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National Horseshoe
Pitchers Association


The sport may be played by one individual for practice or by two or more for sport. Horseshoe courts basically require a level area with 2 stakes located 30 to 40 ft. apart, with recommended improvements as found desirable by the participants. NHPA sanctioned play must be on sanctioned courts meeting specifications stated in NHPA Rules.

NHPA BYLAWS ART.XII concerns ALL NHPA(sanctioned)TOURNAMENTS and should be included when reviewing NHPA OFFICIAL RULES OF HORSESHOE PITCHING. The rules are also mentioned in BYLAWS ART.XI and STANDING RULES 12 & 14.
Click ART.XI & XII for details

Published By The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America (NHPA)
(Jan 1, 2000)
See diagram on back of rules pamphlet.((similar sketches are shown following this document))
1. Dimensions - A horseshoe court shall be a level rectangular area 6 ft wide and a minimum of 46 ft long. A north-south setting is recommended for outdoor courts to minimize the effects of the sun.
2. Pitcher's Box - The pitcher's box is the square 6 ft by 6 ft area at each end of the court. It is composed of 2 parts - 1) the pit, and 2) the pitching platforms.
a. PIT - The pit is a rectangular area filled with the substance onto which the shoes are pitched. Its maximum length (in the direction in which the shoes are pitched) is 72 inches and its minimum length is 43 inches. Its maximum width is 36 inches and its minimum width is 31 inches. The pit must be centered in the pitcher's box. If the pit is less than the maximum dimensions, the extra space shall be filled with the same material of which the platforms are made, or some other material different than the pit substance, and shall be level with the pit and platforms.
b. Pitching Platforms - The pitching platforms flank the pit to its left and right sides and are parallel to each other. They shall be level with each other and to the top of the pit. They shall be 18 to 20-1/2 inches wide (depending upon the width of the pit) and shall be a minimum of 6 ft. long.
3. Stakes - The stake is the target at which the shoe is pitched. Each stake shall be centered between the platforms with a minimum of 21 inches from the stake to the front and back of the pit. On regulation courts the stakes are 40 ft. apart. This is measured from the front of each stake level with the pitching platform. Stakes shall be 1 inch in diameter and may be made of cold-rolled steel, mild iron, soft metal or synthetic material. Each stake shall be no shorter than 14 and no higher than 15 inches above pit level and they shall both have an approximate 3 inch lean toward each other.
4. Pit Substance - Clay, sand, dirt and synthetic compositions are all legal substances to put in the pit. The minimum depth of the substance shall be 4 inches. An 8 inch depth is recommended.
5. Extended Platforms - The pitching platforms on either side of the pit shall be extended forward (toward the opposite pit) an additional 10 feet to accommodate pitching at shorter distances. The front of the extended platforms shall be 27 feet from the opposite stake. The extended platforms shall be level with and be of the same width and material as the full-distance platforms. It is recommended that the 14 feet between the front ends of the platforms be filled in (using the same material as the platforms) to provide a continuous level walking surface between the two pitcher's boxes.
6. Multiple Courts
a. Side-by-side - To eliminate distraction and safely separate activity, stakes of courts adjacent to each other shall be a minimum of 10 feet apart. A greater distance (at least 12 feet) is preferable.
b. Back-to-back - A minimum of 16 feet and a protective barrier must separate the stakes of back-to-back courts.
7. Backboards & Protective Barrier
a. Backboards - Every pit should have a backboard. It should be at least 4 feet behind the stake, be at least 1 foot high and extend the width of the pit. For spectator visibility, a mesh netting or chain link material is recommended. If of solid material, it should be a color that will provide a contrasting background so as to keep the stake visible for the contestants.
b. Protective Barrier - All court complexes shall be surrounded by a protective barrier. The barrier should be at least 8 feet behind the stake. A chain link type fence at least 4 feet high is recommended.
8. Foul Lines - Foul lines shall be defined by lines extending across the front of the full-distance and extended platforms. This places them perpendicular to an imaginary line between stakes at 37 and 27 ft. respectively from the front of the opposite stakes. (Measured at the level of the pitching platform).
9. Imaginary Stakes - Imaginary stakes shall be marked midway between the left and right extended platforms at a distance of 30 feet from the opposite stakes. They shall also be marked on the full-distance platforms at a distance of 40 feet from the opposite stakes if the stakes are not 40 feet apart.
The regulations for covered and indoor courts are exactly the same as for permanent ground level courts with the additional stipulation that they shall have a minimum 12 foot vertical clearance to the lowest possible obstruction.
The regulations for temporary and/or raised courts are the same as for permanent ground level courts with the exception that for any raised court, the top of the pit shall be no more than 7 inches above the level of the pitching platforms. In addition, the 4 inch pit substance requirement is recommended, but not mandatory.The 40 ft. distance for elevated platforms shall be measured from the front of the bottom of the stake, at floor level before the substance is put into the pit.
Note: The NHPA realizes that many sets of courts now in existence do not meet all of the conditions listed in Rule 1. All new courts shall be constructed using the guidelines in Rule 1 and charters are encouraged to modify their existing courts to meet these standards as soon as possible.

Section A. Legal Shoes The sport of horseshoes is played with specially manufactured equipment. Any official (legal) horseshoe must be sanctioned and approved by the NHPA and must pass the following maximum weight and measurement standards. (there are no minimum standards): 1) It shall not weigh more than 2 pounds, 10 ounces; 2) it shall not exceed 7-1/4 inches in width, 7-5/8 inches in length and, on a parallel line 3/4 inch from a straightedge touching the points of the shoe, the opening of the shoe must not exceed 3-1/2 inches. (A 1/8 inch tolerance to 3-5/8 inches is allowed on used shoes.) No part of the original manufactured shoe may exceed one inch in height. Shoes not meeting these requirements shall not be used in NHPA sanctioned competition and all games pitched with illegal shoes shall be forfeited. All horseshoes used by a pitcher may be checked at any time to verify they are legal shoes for weight, measurement and altered shoes. This checking will be done by a judge or other tournament official.
Section B. ALTERED SHOES Any shoe which has been changed from its original design (calk, notch, etc.) shall be considered an "altered" shoe. An "altered" shoe is illegal and cannot be used in sanctioned play.
Note: The NHPA Executive Council has the right to waive the "altered" shoe provision for a physically impaired contestant.
Section C. SHOES SANCTIONED BY OTHER COUNTRIES Any shoes sanctioned by another country are permissible in NHPA sanctioned play only for contestants from that country, and then only if they meet NHPA specification. They are not allowable (for U.S. citizens) in NHPA sanctioned events unless they are also sanctioned by the NHPA.

Section A. Males
1. Juniors - Junior contestants may pitch from any place on either the full-distance or extended platforms. They must observe the 27 foot foul lines.
2. Open Men and Seniors - All Open Men and Senior contestants shall pitch from on or behind the full distance platforms adjacent to the pits and observe the 37 foot foul lines. Physically impaired males in these categories may be given permission by the governing NHPA officials to move on to the extended platforms and observe the 27 foot foul lines.
3. Elders - Elders are classified as short-distance pitchers, shall pitch less than the full-distance, and observe the 27 foot foul line.
Section B. Females - All female contestants may pitch from any place on the full-distance or extended platforms and observe the 27 foot foul lines, except that any woman pitching in an Elders class must pitch less than 40 feet.

Section A. Every effort shall be made to keep the substance in the pit in soft putty-like condition so the shoes will not bounce or move around after coming in contact with the substance. The substance in the pit shall be watered (if necessary) and leveled to the top of the surrounding platforms (unless the pits are raised) before a game starts. Each contestant is responsible for one pit, but a contestant may have someone else do the preparation. During a game, a contestant shall not step on, mash, or otherwise repair any of the substance in the scoring area of the pit without the consent of the opponent or a tournament official. Repair needed because of a measured shoe or a shoe which was "buried" shall be handled using the same guidelines.
NOTE: Pits composed of sand or dirt often "hollow out" after a few innings. A blanket statement by the tournament director (made before competition begins) shall allow the leveling of these courts as needed without constant consent between the contestants.
Section B. With the permission of the tournament committee, the stakes may be painted for visibility purposes before a game starts. This procedure shall not be done while a game is in progress, unless both contestants agree to do it.

It is customary for contestants to find out their court assignments and warm up on the court for their first game with the proper opponent. The court should be prepared for play during this time. When the tournament official announces the start of play, the contestants shall flip a shoe or coin with the winner having the choice of first or second pitch.
After a game is completed, a contestant shall go to the next assigned court and prepare one pit for play. When the other contestant arrives, the same procedure shall be followed. When both contestants have arrived and prepared the pits, they may pitch four warm up shoes each and then must start their game, using the method in the previous paragraph to decide first pitch. It is legal for a contestant to practice alone if the second contestant is late in arriving.

Section A. Innings The game is broken down into innings. Each inning consists of four pitched shoes, two by each contestant.
Section B. Value of the Shoe
1. Ringer - A ringer is a shoe which comes to rest encircling the stake. A straightedge touching both points or any part of the heel calks of the shoe must clear (not touch) the stake in order for a shoe to be declared a ringer. A ringer has a value of three points.
2. Shoe in Count - A shoe which is not a ringer but comes to rest with any portion of it within 6 inches of any part of the stake is a shoe in count. A shoe in count has a value of one point. A "leaner", or any other shoe which is touching the stake (but not a ringer), is considered a shoe in count and has a value of one point.
3. Shoe Out of Count - A shoe which comes to rest further than 6 inches from the stake is a shoe out of count and has no scoring value. A shoe which is declared to be a foul shoe (see Section H) is considered to be a shoe out of count (no matter where it comes to rest).
Section C. Delivery of Shoes
1. The contestant pitching first shall deliver both shoes (one at a time) and then the other contestant shall deliver both shoes (one at a time). A contestant may deliver the shoes from either the left or right platform but, in any one inning, both shoes must be delivered from the same platform. A contestant shall pitch the entire tournament with the same hand or arm, except in the case of a medical emergency.
2. A contestant shall deliver both shoes within 30 seconds. The time shall start when the contestant steps onto the platform with the intention of pitching. (As opposed to retrieving shoes or removing foreign material from the platform).
NOTE: Extra time taken to repair a damaged shoe by filing a burr, etc., or a delay resulting from a distraction not caused by the contestants, shall not be penalized.
Section D. Position of Contestants During Delivery
1. THE PITCHER. The pitcher must maintain constant contact with the designated platform during the entire address and release of the shoe.
(a) A contestant observing the 37 ft foul line may start directly behind the platform provided they step within it when they release the shoe.
(b) A physically challenged contestant must have at least some contact with the platform and be completely behind the 27 ft. line when the shoe is released.
2. THE OPPONENT. The opponent, while not pitching, shall stand on (or behind) the other 40 ft. platform at least 2 feet to the rear of the contestant who is pitching. The opponent shall be quiet and stationary so as not to disturb the contestant who is pitching or the contestants on adjacent courts. After a short distance contestant pitches first they must return to the 40 ft. platform if the opponent or any contestant on an adjacent court is a full distance pitcher.
3. THE CONTESTANTS. If both contestants use the same platform to deliver their shoes, the contestant pitching first should cross over to the other platform in front of the pit and then move to the proper position. (see #2) As the first contestant is crossing in front the second contestant should be crossing over in back and mounting the platform from the rear. If both contestants use opposite platforms, the contestant who pitches first should step directly back to the proper position described in #2 of this section.
4. No contestant shall walk to the opposite stake (except to remove a foul shoe) or be informed of the position of any pitched shoes prior to completion of an inning.
Section E. Flow of the Game
1. Once the four shoes in an inning have been pitched, the contestants shall walk to the other end to determine the score for the inning and retrieve their shoes. No shoe shall be moved before its scoring value is determined. If the decision is in doubt, a judge shall be called. The judge shall make the necessary measurement(s) and determine the scoring for the shoes in question. (Contestants are encouraged to carry measuring devices and to make their own decisions whenever possible to help speed up play.) Play shall continue in similar fashion in each inning until the game limit is reached.
2. At any one time, a contestant shall carry and use only two horseshoes during the course of a game. A spare shoe or shoes should be kept available at court side in case of a broken shoe or if the contestant desires to switch shoes. Shoes may be switched between innings, but not during an inning unless a shoe breaks (see Section F).
3. If it is discovered during an inning that a contestant has pitched the shoe of an opponent, the shoes shall be picked up and the entire inning shall be repitched using the correct shoes. If the contestants fail to discover the error until after all four shoes have been pitched, the inning shall be scored on the basis of whatever shoes they pitched. If agreement cannot be reached, a judge shall be called. Based upon the input from the contestants, the judge shall either determine the scoring for the inning or void it and order it to be repitched.
4. When a shoe is being measured by a contestant and it (or the stake) is accidentally moved, the inning shall be scored only if the contestants can come to an agreement. If no agreement can be reached, a judge shall be called. As in (3) above, the judge shall either determine the scoring or void the inning and order it to be repitched.
EXCEPTIONS: If one or more shoes (are obvious ringers and have been agreed to by the contestants) are moved to make a measurement they need not be repitched. Only the shoe(s) in question when the shoe or stake was moved must be scored or ordered repitched by the judge. If one or more shoes are below the shoe(s) in question, they will be scored and remain in place for the repitch. No scored shoes will have the scoring changed due to a repitch.
NOTE: If a judge moves a shoe (or the stake) while making a measurement, the judge shall either determine the scoring for the inning or void it and order it to be repitched.
5. It is legal for a contestant to carry and use a blunt ended hook or shoe pick-up device not exceeding 36 inches in total length. Any hook on the device cannot protrude more than 2 inches from the main shaft. Care should be taken in using the hook so as not to endanger the opponent. Also, contestants are encouraged to carry a file and towel to keep their shoes smooth and shoes and hands clean and dry.
Section F. Broken and Cracked Shoes
1. Broken Shoes
a. If a shoe breaks into two or more parts when it hits the stake or lands in the pit, the parts shall be removed and another shoe shall be allowed to be pitched in its stead. If the shoe broke when striking the backboard or other "foul" ground, it is foul and may not be repitched.
b. If a shoe has landed in the pit and becomes broken by having another shoe land on it, it shall be scored as it appears to lay. If there is any disagreement, a judge shall be called. The judge shall either determine the scoring for the inning or void it and order it to be repitched.
2. Cracked Shoes - If a shoe is discovered to be cracked (but not completely broken in two), it shall be scored as it lays. Once the scoring is determined, it shall be replaced.
Section G. Broken Stakes A broken stake is defined as any stake not in the same position as when the game started, and when both contestants agree that it is broken. When the stake breaks during an inning, the game shall be discontinued at the end of the previous inning and the stake replaced. If a stake breaks as the result of being struck by the fourth shoe of the inning, then it shall be counted. If they cannot agree, then a judge shall be called. The judge shall either determine the scoring for the inning or void it and order it to be repitched. (Once the scoring is determined, the tournament officials may decide to complete the game on another court or hold the completion until a later time.) If not, once the stake is replaced, the contestants may take four warm up shoes each (if they so desire) and play shall resume.
Section H. Foul Shoe A foul shoe is a shoe which was delivered in non-compliance with one of the rules of the game. It scores as a shoe out of count and is to be removed from the pit (if it is in the scoring radius of the stake) before any more shoes are pitched. Shoes already in the pit that have been disturbed by a foul shoe are not to be removed, unless they were knocked into foul territory and are returned to the scoring area.
1. The following are rule violations that must be spotted and called by an assigned judge. The penalty is to declare the shoe a foul shoe.
(a) Any shoe pitched when the contestant has made contact with the foul line before the shoe is released.(Rule 1,#8)
(b) Except as provided in rule 6, D, 1, any shoe pitched when the contestant has started or stepped completely outside the pitching platform before releasing the shoe.
(c) Any shoe not delivered within the thirty second time limit. (Rule 6, Section C, #2).
(d) One shoe when a contestant has illegally stepped on the scoring area of the playing surface. When this violation occurs, the contestant shall pitch only one shoe in the next inning. The second shoe shall be carried to the other end. (Rule 4, Section A).
(e) The second shoe, if it is pitched from a different platform than the first shoe. (Rule 6, Section C)
2. The following occurrences are also considered foul shoes and the shoes must be removed from the pit (if they are in the scoring radius of the stake) before any more shoes are delivered.
a. Any shoe which contacted the background, court frame, or any ground outside the pit before it came to rest.
b. Any shoe which struck a previously defined object such as a tree limb, wire, indoor court ceiling, etc.
NOTE: A shoe which strikes a foreign moving object is not foul and may be repitched.
c. The second shoe if the contestant changes shoes after the first shoe has been pitched. The only exception is if the first shoe has broken in two and qualifies for a repitch.(Rule 6 Sec E, #2)
d. Any shoe that leaves a contestant's hand once the final forward swing of the delivery process has started shall count as a pitched shoe. If it touches any ground outside of the target pit, it shall be counted as a foul shoe. A shoe that is accidentally dropped by a contestant before the final forward swing has started shall not be considered foul and may be picked up and pitched.
3. A contestant's shoes shall be called foul if the contestant removes any shoe before the scoring of that shoe has been agreed upon. A judge shall be called if a decision cannot be reached. The judge shall determine the scoring for the inning.
Section I. Protests If a contestant desires to make a protest, the protest shall be made to the judge or tournament official at the time the problem occurs. The tournament committee shall make the final ruling on all protests.

The length of a game shall be determined before play begins. There are two options:
1. Point Limit - The game shall be played to a predetermined number of points. 40 points is the suggested amount. The first contestant to reach (or exceed) that amount is the winner.
2. Shoe Limit - The game shall be played to a predetermined amount of shoes. It shall be an even number. When that amount is reached, the contestant with the highest score is the winner. If the score is tied, there are two options:
a. Each contestant shall receive 1/2 win and 1/2 loss. (This option should be used if a handicap system is in effect.)
b. A two inning tie-breaker shall be played, using the same method of play that was used in the game. In the event of another tie, the same process shall be repeated and this procedure shall continue until the tie is broken.

There are two methods of scoring in horseshoes - cancellation and count-all.
Section A. Cancellation Scoring
1. In cancellation scoring, only one contestant can score in each inning.
a. Ringers - Ringers cancel each other. A ringer of one contestant shall cancel a ringer of the other contestant those shoes shall not score any points. Any uncancelled (live) ringer scores three points.
b. Shoes in Count - A shoe in count shall score one point under the following conditions:
1. If there are cancelled ringers and no live ringer, the closest shoe in count to the stake shall score one point.
2. If there are no ringers, the closest shoe in count shall score one point. If the other shoe of that same contestant is the second closest shoe in count, it shall also score one point.
3. If there is one uncancelled ringer and the other shoe of the scoring contestant is the closest shoe in count to the stake, it shall score one point (four points total).
NOTE: Opposing contestant's shoes in count that are touching the stake or are determined to be an equal distance from the stake shall cancel each other and, like cancelled ringers, shall score no points. In that situation, the next closest shoe in count, if there is one, shall score one point.
2. Calling the Score
a. Points shall be awarded in the following situations. The contestant scoring the points shall call the score.
1. No ringer with the closest shoe in count - call "one point".
2. No ringer with the two closest shoes in count - call "two points".
3. One ringer with either no shoe in count or the other contestant having the closes shoe in count - call "one ringer, three points".
4. One ringer with the closest shoe in count - call "one ringer, four points".
5. Two canceled ringers with the closest shoe in count - call "one ringer each, one point".
6. Two cancelled ringers with one uncancelled ringer - call "three ringers, three points".
7. Two uncancelled ringers - call "two ringers, six points".
b. No points shall be awarded in the following situations. The score shall be called by the contestant who pitched second.
1. All four shoes out of count - call "no score".
2. Two cancelled ringers with no shoes in count or with the other two shoes an equal distance from the stake - call "one ringer each, no score".
3. Four cancelled ringers - call "four dead".
Section B. Count-all Scoring
In count-all scoring, both contestants receive credit for the number of points their own shoes are worth in each inning. Because both contestants can score in the same inning (each contestant can score either zero, one, two, three, four or six points in each inning), care should be taken in reporting the scores to the scorekeeper so that the proper score is recorded for each contestant.
Section C. Recording the Score
In tournament play, the score sheet (not the scoring device) shall be the official record of the game. Contestants are encouraged to pay close attention to the score at all times. If a question or discrepancy occurs regarding the correct score, the contestant(s) may approach the scorer between innings or during their half inning to rectify the situation. If the discrepancy cannot be corrected to the satisfaction of both contestants, a tournament judge shall be called to make the final decision.

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