Families and friends play the game of horseshoes at picnics, family reunions and backyard gatherings throughout the summer months. The sport is so popular that three organizations exist to monitor play in the United States and Canada. These agencies -- the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association, America Horseshoe Pitchers Association and Horseshoe Canada Association -- promote horseshoe pitching play around the world. The horseshoe pitcher associations also set the standards for the types of equipment used and the rules of play.
A game of horseshoes is played with four horseshoes and one or two metal pins. You can build a two-pin gaming area or a single-pin area, depending upon the space available. The horseshoes must weigh less than 40 ounces and can be made from plastic or metal. The pin is a metal rod driven into the ground with 14 inches of the rod protruding above the soil line.
The playing field measures 40 feet long. You can either set up two stakes 40 feet apart, or set one stake with a pitching box 40 feet away. For a two-pin pitching court, drive in the first metal rod and then measure the 40-foot distance and drive the other metal rod. The scoring field is no larger than 6 inches from the metal pins. Mark the playing field with sand, if you choose. You may also box in the area with 2 x 4 pieces of lumber.
For a two-pin pitching field, each player or two-person team is positioned at opposite ends of the field. A player's turn is complete when he pitches two horseshoes, one shoe at a time, to the opposite goal pin. The pitcher must be no further than 3 feet in front of his pin. Once the first player is done, the opponent throws his shoes. Once all four shoes are thrown, the inning is over and the score is tallied. Teams use eight horseshoes per inning. For single-pin fields, play is the same except that each person throws to the same pin.
A player can score a 0, 1, 2 or 3 points per horseshoe and up to 8 points per inning. A "ringer" scores 3 points when the horseshoe circles the metal pin. You must be able to lay a straight edge between the legs of the shoe without interference from the pin, for the throw to be called a ringer. If no player throws a ringer, the player closest to the pin, within a horseshoe width, earns 1 point. If no shoe is within the width distance, no points are issued. Any horseshoes landing more than 6 inches away from the pin do not earn points. If the two closest shoes to the pin are from the same person, then 2 points are awarded. The closest horseshoe and ringers are calculated separately. In other words, if you throw a ringer and score, then you earn 3 points for the ringer and 1 point for the closest shoe, for a total of 4 points. However, if both your shoes are ringers, you earn 8 points, 3 points each for the ringers and 2 points for the closest shoes. Opponents' horseshoes cancel each other out if they are the same distance from the pin, or both players score a ringer. Points are awarded based upon the remaining horseshoes. The official winning score is 40 points, unless you agree to another score prior to play.
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