shoes and flanked by two pitcher’s standing areas from which the players throw their shoes.
Section b. The clay, dirt, sand or synthetic substance are must be a minimum of 43 inches long and in the direction in which players throw their shoes and 31 inches wide. The maximum area is 72 inches long and 36 inches wide. This area must be located in the middle of the pitcher’s box with the stake in its center. This area should be filled to a minimum depth of four inches and kept in a moist, putty-like condition if clay is used.
Section c. The two pitchers’ standing areas shall occupy the remaining portions of the pitcher’s box flanking the clay, synthetic substance, dirt or sand area. They must be six feet long extending three feet in front of the stake and be at least 18 inches wide. They must be level with each other and with the areas at the opposite stake. They should be as nearly flush as feasible with the ground outside the pitcher’s box.
Section d. The material around the stake must be level with the box that surrounds it before the contestants start their warm-up for a contest.
Section e. The material in the pit shall be watered (if necessary) and leveled before a game. During a game a contestant shall not step on, mash or otherwise repair any of the material within the scoring radius of the stake without the consent of the opponent or a tournament official. (Repair needed because of a measured shoe or a shoe which was “buried” shall be handled using the same guidelines) The penalty for violating this rule shall be forfeiture of the next two shoes.
Section f. Every effort must be made to keep the substance (if clay) around the stake moist and in good shape to avoid bouncing ringers and sliding ringers.
Rule 4- stakes
Section a. Stakes shall be no longer than one inch in diameter. They may be of cold-rolled steel, mild iron, soft medal or synthetic material. The top of each stake shall extend not less than 14 inches or more than 15 inches above the level of the pitcher’s platform on each side of the stake, with a 3 inch incline toward each other.
Section b. When a stake breaks during an inning, the game shall be discontinued at the end of the previous inning and the stake shall be repaired. If a stake breaks as a result of the fourth shoe in the inning and both contestants agree as to the results of that inning, then it shall be counted. The contestants shall be allowed four shoes each to warm up and the game shall continue. Tournament officials may opt to hold the completion of that game until another time if scheduling dictates. Tournament officials may opt to move that game to another court while the repairs are made. A broken stake is defined as any stake standing in the same position as when the inning started due to whatever damage.
Rule 5- foul lines
Section a. Foul lines shall be clearly defined three feet in front of each stake across the entire front edge of the pitcher’s box. Foul lines should be used if possible and they are required in all national and world championships.
Section b. In delivering a shoe, the pitcher must remain behind the foul line until the shoe has left his/her hand.
Rule 6- player and member conduct
Section a. No contestant, while opponent is in pitching position, shall make any remark, nor utter any sounds within hearing opponent, nor make any movement that does or might interfere with the opponents playing.
Penalty: First offense, a warning by referee; second offense, warning by referee; and upon third offense that game will be automatically forfeited.
Section b. Any member of the NHPA who indulges in heckling, unfair rooting or any other form of unsportsmanlike conduct against a fellow NHPA member may be expelled from the grounds. This includes inappropriate conduct in, or around the court area.
Section c. No contestant shall move his own or opponents shoe or shoes, until winner of point or points has been agreed upon by contestants, or decision rendered by the referee. Referee shall declare foul shoes thrown by a contestant failing to comply with this rule, and award points to the opponent, according to the position of his/her shoes.
Section d. No contestant shall walk to the opposite stake, or be informed of the position of the shoes, prior to the completion of an inning.
Section e. A contestant, while not pitching, shall stand on the opposite side at least two feet behind his/her opponent. (If the competition is “mixed, the contestant shall return to the 40 foot platform, so as not to disturb either the opponent or contestants on adjacent courts.) The contestant shall remain stationary and silent while the opponent is pitching his/her shoes.
Section f. Any player repeatedly violating rules, or guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct, may be barred from further competition in the contest.
Rule 7- choice of pitch
Section a. Choice of first pitch, or follow, shall be determined by the toss of a coin or a flipped up shoe. In successive games between the same players, the loser shall have choice.
Section b. In pitching the shoe, the pitcher shall stand on the pitcher’s standing area at one side or the other of the stake. A contestant must pitch his/her second shoe from the same side of the approach as his/her first shoe. A contestant may pitch his/her shoes from the approach side of his/her choice3 during any inning of the game as long as long as they are both pitched from the same side. Penalty: The second shoe shall be considered foul.
Section c. A contestant may switch horseshoes between innings anytime during the contest. A switch cannot be made after the first shoe is pitched, unless the first shoe pitched is broken. Penalty: Both shoes shall be declared foul for that inning.
Section d. A contestant may use two horseshoes at any one time during a contest. Any use of a third or more horseshoes to carry or for any other purpose shall be prohibited. Spare shoes are to be kept in your horseshoe box or somewhere off the court.
Section e. Any released horseshoe that has crossed the foul line shall be ruled a pitched show and cannot be repitched unless as covered by rule 9, section a.
Section f. If it is discovered during an inning that a contestant has pitched his opponent’s horseshoe, that entire inning shall be pitched over using the proper horseshoes. Contestants need not walk back up to the original stake to continue the game. If the contestants fail to discover the error until after all four shoes have been pitched, the inning shall be scored on the basis of what shoes they pitched. If they fail to come to an agreement, the frame shall be re pitched.
Rule 8- foul shoes
Section a. Any shoe pitched by a contestant who lands outside the fair area of the opposite pitching box is a foul shoe. Any shoe that lands in fair territory but hits the backstop or other objects and comes back into the pitching area shall be called a foul-shoe. Any shoe which strikes a previously defined object (such as a tree limb, electrical wire, ceiling of an indoor court, etc.) shall be declared foul, no matter where it lands. (A shoe which strikes a foreign object-such as an animal- while in flight to or landing in the pit is not foul and shall be re pitched.)
Section b. Any shoe pitched while a contestant’s foot is on or over the foul line shall be declared foul.
Section c. Any shoe which is declared foul shall be immediately removed from the pit. It shall be scored as a shoe in excess of six inches from the stake.
Section d. When a foul shoe disrupts the position of a shoe in fair territory, the foul shoe is to be removed from the pitching area and all other shoes are to remain as they are.
Rule 9- Broken shoes
When a shoe lands in fair territory and is broken into separate parts it shall be removed and the contestant allowed to pitch another shoe in its stead.
Rule 10- official shoes
An official (legal) shoe shall not exceed 7-1/4 inches in width, 7 5/8 inches in length, and shall not weigh more than two pounds, ten ounces. On a parallel line ¾ of an inch from a straight edge touching the points of the open end of a shoe, the opening shall not exceed 3-1/2 inches.
Rule 11- measurements for scoring
Section a. Measurements to determine points shall be made with calipers and straight edge and shall be made to the closest part of the stake.
Section b. A shoe must be within six inches of the stake to score.
Section c. A ringer is declared when the touching of both points of the shoe with a straight edge permits a clearance of the stake.
Rule 12- practice shoes
Between games pitchers shall be limited to four (4) practice shoes once the scorekeeper and both pitchers are on the court ready to proceed with the next game.
Rule 13- scoring rules
There are two official methods of scoring, the cancellation method and the count all method.
Section a. A regulation game shall consist of forty points in all contests where a National title is involved. Any other contest may be decided in any manner acceptable if National Rules, Constitution and By-laws are not violated.
Section b. game points in other tournaments, leagues or contests may be determined by local authorities to fit their conditions.
Section c. A game is divided into innings and each inning constitutes the pitching of two shoes by each contestant.
Section d. The points shall be scored according to the position of the shoes at the innings end, that is, after the contestants have each thrown two shoes.
Section e. Ringer credits shall be given on the same basis.
Section f. The winner of points shall call the result. In case of a tie, the party pitching last shall call.
Section g. The player scoring points shall pitch first in the next inning. In case of no score, the player who pitched last shall pitch first for the next inning.
Section h. The player having the first pitch in a designated inning shall pitch two shoes in succession before the other player pitches two shoes.
Section I. Closest shoes to the stake scores…1 point
Section J. Two shoes closer than opponents...2 points.
Section K. One ringer scores…3 points
Section L. Two ringers scores… 6 points.
Section M. One ringer and closest shoe of same player scores… 4 points.
Section N. Party having two ringers against one for opponent scores… 3 points.
Section O. All equals count as ties. If each contestant has a shoe touching the stake or each has a shoe equal distance from the stake, then the closer of the two shoes will be scored as a point, if within six inches of the stake.
Section P. In case each contestant has a ringer, the next closest shoe, if within six inches shall score… 1 point.
Section Q. A leaning shoe has no value over one touching the stake.
Section R. Score call method
No score 4 shoes Called as no score
1 point Called as one point
2 points Called as two points
1 ringer Called as one ringer-three points
1 ringer 1 point Called as one ringer-four points
2 ringers 6 points Called as two ringers- six points
1 ringer ea. 1 point Called as one ringer each- one point
3 ringers 3 points called three ringers- three points
2 ringer’s ea. No score called as four dead
In each instance the player calling the score must call his/her name and must be the one scoring.
In a no score situation the player pitching last shall be the one to call the score.
Count all scoring
Section a. A regulation game may consist of fifty shoes pitched be each player (25 innings). However, the number of shoes actually pitched may be set by league or tournament officials to fit their conditions.
Section b. Each player shall receive credit for all points according to the position of the shoes at the end of each inning, regardless of what his opponent throws. Thus it is possible for each player to score six points in any one inning. Ringers count three points and shoes within six inches of the stake count one point each.
Section c. Players shall alternate first pitch, one player having first pitch in the even innings and the other player in the odd number innings. The double alternate first pitch may be used if desired.
Section d. Ties shall be broken by pitching as many extra innings as are designated in the tournament rules.
Rule 14- double games
Two players are partners and pitch from opposite ends of the court against a similar combination of opponents. Partners points are added together, but the individual records of ringers and shoes pitched should be kept. Otherwise3 the game is the same as the conventional singles or walking game.
Rule 15- three- handed games
In three-handed cancellation games, when two of the contestants have a ringer each and the third contestant does not have a ringer, the third contestant is out of the scoring for that frame and the score for the frame shall be determined as if just two contestants were participating. If only one ringer is thrown, that contestant shall also receive a point for his/her other shoe if it is the closest shoe within six inches of the stake. Otherwise regular cancellation rules apply.
Rule 16- recording of results
Section a. The recording of results shall be as follows:
w- Games won DR- Double Ringers
L- Games lost sp- shoes pitched
P- Points OP opponents points
R- Ringers PR- percentage of ringersWarning: This is not a (child’s) toy. Adult supervision is required for children playing this game. Do not stand near the area where the horseshoes are being pitched/thrown. Never pitch the horseshoe until you are sure the pitching area is clear of everyone first. Proper use of this outfit can avoid damage or injury. Please read instructions carefully