The popular backyard game of horseshoes dates back to Roman times. Originating from a game called quoits
, horseshoes became a game that Roman soldiers enjoyed during wartime as a means of leisure and extra-curricular activity. While quoits had participants throwing metal disks with a center hole in them at a pin secured in soft clay ground, the game of horseshoes used discarded shoes from horses. Standing behind a line, Roman soldiers tossed the horseshoes at a metal stake in the ground in hopes of landing the horseshoe around the stake for the maximum number of points. It is rumored that the metal disks of quoits were actually weapons used during war. While soldiers were glad to have a fun pastime to entertain them during war, the English rulers were not too happy that their soldiers were seemingly distracted from the war and from perfecting their archery skills, so the game of quoits was outlawed in 1388. Over 200 years later in the 16th century, the game of quoits and horseshoes was being enjoyed by English peasants and it slowly made its way to North America, where now over 15 million people enjoy playing horseshoes in tournaments, leagues, and in their own backyard. To learn all about making your own horseshoe court and how to play the game, keep reading! We think you'll want to find the perfect spot in your backyard for a horseshoe court after seeing just how easy and fun this game is!
- Stakes are placed 40 feet apart
- Stakes should extend 14-15 inches above the pit surface
- Stakes may be inclined toward each other, but should not exceed a 3-inch lean
- Stakes are solid or hollow steel and are 1-inch in diameter
- Stakes should be a minimum of 21 inches from the front and back of the pit
- Pits are constructed 31-36 inches wide and 43- 72 inches deep. The best courts are filled with clay, which must be watered periodically to maintain its texture. Sand, sawdust, and loose soil are also used. A foul line is marked 3 feet in front of each stake. The throwing distance from the foul line to the opposite stake is 37 feet.
- Backboard should be at least four feet behind the stake
- Backboard should be at least one foot high and extend the width of the pit
- Horseshoe shall not weigh more than 2 pounds, 10 ounces
- Horseshoe shall not exceed 7 1/4 inches in width
- Horseshoe shall not exceed 7 5/8 inches in length
- On a parallel line 3/4 inch from a straight edge touching the points of the shoe, the opening of the shoe must not exceed 3 1/2 inches
- Each player pitches both shoes followed by the opponent's two shoes.
- When pitching a shoe, players may not cross the foul line.
- When playing in teams, half the team throws from one stake and half throws from the other.
- Games can be played to 40 points in a point limit game or 40 shoes in a shoe limit game. In the shoe limit game the player with the highest points wins. If a tie exists then each player can take a half win or a two-inning tiebreaker can be thrown.
- Any shoe must be within one horseshoe-width (measured across the outside of the open end of the shoe) of the stake to be considered for points. (Official rules call for 6 inches max).
- The closest shoe to the stake gets 1 point.
- If you have two shoes closer than any of your opponent's, you get 2 points.
- Ringers are worth 3 points each and must completely encircle the stake so the ends can be touched with a straight-edge without touching the stake.
- If you have the closest shoe and a ringer, it's 4 points.
- If your opponent throws a ringer on top of yours, they cancel each other out and no points are given.
- Leaners are worth 1 point and are considered closer than any adjacent shoe except ringers.
A popular brand of horseshoes is the St. Pierre American Professional Series Horseshoe Set
($49.99). A great inexpensive set is the Franklin Sports Horseshoes
($29.99). Champion Sports has a set of Rubber Horseshoes
($11.99) that would be great for the kids who want to learn how to play. Do you play horseshoes either in a league or for fun at home? Do you have modifications or tips that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear your comments below!