Rules of Horseshoes
The two metal posts in horseshoes are situated forty feet apart. Ideally the ground between the two stakes should be level. Classically the ground around the stakes may be sandy, but is nearly always loose dirt. If this area is not dug up, a few games with horseshoes flying into the pit, will likely convert the ground. The area around the stake is called a pit and may be surrounded by heavy wooden frame built level to the ground, and may even have a sturdy wooden backstop.
Two persons, or two teams of two persons each may play the game.
The players begin by choosing a set of two horseshoes based on color, traditionally green or red. Horseshoes will also be marked with an “A” or “B” in anticipation of the inevitable time when the paint is worn from the sets. The player to throw or pitch first is determined. This can be done by chance, or a pitch of one horseshoe from each player with the player getting closest to the stake determining the beginning order of play. (There is no scoring advantage to pitching first or last.)
The pitching line is within three feet of the player’s own stake, or approximately 37 feet from the stake towards which he is throwing. Players should at all times be aware when horseshoes are being pitched. Even the best horseshoe pitcher may sometimes throw a wild horseshoe. The large, heavy, metal object can cause serious injury even when flipped sideways and rolling along the ground. The best position for other players and spectators is behind the pitcher or out of range of wild pitches. Other adjustments can be made to move the foul line for other players. Children nine or under can pitch from the half-way point (20 feet). Juniors and women may pitch from anywhere behind the 27 foot line.
The first pitcher throws two consecutive horseshoes at the opposite stake. All other players and spectators should remain silent to avoid distracting the pitcher. The object of the pitcher is to get the horseshoe as close as possible to the stake, or better yet, to score a ringer by situating the horseshoe so that the stake is between the two arms of the shoe. If a straight line is drawn from tip to tip of the arms of the horseshoe, the line should not touch the stake. The term “ringer” has two meanings. One, the horseshoe seems to wrap around or ring the stake. Also a ringer will often hit the stake and cause a ringing or clanking noise.
Once the first player has pitched. The second player throws his two horseshoes. (When both players have tossed, this is called an inning.) Again, getting as close to the stake as possible. When all four shoes have been tossed, the shoes are examined to determine any points to be awarded. There are two methods of scoring in horseshoes. Some tournaments and individual players insist that all points are counted. This means all ringers count for three, and all shoes within six inches of the stake (including those touching or leaning on the stake) count as one point. More commonly cancellation scoring is used.