Horseshoe Pitching Rules

by Joshua Benjamin
Can't you just feel the inherent game play here?

Can't you just feel the inherent game play here?

Hemera Technologies/ Images

Horseshoe pitching is the fine art of chucking a curved piece of metal at another piece of metal half-buried in the ground. The game's roots can be traced back to ancient Roman times. Roman soldiers -- when not pursuing their other favorite hobby of taking over the world -- would gather together and throw metal rings at a stake in the ground. The game went through several iterations over the centuries until it finally took the form it enjoys today.

Setting Up

Horseshoe pitching is a game for two or four players at a time. The court -- usually little more than a long strip of dirt -- should be 50 feet in length. A metal peg is driven into the ground at each end of the court with at least 14 inches of metal showing above the dirt. This is "regulation" height; informal games can be taller or shorter as desired. Each player receives two horseshoes, none of which may weigh more than 40 oz.

Playing the Game

Players stand behind one of the metal pins and take it in turns to wing their horseshoes down the court at the other pin. Each player pitches two horseshoes, then gives the field over to the next player in line, who pitches her horseshoes as well. Then all the players head over to stand behind the other pin and throw their horseshoes back at the first pin.


There are two methods of scoring points. One point is scored if one of your two horseshoes is closest to the pin after all horseshoes have been thrown; it must be within 6 inches of the stake to count. Three points are awarded for a ringer. A ringer is any horseshoe that lands encircling the pin. Games are typically played to a score of 21, though official games usually go to 50.

Alternate Rules

The National Horseshoe Pitching Association stipulates that tournament courts should be no longer than 40 feet in length. Another variant gives two points for a "leaner" -- a horseshoe that does not encircle the pin but leans up against it -- or for any horseshoe that strikes the pin but bounces off.

About the Author

Joshua Benjamin began as a professional freelance writer in 2009. He has successfully published numerous articles spanning a broad range of topics. Benjamin's areas of expertise include auto repair, computer hardware and software, firearms operation and maintenance, and home repair and maintenance. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration from California State University, Fresno.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images