Playing horseshoes is a fun way to keep you and your friends entertained on a camping trip or at a beach party. As long as you are able to set up the horseshoe court and know the rules of the game, you’re good to go. One common problem that people have when setting up horseshoe stakes is determining the distance between the stakes. How far apart are horseshoe stakes? This article answers that question and provides more details about this exciting game.
Horseshoe pitching is a popular professional sport in the United States. You can find horseshoe clubs at prestigious institutions such as San Jose State University and the University of Texas. Even if you don’t play professionally, setting up your horseshoe game with official court dimensions will allow you to familiarize yourself with the rules of a standard game in case you decide to play professionally or semi-professionally.
Horseshoe stakes are usually 40 feet (12.1 m) apart as per the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA) requirements for official games. However, in addition to the distance, there are several other factors to consider when installing stakes.
The entire horseshoe court should be 50 feet (15.2 m) long. When setting up a horseshoe game, you have to place the stakes exactly 40 feet apart. Depending on the category of participants, the distance between the stakes and the pitching platform can be 37 feet (11.2 m) or 27 feet (8.2 m). Both stakes have to be 21 inches (53 cm) from the edge of the pit box and about 14 inches (35 cm) above the ground.
Note: Players can use the same stake when playing friendly games. However, horseshoe players must have separate stakes during official games.
Horseshoe Stake Size And Angle
A standard horseshoe stake is 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter and 36 inches (91 cm) long. It may be made of cold-rolled steel, mild iron, soft steel or any other synthetic material. The top of each stake should not be more than 15 inches (38 cm) above ground level. You’ll also need to incline the stakes toward each other at about 12 degrees.
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Horseshoe Pit Dimensions
Like the stakes, the horseshoe pits should be 40 feet (12.1 m) apart. Most pits are 43 to 72 inches (109 – 182 cm) long. Pit widths range between 31 and 36 inches (78 – 91 cm). Fill the extra space around the pit with a surface material such as sand or dirt. Horseshoe pits must have a minimum depth of 4 inches (10 cm) but most official games use pits that are 8 inches (20 cm) deep.
Note: You can use clay or a synthetic material like tarp to create the pit surface.
On each side of the horseshoe pit, there is a pitching platform. The pitching platforms must be level with the top of the pit. Depending on the size of the horseshoe court, the pitching platform can be 18 to 20 inches (45 – 50 cm) wide and 6 feet (1.8 m) long. The distance between the pitching platform and the pit can vary depending on the gender and age of the players.
Note: A horseshoe court also has foul lines, which extend across the front of the pitching platform. When pitching shoes, players must not cross the foul line before releasing their horseshoes.
Let’s look at the pitching distance for various age categories of males.
For juniors, there must be a distance of 27 feet (8.2 m) between the pitching platform and the stake. The players may pitch their horseshoes from any place on the pitching platform. Juniors aged nine and under may pitch from behind a 20-foot (6 m) foul line.
Open Men And Seniors
Unlike juniors, adults must pitch their horseshoes farther away from the stake. The NHPA states that all Open Men and senior contestants must pitch from the foul lines 37 feet (11.2 m) away from the stake.
Note: NHPA officials may permit physically impaired male adults to pitch their horseshoes from extended platforms 27 feet (8.2 m) away from the stake.
Similarly to juniors, the NHPA classifies elders as short-distance pitchers and the rules allow them to pitch from a shorter distance than the entire distance. Elders are to pitch on an extended pitching platform with a foul line 27 feet (8.2 m) away from the stake.
The rules regarding female pitching distance are also very flexible. Female contestants may pitch from full-distance or extended platforms. This rule applies to females of all ages.
Learn how to pull off pro-level horseshoe throws.
Types Of Horseshoe Pits
There are different types of horseshoe pits in terms of their size and design. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of horseshoe pits.
One Pit Instead Of Two Horseshoe Pits
Even though a standard horseshoe game requires two pits, you can play backyard games with only one horseshoe pit. Creating a court with one horseshoe pit saves time, money and space without severely affecting the quality of the game. You only have to modify the game’s rules by having both players aim at the same stake.
One Row Of Wood Instead Of Multiple For Horseshoe Pit
You can also save money and time by making your horseshoe pit with one row of wood instead of multiple. All you have to do is buy the bottom layer of wood, nail it to the ground and add sand or other preferred surface material.
Warning: Constructing a horseshoe pit with one row of wood can be dangerous. There is a high chance that the horseshoe can hit someone if you miss the stake.
Grass, Dirt Or Weed Tarp Pit Instead Of Sand
Even though the ground surface of most horseshoe pits is covered with sand, you can make the pit’s surface with several other materials as well. Surface materials like grass and dirt are inexpensive and easy to clean up after the game. You can also make a tarp pit to prevent weeds from growing.
Covered And Indoor Courts
Horseshoe is typically an outdoor game, but you can also play it indoors. During the winter or months with heavy rainfall, you can set up an indoor horseshoe court to keep yourself entertained. If you have enough space, your indoor or covered horseshoe pit can have the same dimensions as an outdoor one.
Temporary And/Or Raised Courts
If you have some space in your backyard but don’t want to make a permanent horseshoe pit, you can make a temporary one. Temporary courts are foldable and portable, making them easy to set up and pack. These courts come with all the components you need for a standard game of horseshoes. The NPHA rules state that for raised courts, the top of the pit should be no more than 7 inches (17 cm) above the level of the pitching platforms.
Tip: You can get a temporary horseshoe court if you intend to play horseshoe in different locations.
How To Build And Install A Horseshoe Pit
You don’t need professionals to install a pit when playing a game of horseshoes with friends. Let’s go over everything you need to know about building and installing a DIY pitching area.
Horseshoe Court Materials And Tools
First, you must gather all the materials and tools you’ll need for this project. This includes:
- Four horseshoes
- Two stakes
- A saw
- Steel plate
- A sledgehammer
- Pressure-treated board for the pit
- A shovel
- Landscaping fabric
- Fasteners for the box frame
Note: Don’t use actual horseshoes for the game. Ensure that you get purpose-made horseshoes for pitching.
1. Outline The Pit
Once you have decided on the exact dimensions of the horseshoe pits, cut the boards into the appropriate lengths using the saw. For example, you need four 31-inch boards and four 43-inch boards to create two 31-inch by 43-inch (78 x 109 cm) pits.
Mark the dimensions of the pits on the ground and create a trench around the perimeter. Ensure the trench is deep enough to hold the board. Nail or screw the boards together and place them in the trenches.
You can check our blog post for more information about horseshoe pit size.
2. Fill With Sand
Line the bottom of the pits with landscape fabric to prevent weeds from growing. Fill the pits with the surface material. You’ll need several bags of sand or dirt to fill both pits.
3. Set The Stakes
Once you’re done filling the surface of both pits, you need to set the stakes. Pick a spot in each pit box at least 21 inches (53 cm) from the front of the box. Drive the stakes into the ground, but keep each stake 14 inches (35 cm) above the ground. Make sure the stakes are slightly slanted toward each other before covering them with sand.
Tip: You can reinforce the stakes with concrete to prevent them from loosening over time.
4. Build A Backstop
5. Consider Lighting The Pit
You may also want to consider adding an extra source of lighting for the pit. If you are going to be playing during daylight only, natural light should be enough. However, the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association recommends installing lighting over the playing surface if you intend to play horseshoes at night.
Where You Should Put Your Horseshoe Pit
We have some tips to help you determine the perfect spot for your horseshoe pit.
- Ensure there are no windows or breakable items around.
- Ensure that there is enough space to accommodate both pits. Horseshoe pits must be 40 feet (12.1 m) apart.
Courtesies And Safety
Here are some courtesies and safety precautions you should observe while playing horseshoes.
- Keep children away from the pits.
- Avoid making noise to distract your opponents, as this is against the rules of the game.
- Avoid unsportsmanlike conduct toward any NHPA member or tournament official.
- Ensure that each pit has a backstop to prevent horseshoes from flying off the court.
- Do not use profane or abusive language toward players or officials.
Visit our blog post to read horseshoe rules in detail.
Frequently Asked Questions
Horseshoe stakes should be 40 feet (12.1 meters) apart. A standard game of horseshoes requires two stakes and you must install them in two separate pits. During installation, ensure that the stakes are inclined at the correct angle. Tilt both horseshoe stakes toward each other at an angle of 12 degrees before covering them with sand.
Horseshoe stakes need to be 36 inches (91 cm) long. Stakes are 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter and are made of solid or hollow steel. Ensure that you install each stake at the center of the horseshoe pit, with a minimum distance of 21 inches (53 cm) between the stake and the front of the pit box.
Horseshoe stakes must stick about 14 to 15 inches (35 – 38 cm) out of the ground. The total length of the stake should be 36 inches (91 cm), which means that the majority of its length should be buried in the horseshoe pit. If there is loose soil around the playing area, reinforce the pit with concrete to keep the stake in place.
If you read this article all the way through, you now have the answer to your question, “How far apart are horseshoe stakes?” The horseshoe stakes in official games are usually 40 feet apart and must be installed in two separate pits. When playing casual games, however, feel free to modify the dimensions of the pit to fit the space you have available.