Have Fun Pitching Horseshoes

The weather is perfect for an outside activity. So, let’s start with pitching horseshoes - a game the whole family can play and enjoy together.

I grew up with the backyard sounds of my parents pitching horseshoes. As a kid, I thought it was not a very interesting game. I did not understand at that young age that I, too, would later come to appreciate the slow and patient pace of the game. Many nights after dinner, after the kitchen had been cleaned up, my parents would pick up the shoes, and head out back to the special area set aside for pitching horseshoes.

Soon after they began playing, nearby neighbors, hearing the clink of steal-on-steal, would drift over to my parents’ yard to watch the competition, visit, and later, to take on the winner.

The History of Pitching Horseshoes

According to the “National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America,” it is believed that the sport originated:

            “As early as the second century, before the Christian Era, iron plates or rings for shoes were nailed on horses' feet in Western Asia and Eastern Europe. In Greece and Rome athletic contests, games of different kinds generally formed some part of religious observances and festivals. One of the four Grecian national festivals was the Olympian Games. These Grecian Games consisted of boxing, putting the weight, chariot races, archery, and discus throwing. The discus was similar in form to the modern quoit but not in size and weight. Originally, it was a circular plate of metal or stone 10- or 12-inches in diameter. It was pitched or thrown with a strap or thong passed through a circular hole in the center, the strap being released by the player as he swung it so the discus would go the greatest possible distance. There is a tradition that the camp followers of the Grecian armies, who could not afford the discus, took discarded horse shoes, set up a stake and began throwing horse shoes at it. Horseshoe historians have not been able to discover when the game of quoits or horse shoes was changed so that it was pitched at two stakes, but it is pretty well established that horseshoe-pitching had its origin in the game of quoits and that quoits is a modification of the old Grecian game of discus throwing.”

Pitching Horseshoe Trivia:

A little-known fact on pitching horseshoes is both former President Harry S. Truman and former President George H. W. Bush enjoyed the sport. Both had horseshoe pitch sites created at the White House, and they were often photographed with visiting dignitaries, while showing them the game or playing a game of pitching horseshoes with them.

Now, I would like to introduce you to the fun of pitching horseshoes.

Equipment needed for pitching horseshoes:

Pitching-Horseshoes-Made-In-The-USACredit: Amazon.com

 You can go online to Amazon, visit your local Walmart or Target, or your favorite toy store to purchase the equipment you will need for pitching horseshoes. While this article is about pitching horseshoes outside, you can also buy sets that are designed for playing inside. Outside equipment for pitching horseshoes comes in many different sets:  Professional, Regulation Metal, Pro Sets, Harley-Davidson Tournament Sets, and even Illuminated Sets. So, just pick your style, type, and/or color for pitching horseshoes, and you will be able to find it. Plus, they come in all prices, from less than ten dollars to over seventy dollars or more. Included with your equipment, you will receive instructions on how to setup your court and instructions on pitching horseshoes. For backyard play, the rules vary, and you should adopt the game and rules that best meets your family’s abilities. After all, once your skills improve, you can always upgrade your game to a more professional tier. In this article, I am only going to talk about the basics, and how my family plays the game of pitching horseshoes in our backyard.

Setup a court for pitching horseshoes:

Pitching horseshoes can be played just about anywhere or on in a space designed for the game. If you go online, you will be able to find instructions on how to build a horseshoe pitch site. As your skills improve, you will probably want to make a designated site for the game to be played. At my house, we typically just scrape off the grass, from around the post, grab the shoes, and begin the game. Regulations call for a 40-foot distance between the steel stakes for men and a 30-foot distance for women. When driving the stakes into the ground, for pitching horseshoes, they should be tipped slightly forward, towards each other, and stick out of the ground approximately 14 inches. From the stake, a man can take a step forward, but he should not go past the 37-foot foul line. And for women, the foul line is 27-foot. The foul lines can be obtained by measuring 37-foot or 27-foot from the opposite stake. Throwers cannot cross these lines.

How to play pitching horseshoes:

Score-Tower-Combo-Set-for-Pitching-HorseshoesCredit: Amazon.com

The objective of pitching horseshoes is to throw the shoe to ringer the stake (land around the stake), or at least, be the closest to the stake. The game can be played with two players, who oppose each other, or with four players, who make up two teams. When two players play, they each pitch their shoes from one end, and then they walk to the other end. Figure the score for the throw, and then pitch the shoes back to the other end. The game continues this way until someone reaches 21 points. When there are two teams, then one player from each team is stationed at each end of the court. The players on one end of the court throw the shoes to the other end of the court, the score is noted, and then they throw the shoes to the other end of the court. The score is added, and it is recorded for the team.

And the winner at pitching horseshoes is:

The winner is the first player, or team, to reach 21 points. Points are made based on the position of the shoe at the stake. Points are as follows:

3 points - for a ringer, when a shoe lands around the stake

2 points - when one player lands both of his shoes the closest to the stake

2 points - for a leaner, when a shoe leans against the stake

And if none of the above happens, while pitching horseshoes, then:

1 point - for the closest shoe to the stake, as long as it is at least within 6 inches of the stake

In Closing

Even though this activity has a declared winner by the score, everyone who plays is a winner. The pace is relaxing, the exercise is good, and the time spent with family and friends is irreplaceable. And if you need a special gift for Father’s Day, think ‘pitching horseshoes,’ and give him a set to enjoy in his backyard. Right along with fried chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers – pitching horseshoes belongs at your next backyard picnic.

Thanks for reading my article on pitching horseshoes. If you enjoyed it, then you might also find the following articles interesting.

Buy Made in the USA

Install a Residential Flag Pole


National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America

The White House Museum


Photos Courtesy of Amazon.com