Who doesn’t love a good game of horseshoe as the warmer weather blooms? Although you can often find them at campgrounds and parks, they are hard to find at other places, so you may need to build one. However, what are the typical dimensions of a horseshoe pit?
A simple horseshoe pit consists of two stakes in the ground 40 feet apart, and there are foul marks at 37 feet from each stake. A more ‘professional’ or regulation pit is about 43-72 inches long and is 31-36 inches wide. Horseshoe pits also often have simple designs.
There is more to designing your own pit than just the measurements of a regulation pit’s dimensions, where the stakes/poles are, and the foul marks. There are a lot more options available for what you can do, so you can customize it slightly if you so choose!
Regulation Pit Standards and Location Recommendations
When designing your own horseshoe pit, it’s important to take into consideration where it’ll be. If it’s in your yard the main requirements would be that the ground is level, and you have enough room to have two stakes spread about 40 feet apart and are across from one another.
And since those who play will be chucking pieces of curved metal at a metal pole, it’s advised that the pit should be in a location or at an angle where the metal horseshoes will not harm anyone or anything when thrown, other than the pole in the ground.
We already talked about horseshoe pits being 43-72 inches long and 31-36 inches wide, so what more to the pit do you need?
Well, having a backboard a bit taller than the poles can keep the horseshoes from escaping too far and keep them from damaging anything behind the pit. It can also keep stray horseshoes from hitting and injuring people. (source)
The backboard should be placed about 2-4 feet away from the back of a stake/pole. The box or area where the stake will be located will extend from where the backboard is to about 21 inches in front of the pole. The backboard can even be just a stacked or higher portion of the frame for the boxed area.
Typically, before you put the stakes in, you will measure out the area and excavate it to put sand in it and ensure the sand is level with the ground. (source)
- However, if you choose not to have it level with the ground and have it be elevated, you will have to measure out the height of the frame to allow for the necessary depth of the pit.
- Whether elevated or not, it’s recommended for the pit to have a frame to better keep the sand within the designated area.
- The typical depth for the pit- whether level with the ground or elevated- should be around 4-5 inches.
The amount of sand within the area should typically be about 1 to 2 inches on average and should be as level as possible on the surface. You can use just about any type of sand mixture, but most people use the same kind of play sand that is used to fill sandboxes.
If you’d like to go the extra mile and plan on keeping grass and weeds out of this area, you can use landscape fabric before pouring the sand into the pit.
If you choose to do this, make sure that the fabric is completely covered by the frame to further keep grass and weeds from growing in between the frame and where the fabric ends.
Horseshoe Pit Design steps and materials needed
We vaguely went over the order of some of the steps needed as you build your horseshoe pit, as well as some of the materials you will need. Here, we will go over that in a little more detail. If you do not have the necessary tools or materials needed to make the horseshoe pit, they can be found at most hardware stores such as Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart.
For the simplest design of a horseshoe pit, the materials you will need are:
- wooden or timber beams (another material like metal or PVC piping is usable, but wood is what’s more commonly used and is the easiest to work with)
- screws and/or nails
- and the optional landscaping fabric
The tools you will need to use include a saw to cut the beams to their necessary size, a screwdriver/drill or hammer depending on if you use nails or screws, ground spikes, a level, a measuring tape, the stakes, and a shovel or something to be used for excavation if you choose to make the pit level with the ground.
A rubber mallet or sledgehammer to secure the metal stakes for the game into the ground is also recommended.
After you’ve chosen the location and size measurements for your horseshoe pit, go ahead and measure out the area for the pit. If you choose to mark this area with twine, spray paint, or marking chalk, do that as you measure.
Once you have that marked out, if you plan on the pit being leveled with the ground go ahead and dig in the designated area for the box about 5 inches in depth, try to make the bottom of this hole as level as possible. So long as the sand on top is level throughout, the space at the bottom of the hole doesn’t matter very much.
- You really want this area to have square corners, on both sides of the ‘court’ so the pits are equal-sized and match up on the edges.
- Don’t forget to mark the foul lines at 37 feet as well.
- If you choose to have your pits elevated, then you can disregard this.
Next, take your chosen frames and cut them according to the measurements of the designated box area, if you choose to have a backboard- which is recommended- make the back part of the frame on the ground longer, but still have the rest of the frame match the measurements of the edges for the pit.
This goes for either elevated pits or pits that were dug. You’ll want to put holes big enough to put the ground spikes in so that the frame stays in place, already having those holes there will make that easier once you’re ready to secure the frame in place.
Before you secure the frame, if you choose to lay down landscaping fabric to help keep out grass and weeds do so before the frame is set in place to make sure the edges of the fabric are covered by the frame.
- The frame should be as high as necessary to keep the sand in the designated area.
- The ‘splash’ force when horseshoes are thrown can be taken into consideration for how high the frame should be as well.
Add more timbers, or whatever material you used for the frame, to the backside of the frame to create the backboard and secure each layer with screws or nails.
Before adding the sand, you put and secure the stakes for the game into the ground. As you do so, it’s recommended that the stake have a slight angle towards where the player will be standing when playing to help it counteract the force used when throwing the horseshoes.
To keep the stakes secured longer, set them in concrete. You will have to plan to do this ahead of time and wait for the concrete to cure before finishing the horseshoe pit, but it will keep the stakes securely where they need to be.
When in the ground, and sand has been added, stakes should rise above the pit surface by 14-15 inches and should be set a little farther back than the straight-on center of the pit, but still within even distance to the edges.
Once the stakes are set you can pour in the sand and level it out as much as possible to the best of your ability.
If you choose to play after or past normal daylight hours you can add some artificial lighting to increase visibility. It’s normally recommended to put artificial lighting above the court to make the lighting more ‘even’ across the court.
Other Possible Court Elaborations
If you plan on having children play or anyone younger than 18 years of age you can choose to add a second set of foul lines at 27 feet in addition to the set at 37 feet.
When the court isn’t in use and you have kids, the pit can also be used as a normal sandbox for them to play in.
It’s recommended that once the court is in use for an actual game of horseshoes, any toys remaining in the sandpit should be removed so that they are not damaged or broken by the horseshoes being thrown.
- If kids do play in the pit when the court isn’t in use, adult supervision is recommended so that no injuries happen because of the stakes set in the ground.
- If you would like, make the stakes removable for this purpose.
- However, if you remove the stakes regularly, it may be difficult to keep them in place while playing horseshoes.
Horseshoe and Stake Standards
When playing a game of horseshoes you wouldn’t use actual horseshoes with the purpose of shoeing horses (unless you have them handy and they’ve already been used). Most single horseshoes used for this game weigh about 2 1/2 lbs. The opening that makes it look like a horseshoe shouldn’t be more than 3 1/2 inches wide.
- It’s typically recommended that the horseshoe colors vary to easily tell which player has which shoes and to keep track of whose points are whose.
- Whether you choose to paint them yourself or you buy them with color varieties already is up to you.
- You can find horseshoes for this specific purpose at nearly any sports store.
The stakes used in the game are typically made of a soft steel or iron material. If you wish to make your own stakes for the game, it’s possible to use two same-length iron rebars that have about an inch in diameter.
If necessary to better see the stakes when playing, it can be helpful to paint them as well. The official rules for more professional games suggest white paint to better view the stake in games.
How to Play Horseshoes
When pitching or throwing a horseshoe, the throws should be underarm versus overarm. Overarm is less likely to achieve you any points and is more likely to harm something or someone during the process of the game since missing is also a higher possibility this way. Each player throws all of their horseshoes at the stake at once- as in one after the other instead of switching off after each throw. (source)
- When throwing/pitching the player must stand in between the side edges of the pit at an appropriate distance away per the abilities of both players- usually within 3 feet.
- It’s encouraged to pitch within 30 seconds, however, a dropped shoe does not count as a pitch.
- The same arm to pitch must be used throughout the game unless an injury occurs to prevent that.
A ringer- or when the horseshoe completely circles the stake- is worth 3 points, but if both players get an equal amount of ringers the points are canceled out. The goal of the game is to get more ringers than your opponent. If no ringers are scored, whoever’s horseshoe is the closest scores the point. (source)
- If more than one shoe is leaning against the stake, one is not considered closer than the other.
- If two opposing shoes are leaning against the stake, the score would be the same as if both opponents scored a ringer and the points would cancel out.
- If only one player scores a ringer and one of their other horseshoes is the next closest to the stake, they earn or score an extra point.
Once one end of the court has been played, the next end is then played and scores from both ends are added together. The first player to reach a score of twenty-one points wins the game!