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Let's take a closer look at how to practice American Horseshoe Pitching

After we got our first American horseshoes from the US this week and that we are approaching the inauguration of our US course (Roslagen Open 12 sept), it is time to take a closer look at how to pitch ...

Quick overview of the course's dimensions and structure

1. Drive two, one-inch stakes 40 feet apart into the ground. The exposed part of the stake should measure 14 to 16 inches. The stakes can be leaning toward each other but should not lean more than 12 degrees, or 3 inches from the center.

2. Form a “horseshoe pit” around each stake. The ideal pit size is 3 feet wide by 6 feet long. The stake should be oriented in the center of the pit. To begin, mark your pit area and turn the soil inside the pit to loosen it. Loosening the soil helps the horseshoe stay put when it lands. In our case we use sand. Horseshoe pits can vary in size. The width can be from 31″ to 36″, and the length can be from 43″ to 72″.

3. Draw foul lines. There are two foul lines that have to be established on each side of the court. The first foul line is for men and is marked 37 feet away from each stake, or, 3 feet in front of each stake. The second foul line is 10 feet in front of the first foul line. This line is intended for women, children up to 18 years old, and elderly players.

Establishing these foul lines means that men throw from 37 feet away, and women, children, and elderly throw from 27 feet away from each stake.

Easy Backyard Horseshoe Game Rules

  1. Determine how many innings will determine a complete game. Officially, 25 innings make up a game, but you can play to 40 points, or a given number of innings, like 10 or 15.

  2. The player who goes first is determined by a flip of a horseshoe or a coin toss. A “flipped shoe” can be “smooth side” or “rough side” up.

  3. To play, players throw both of their shoes before the next player throws. Each throw must be behind the determined foul line.

  4. Crossing or stepping over the foul line renders that a “dead shoe”. Dead shoes cannot earn points.

  5. Players can throw from the right or left side of the horseshoe pit. This area is known as the platform.

  6. Players alternate who goes first, from inning to inning.

  7. A tally of scoring shoes is made after each inning.

  8. The player with the highest score after a predetermined number of innings is declared the winner.

Scoring In Horseshoes

After both players have thrown all shoes, then scoring is determined. The closest shoe or shoes determines the score for each inning. Only shoes that are within 6″ of the stake are eligible to score. “Live Shoes” are shoes that are eligible to score.

  • The closest shoe collects one point. No other shoes score points, except;

  • If the second closest “live shoe” is from the same player, it also scores one point.

  • Ringers are worth 3 points.

  • Two ringers by the same player score 6 points.

  • If both players get ringers, they cancel each other out, resulting in no points scored by either player.

The Four Horseshoe Pitches grip

The Flip

The flip grip is typical for experienced players playing on shorter courts, giving them more consistency in their pitch. Recreational players also commonly use this grip to play on courts under 40 feet.

With the flip grip, begin by holding the horseshoe at the arch’s center. Keep your thumb on top, and three fingers gripped around the inner edge. Your pinky rests on the side for support. When you throw the shoe, it will flip as it flies through the air, hence the name. When you release the shoe, the arch should flip up.

The Reverse Flip

The reverse flip is rarely used and often only by experts in horseshoe pitching. In the reverse flip, the shoe’s arch flips down instead of up. The grip is the same as the standard flip. It takes a lot of strategizing to throw the reverse flip and isn’t recommended for beginner players.

The ¾ Turn (or 1 ¾ turn)

For the ¾ Turn, begin with the horseshoe shanks (the shoe’s sides) pointing to the right. Hold the shoe flat out in front of you. Keep your thumb on top and your pinky below for stabilization. Your other three fingers should curl around the inner edge. When you throw the shoe, it should rotate counterclockwise.

When using the ¾ Turn, you may notice your shoe wobbles in the air. You can avoid this by holding the shank closer to the end of the horseshoe. You’ll get flatter and faster rotation.

The 1¼ Turn

The ¾ and 1¼ are very similar in that they both aim to rotate the horseshoe enough to land around the stake. Professional male players mainly use the 1¼ Turn. Unlike the ¾ Turn, this one turns clockwise in the air.

Begin by holding the horseshoe flat in front of you while grasping the center of the shank. The shanks should point to the left.

Keep your thumb on top of the shoe and your three fingers curling around the inner edge. Stabilize your grip with your pinky by pressing it up from underneath the horseshoe.

Once you get the hang of it, practice holding the shank closer to the edge of the horseshoe, whichever is most comfortable.


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