Horseshoe pits are most commonly filled with sand. However, exactly how much sand seems to differ depending on where you are and how used the horseshoe pit is. This article will tell you exactly how much sand is best for a horseshoe pit.
On average, the sand in a horseshoe pit is about 4 inches deep. However, when playing horseshoe competitively, the pits are filled with 8 inches of sand. Anywhere in between 4 and 8 inches of sand is acceptable. The amount of filler in the pit changes how much bounce the players’ shoes will have.
The following sections will elaborate on why the depth of the filler in a horseshoe pit matters, if the depth changes based on the filler, and what the depth does for your horseshoe game.
Horseshoe Pit Filler Depth
The filler is mainly there to keep your horseshoes from bouncing excessively. Thus, the more filler you have, the less the horseshoes will bounce. The minimum requirement for National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA) horseshoe pits is four inches of sand or other filler.
At four inches, you still get plenty of bouncing of the horseshoes but not nearly as much as if you had no sand or other filler. This bouncing can be used to the player’s advantage but can get annoying very quickly. Bouncing horseshoes can be very unpredictable and can work against you. (source)
- There is also a larger difference in play as the four inches of sand, or other filler, escapes the pit.
- With time, all substances tend to find their way out of the horseshoe pit.
- If you were to start with more sand or filler, you won’t have to refill it as much as if you start with four inches.
As you fill your horseshoe pit with more sand, getting closer to that eight-inch depth, the bouncing of the horseshoes lowers. This reduction of bouncing in horseshoes can increase a player’s accuracy. Now that the horseshoes are not so unpredictable, you can win points easier and control your horseshoes much better.
For beginners, the difference between four and eight inches will not be very noticeable. If you are looking to get really good at Horseshoe and maybe even compete, going for eight inches of horseshoe pit filler would be best. If you are looking to just have a good time with your friends or family, four inches will be just fine.
Different Horseshoe Pit Fillers
Because the point of having a filler is to reduce the bounce of horseshoes, if you are not super serious about the sport, what you fill your horseshoe pits with doesn’t really matter as long as it is loose enough to reduce the bouncing of pitched horseshoes.
If you are looking to play horseshoe competitively or want to play by the official rules put out by the NHPA, here are the four most common fillers used in most to least common order.
It’s important to keep in mind that to keep your horseshoe pit filler at the best quality it can be, putting down a layer of weed fabric between the ground and the filler is best. This will prevent grass, dandelions, and other such weeds from peaking up through your filler.
Clay Filler For Horseshoe Pits
Clay is the filler of choice for the NHPA. It does require much more maintenance for pitching horseshoes, but when maintained correctly, it has the perfect consistency for playing horseshoes. (source)
- Clay needs to be moist for the best results.
- Too dry, and it will look all cracked and will be too hard to have a fun time playing horseshoe.
- Too wet, and it becomes something called “slick.”
- Slick is a soupy substance that is too wet to be an enjoyable filler for horseshoes.
- You need the consistency just right, which takes practice and experience.
To properly wet a horseshoe clay pit, you need a shovel and a watering can. A watering can will get more of the clay surface wet than a hose.
You’ll want to wet the surface, but not around the stake just in case you water the clay too much and make slick, and then turn the clay over with the shovel. This will mix the clay to be the right consistency, which is putty-like and just barely moist.
Sand Filler For Horseshoe Pits
There are two types of sand; play sand and utility sand. Both types of sand work well for pitching horseshoes. (source)
Play sand is more commonly found than utility sand. It’s a lot lighter and is easier to lose outside of the pit. Because of its convenience and variety in color, it is the more popular option for an at-home horseshoe pit.
- However, because it is much lighter than the utility sand, it tends to need to be refilled more to keep a consistent 4 to 8 inches of filler in the horseshoe pit.
- Play sand tends to keep its texture pretty well, regardless of if it is wet or dry.
Utility sand is heavier than play sand and as a result, tends to be a bit courser. It’s not as clean as play sand, meaning there is more dust and dirt and rocks which could affect allergies and asthma a bit more than play sand.
Because it is heavier than play sand, it tends to stay in the horseshoe pit a bit better and does not to be refilled as much to keep the 4 to 8 inches of filler. It is also a bit more slippery when completely dry.
- Regardless of what kind of sand you use for your pit, to get the best play you need to moisten your sand.
- This will help the sand keeps its texture and reduce the bounce of pitched horseshoes.
- It’s also a good idea to readjust the sand to be as even as possible over the pit as much as needed, about every inning.
Sand as a whole tends to be replaced more often than clay because it is much lighter and will occasionally puff up and fly when hit with pitched horseshoes.
Sawdust Filler For Horseshoe Pits
Like sand, sawdust escapes horseshoe pits easily and quickly. Because of this, it needs to be replaced frequently in order to keep the filler at 4 to 8 inches deep.
It also performs best when slightly moistened. Sawdust is also occasionally placed over another filler to help reduce the bouncing of pitched horseshoes.
Loose Soil Filler For Horseshoe Pits
Loose soil is the least popular for two reasons. One, it escapes like sand, and two, it grows weeds very easily. It also performs best when slightly moistened but not totally wet.
This is a good filler for those who don’t have sand readily available and live in an area where the soil is more sand-based. If you are wanting to use loose soil as your horseshoe pit filler, sand-based soil will work best.