Basic “Backyard” Rules

Each stake is placed in the center of a “pit” measuring between 43 and 72 inches long and measuring between 31 and 36 inches wide. Moist blue clay works best as a cushion substance in the pit but other types of moist clay as well as loose dirt and sand are acceptable. On both sides of the pits are long, narrow (approx. 6′ long and 18″ wide) “pitchers platforms” from which contestants are to pitch their shoes. When platforms are extended an additional 10 ft they can accomodate short distance pitchers and when extended full length on both sides of the court they provide walkways for the contestants.

The object of the game is to pitch the horseshoe so that it comes to rest encircling the stake; failing in that, it comes to rest within six inches of the stake.

“Horseshoes” manufactured for pitching (real horsehoes are not readily available or uniform in size and weight) are to be used, each weighing approximately 2-1/2 pounds and having an opening no greater tgan 3-1/2″. Each constestant pitches two shoes in succession.

When a contestant is pitching, the opponent shall quietly stand to the rear of or behind the other platform. A contestant cannot start to walk to the opposite end until both players have pitched both shoes.

A shoe making contact outside the pit before it comes to rest does not count in the scoring and if it lies within scoring distance of the stake it may be removed before the nbext pitch by either contestant.

Foul lines shall be marked at 27 feet and 37 feet from the opposite stake across the pitching platforms. Shoes pitched by adult males must be released from the platform behind the 37 foot foul line. Shoes pitched by “elder” men, age 70 or more, may optionally be pitched from platforms behind either the 37 foot or 27 foot foul line (provided that they remain at one pitching distance and not switch back and forth) and provided that as 27 foot pitchers, they cannot pitch from behind the 37 foot foul line. Women and all youths up through 18 years of age may pitch from any platform at any distance from behind the 27 foot foul lines. Men with physical handicap may also onserve the 27 foot foul line rule.

Mulitple court installations should have safety barriers or buffers to protect contestants on adjacent courts or spectators.

Scoring Rules: There are two methods of scoring: (1) Cancellation system, and (2) count-all system.

Cancellation System: Closest shoe to the stake within 6 inches scores 1 point, two shoes closer than the opponent’s scores 2 points, one ringer and closest shoe of the same player scores 4 points, each uncancelled ringer scores 3 points. All equal ringers count as ties (no score). All ringers count towards total ringer percentages. A leaning shoe has no value over one lying flat touching the stake. The player that scores or ties a score recieves first pitch. Most cancellation games are played to 40 points. Other points limits are acceptable if agreed upon beforehand. It is also legal to play to a pre-set shoe limit, with 40 or 50 shoes being the most popular. Ringer averages are  measure of skill and are used for “seeding” contestants in tournament play. Ringer averages are calculated by dividing total ringers pitched by total shoes pitched and multiplying the result by 100. (i.e. 25 R div by 50 S = .500 x 100 = 50.00%)

Count-All Scoring: Contestants shall recieve credut for all points. The maximum is 2 ringers (6 points) and the minimum is both shoes beyond 6 inches from the stake (0 points). Count-all games are pitched to a preset shoe limit -20, 40 or 50 shoes are popular choices.

Three Handed Games: No longer shown in NHPA Playing rules, the three handed game is still as popular as a backyard activity. In three handed games, when two of the players each have a ringer and a third player no ringer, the party without a ringer is out of the scoring and other scores according to conditions pertaining if only two were in the game. Otherwise, regular cancellation rules apply.

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