Whether you have played the game in the past or you are looking for something to do at the next picnic, horseshoes can provide hours of entertainment for everyone. One of the really appealing aspects of horseshoes is that anyone can play. Men, women, children, even the elderly can play the game without risking injury or building up too much of a sweat!
The first thing that should be discussed are the basics of horseshoes. You can play a game with either two players competing against eachother, or two teams of two players each. I will assume that you have two teams of two players each for this article. If you play with just two players competing against eachother then you just need to modify how the turn works to accomodate one person instead of two.
The equipment needed for horseshoes is minimal. You need two sets of horseshoes (four total horseshoes because they are paired), two metal stakes, and a scoreboard is optional. That's it! You can usually get a set of horseshoes (stakes included) from a local store such as Walmart. If you are looking for a professional set, you can find them by typing “horseshoes set" into your favorite search engine online.
Basic Game Play
Take the horseshoe stakes and place them into the ground 40 feet apart from eachother. These become the “pits" and are the spots each team will be aiming for when throwing the horseshoes. Now that the setup is complete, let's get into the action!
One member from each team stands on opposite sides. So each side has a member from Team A and a member from Team B. Flip a coin to see how throws first. When throwing the horseshoe, the pitcher (the person throwing the horseshoe) must stand 37 feet from the opposite stake. An easy way to do this is to place a marker 3 feet in front of each stake and this will be considered the foul line. The pitcher throws both horseshoes at the opposite stake. The object is to get your horseshoes to land as close to the stake as possible. When the first pitcher is done, the other pitcher then throws the horseshoes from his team. So both teams on one side throw their horseshoes at the same stake. When both pitchers have thrown the score is tallied and the inning is considered to be over.
Only one team may score per inning. Whichever team has the closest horseshoe to the stake, scores. If both horseshoes from one team are closer than any other horseshoe from the other team, then both horseshoes are scored. A team is awarded one point if a horseshoe is within 6 inches from the stake and 3 points if the horseshoes is around the stake (call a ringer). An easy way to visualize this is to take your left arm with elbow bent, and point your hand upwards. Make your right hand into a “C" shape and grab your left arm. That is what a ringer is in horseshoes, one horseshoe wraps around the stake. The “hooks" of the horseshoe (the points that point inwards on the bottom of the horseshoe) is the boundary line when determining a ringer. The stake must be within these hooks.
Some amateur games play with “leaners". This means that if a horseshoe is leaning on the stake, or touching the stake (but not a ringer) then it is worth two points. There are a few variations of what counts as a leaner that differs from game to game depending on where you play and who you play with.
A team wins when they are the only team to hit 21 or above at the end of the inning. If an inning ends and both teams are tied (have the exact same score) then you continue to play until one teams ends an inning with a higher score.
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