Horseshoe Game Rules

This is an outdoor game, which can be played competitively or recreationally. Mostly suited for lawns, this game involves the aiming of a horseshoe on the targeted stakes, set up in the game. The main governing body for the serious competition is the NHPC (National Horseshoe Pitchers Association), responsible for setting up the rules and regulations of the game and the various specifications, to set up the game.

Objective of the game

This is a throwing game that involves the careful aiming of the implement as close as possible to the target. The horseshoes are shaped in a way that allows for easy movement through the air, while landing as close it can to the target stakes. This will allow a player to accumulate points till the target score is reached. Whoever reaches the set score first, wins the game.

Number of players

Two players or two teams, consisting of two persons each is the game requirement. One-on-one is however much more preferred to participate in.

Equipment for the game

As the name implies, the implement used for this game is a horseshoe, any U-shaped bar either metallic or plastic, can be used in its stead. Four of these are used for the game. Two stakes are also required to complete the setup, could be wooden or metallic, according to choice. Sandboxes can be used, where lawns are unavailable.

Setting Up The Game

Stakes of equal length should be erected on opposite sides of the playing area 40 feet apart. In the case where lawns are unavailable for use, sandboxes may be used as the staking area. However for a lawn, a pit is dugged to accommodate the stakes at a distance of 21 inches from the back and front. The pits/sandboxes should have a depth and width of 72 inches and 33 inches respectively. The most preferred material to use to fill the pits or boxes is clay, sand is the best substitute. A foul line should be drawn 3 feet from the front of both stakes. The playing area is now complete. A backboard that is one foot high should be erected at at least 4 feet behind the stake. Its width should extend more of that of the pit.

Rules/How the game is played

Both players or teams have a total of two horseshoes to throw from one end to the other, this is done simultaneously per round. They also exchange positions in the process till the target of 21 points(recreation) or 40 points is reached. The two turns make the round. Scoring is made per round.  Players should ensure to make throws from behind the foul line. 

A horseshoe that encircles the stake completely is a ringer, it attracts three points. If an opponent knocks off the ringer with his own horseshoe, no point will be counted for both participants. Also ringers thrown by the opposing players cancels out each other in the game. A horseshoe that is closer to the target, so far as it is within the staking area attracts one point. If it leans on the stake, it attracts two points, this is called a leaner. Note though bumping the implements of your opponent is to your disadvantage, it can not be counted for the win. Example a player bumps his opponent’s to a leaner, if the opponent needed two points to win the game, this will not be counted. The winning points must be gotten on merit and not by luck.

Winning the game

To win you need to score and reach the target points first but in order to do that, your throws need to be accurate enough to get a ringer or a closest marc to the stake. These are a few grips you should learn, along with a few tips;

Horseshoe throws

The One-fourth Grip

This is a popular throwing method, even among professionals it aims towards a quarter rotation of the shoe sideways. To use this grip, hold the horseshoe with your thumb resting over one of the shanks/shafts, and the other fingers under it, such that the points of the shoe are facing towards the left. Hold the horseshoe flat without bending your arm, and swing it and pitch the shoe, towards the stake.

The Three-fourth Grip

The three-fourth grip is a slight alteration of the previous style, this one aims towards the ¾ sideways rotation of the shoe. The only difference here, apart from rotation, is that the points of the shoe must face towards the right instead of the left. Otherwise, you could see that the gripping technique remains the same for this style. It might be a little uncomfortable for some people at first so do some practice swings to get a hang of it.

The Flip Grip

This is a pretty tricky throw to master. The aim of this type of grip is to achieve a flip of the shoe during its flight. A lot of players go for this method because it is easy to hold the horseshoe this way, on the other hand, a successful flip brings about its high success rate in getting ringers. So if not done properly, getting one point down is even a challenge, thus it is a two edged sword. To try this grip, hold the shoe firmly in the exact center of the bend, with your thumb over the bend, and other fingers underneath. Make sure to add a little force behind the throws, not much and not too little.

Accuracy to aim the implements and finesse to wield and throw the objects are an essential tool of the participants. So ensure to practice and get a hang of the throws, whichever style you prefer. To reach the target score, one must aim to score ringers as much as possible. Avoid bumping the opponent’s horseshoe further than yours while throwing and ensure not to cross the foul line. With all these in mind, winning the game will be just a cinch