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Horseshoe Rule Fact Sheet

by Colleen Morrison


The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association is the official body that represents horseshoe pitching as a competitive sport. The lawn game promotes all-around physical fitness and relaxing outdoor play. Rules are gender- and age-specific and take physical challenges into account as well. Horseshoes is a lawn game that is fun to play as well as great for serious competition.

Rules of Horseshoes:

  1. Preliminaries: Before the game starts, contestants must determine whether they are using "cancellation" scoring or "count-all" scoring. They must also decide who will pitch first in each inning.

    Scoring in Horseshoes:

    • Cancellation scoring: When using cancellation scoring, only one player can earn points in an inning. A ringer, a shoe that completely encircles the stake, scores 3 points unless the opposing player also scores a ringer, in which case, they cancel each other out. When two ringers cancel each other out with one shoe throw, the other shoe that is closest to the stake but no more than 6 inches from the stake is good for one point. If there is only one ringer and the same player has a second shoe within 6 inches of the stake, that player scores 4 points.

    • Count-all scoring: In count-all scoring, each contestant earns points for all of the shoes that are good -- ringers and those within 6 inches of the stake. Shoes more than 6 inches from the stake don't score points.

  2. Innings: A game consists of a series of innings. An inning is over when both pitchers have thrown two shoes. Once the shoes have been pitched, both players walk to the end of the pit to calculate the score for the inning.

  3. End of game: The game continues until one player's score reaches a predetermined number of points (often 40 points) or until both players have pitched 40 or 50 shoes, depending on the agreement made prior to the beginning of the game.

  4. Dress code: Official association rules prohibit players from wearing sleeveless shirts, cut-off pants, and open-toed shoes in league play. If you're playing in your yard -- dress comfortably and have fun!

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