Ok, so you throw horseshoes at a pole, big deal, yeah? Not so fast.
The game of horseshoes does have regulations, believe it or not, and there are even sanctioning bodies that govern the sport, so here is a quick run down on horseshoes rules, and some history as well.
Horseshoes, the game we know today, is not too dissimilar as as it was long ago. The game has been around in one form or another for about 2 millennium, although back then it was a different game called Quoits, played with metal rings, but it would be none-the-less recognizable today as being similar to today’s game.
Back then horses were not shod with metal shoes like today. In fact the Romans used leather sole sandals to protect their horses hooves called a “hipposandal.” They were in essence sandals for horses, not terribly
different in function than what the centurions wore on their feet. Playing horseshoes back then would have looked a bit silly, throwing oversize leather sandals around. However, 4 bronze horseshoes were uncovered in an Etruscan tomb in the late 1800’s, the tomb itself dating from about 400 BC, so metal horseshoes did exist way back in the day, but they would have been very expensive. Metals were still pretty rare.
In modern-ish times, horses wearing shoes came into limited use in about 1000 AD, but it wasn’t until the 13th and 14th centuries that shoes for horses came into wide use. As a matter of fact the game of horseshoes became so popular among English military troops in the 1300’s that the King outlawed the game, feeling the game took away from other, more important, duties. Still the game caught on with the civilian populace by the 17th century, and that, as they say, was that.
The sport of horseshoes came to the Americas with the colonists, and with it ad hoc horseshoes rules. Even at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War the rebel patriots would while away their free time playing horseshoes, which annoyed the British leader Wellington. Not that the colonists played the game, but that the war was lost to a bunch of horseshoe players. And on it went.
In 1909 the first tournament was held, and the horseshoes rules dictated that the stakes be “38 feet from one
another and 2 inches tall”. Games were played up to a score of 21 to win, with the scoring being 1 point for shoes close to the pin, 3 points for horseshoes leaning against the pin, and “ringers” scored 5 points. A Ringer is a horseshoe that hit and stayed wrapped around the post or pin. A ringer that falls away is still considered a ringer if a straight edge, such as a ruler, cannot be placed between and touching the two ends of the horseshoe due to interference of the post or pin, or in horseshoe and straight edge together encircle the post/pin.
Today horseshoes rules says the posts are to stand about 14 inches tall and may lean slightly forward, about three inches deflection forward from the base to the top, and the posts are to be 40 feet from one another. A normal “court” for horseshoes is 50 feet in total length, and a width of 10 feet. Each pit, usually sand filled, ought to measure 36 inches x 72 inches. These are basic home dimensions, tournament horseshoes rules dimensions are slightly different, the total length being 48 feet, the width is 6 feet, and the posts at 15 inches in height.
Games can be played between two competitors, each on opposite sides, or 4 players, 2 on each opposing side. Players throw two horseshoes each, one each if there are two players per side. A ringer, two of which are shown above, scored 3 points. A leaner, which is a horseshoe leaning against the post, scores 1 point, as does any horseshoe within six inches of the post. Anything farther than 6 inches from the post does not count. The players then switch sides. A regular game of horseshoes runs up to 21 points, but a formal, regulated game runs to 50 points. If you have crappy players, like me, that is one long game.
The horseshoes themselves, unlike in the old days, are not actual horseshoes, although one could play with real, actual horseshoes. Today’s shoes are a more or less stylized, larger versions of actual horseshoes, bigger, and generally squared off at the top for easier gripping.
There is a national entity that regulates the sport, so check them out horseshoes rules of the NHPA at www.horseshoepitching.com.
I’m sure there are some devotees that yell “Horseshoes Rules!” every chance they get, and they usually get looked at as if they have lost their minds. I’m one of the lookers. When I arrive as someones house and they have a permanent horseshoe pit set up in the back yard, I’m all, “Really? What about the croquet, and badminton, gotta have badminton.” However get a couple beers in me and people I like around, and it’s game on.
Sure, my post may sound glib, but this is a humor site after all, and as I say all the time, if I’m not having a good time writing, I’m not writing.