RULE 1- COURT LAYOUT (Single court layout - jpg)


1. DIMENSIONS - A horseshoe court shall be a level rectangular area 6 feet (183 cms) wide and a minimum of 46 feet (1402 cms) 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 foot (183 cms) by 6 foot (183 cms) area at each end of the court. It is composed of twoparts: - 1. The Pit and 2. The pitching platforms.

a. Pit - The pitis 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 (183 cms) and its minimum length is 43 inches (109.5 cms). Its maximum width is 36 inches (91.5 cms) and its minimum width is 31 inches (79 cms). 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 inches (46 cms) to 20.5 inches (52 cms) wide (depending on the width of the pit) and shall be a minimum of 6 feet (183 cms) long.

3. STAKES - The stake is the target at which the shoe is pitched. Each stake shall be centered between the pitching platforms with a minimum of 21 inches (53.5 cms) from the stake to the front and back of the pit. On regulation courts the stakes are 40 feet (1220 cms) apart. This is measured from the front of each stake level with the pitching platform. Stakes shall be 1 inch (2.54 cms) 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 inches (36 cms) and no higher than 15 inches (38 cms) above pit level and they shall both have an approximate 3 inch (7.6 cms) 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 (10 cms). An 8 inch (20 cms) depth is recommended.

5. EXTENDED PLATFORMS - The pitching platforms on either side of the pit shall be extended forward (towards the opposite pit) an additional 10 feet (305 cms) to accommodate pitching at shorter distances. The front of the extended platforms shall be 27 feet (722cms) 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 (427 cms) 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 (Three court layout - jpg)

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 (305 cms) apart. A greater distance (at least 12 feet (366 cms)) is preferable.

B. Back-to-Back: A minimum of 16 feet (488 cms) and a protective barrier must separate the stakes of back-to-back courts.


A. Backboards: Every pit should have a backboard. It should be at least 4 feet (122 cms) behind the stake, be at least 1 foot (30.5 cms) 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 (244 cms) behind the stake. A chain link type fence at least 4 feet (122 cms) high is recommended.

8. FOUL LINES: Foul lines shall be clearly marked by lines level with and extending across the front of the full distance and extended platforms. This places them perpendicular to an imaginary line between stakes at 37 feet (1128 cms) and 27 feet (823 cms) respectively from the front of the opposite stake (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 (915 cms) from the front of the opposite stakes. They shall also be marked on the full distance platforms at a distance of 40 feet (1220 cms) from the front to the opposite stakes if the stakes are not 40 feet (1220 cms) 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 (366 cms) 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 (18 cms) above the level of the pitching platforms. In addition, the 4 inch (10 cm) pit substance requirement is recommended but not mandatory. The 40 foot (1220 cms) distance for elevated platforms shall be measured from the front of the bottom of the stake, at floor level before substance is put into the pit.



The sport of horseshoe pitching is played with specially manufactured equipment. Any official (legal) horseshoe must be sanctioned and approved by Horseshoe Canada 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. (1192 grams); 2) It shall not exceed 7 1/4 inches (18.4cms) in width, 7 5/8 inches (19.4 cms) in length and on a parallel line 3/4 inch (1 .9 cms) from a straight edge touching the points of the shoe, the opening of the shoe must not exceed 3 1/2 inches (9 cms) (A 1/8 inch (0.32 cms) tolerance to 3 5/8 inches (9.32 cms) is allowed on used shoes). No part of the original manufactured shoe may exceed one inch (2.54 cms) in height. Shoes not meeting these requirements shall not be used in sanctioned competitions and all games pitched with illegal shoes shall be forfeited. All horseshoes used by a pitcher may be checked at anytime to verify they are legal shoes for weight, measurement and altered shoes. This checking will be done by a judge or other tournament official.


Any shoe which has been changed from its original design (caulk, notch, etc.) shall be considered an "altered" shoe. An "altered" shoe is illegal and cannot be used in sanctioned play. Note: Horseshoe Canada Officials have the right to waive the "altered" shoe provision for a physically impaired contestant.


Any shoes sanctioned by another country are permissible in Horseshoe Canada sanctioned play only for contestants from that country. Shoes sanctioned by the NHPA are permissible for play in Horseshoe Canada sanctioned play.



1. Juniors - Junior contestants may pitch from any place on either the full distance or extended platforms. They must observe the 27 foot (823 cms) 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 (1128 cms) foul lines. Physically impaired males in these categories may be given permission by the governing Horseshoe Canada Officials to move onto the extended platforms and observe the 27 foot (823 cms) foul lines.

3. Elders - Elders are classified as short distance pitchers, shall pitch less than the full distance, and observe the 27 foot (823 cms) foul lines.


All female contestants may pitch from any place on the full distance or extended platforms and observe the 27 foot (823 cms) foul lines, except that any woman pitching in an elders class must pitch less than the full distance.


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 to 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 ends. A blanket statement by the tournament director (made before the 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 arriving.


SECTION A - Ends. The game is broken down into ends. Each end consists of four pitched shoes, two by each contestant.


1. Ringer - A ringer is a shoe which come to rest encircling the stake. A straight edge touching both points or any part of the heel caulks 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 a portion of it within 6 inches (15.2 cms) 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 (15.2 cms) 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 is comes to rest).


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 end, 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 contestant shall not be penalized.


1. Pitcher - the pitcher must maintain constant contact with the designated platform during the entire address and release of the shoe. Exceptions:

(a) A contestant observing the 37 foot (1128 cms) foul line may start directly behind the platform provided they step within it when they release their shoe. (b) A physically challenged contestant must have at least some contact with the platform and be completely behind the 27 foot (823 cms) foul line when the shoe is released.

2. The Opponent - the opponent while not pitching shall stand on or behind the other 40 foot (1220 cms) platform at least two feet (61 cms) 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 foot (1220 cms) 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 into proper position (see No. 2). As the first contestant is crossing in front the second contestant should be crossing over in back and mounting the pitching platform from the rear. If contestants use opposite platforms, the contestant who pitches first should step directly back to the proper position described in No. 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 the completion of an end.


1. Once the four shoes in an end have been pitched, the contestants shall walk to the other pit to determine the score for the end 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 make their own decisions whenever possible to help speed up play). Play shall continue in similar fashion in each end 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 courtside in case of a broken shoe or if the contestant desires to switch shoes. Shoes may be switched between ends, but not during an end unless a shoe breaks (See section F).

3. If it is discovered during an end that a contestant has pitched the shoe of an opponent, the shoes shall be picked up and the entire end shall be repitched using the correct shoes. If the contestants fail to discover the error until after all four shoes have been pitched, the end shall be scored on the basis of whatever shoes they pitched. If agreement cannot be reached, a judge shall be called. Based on the input from the contestants, the judge shall either determine the scoring for the end 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 end 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 end and order it to be repitched. *EXCEPTION: 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 re-pitched. 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 is below the shoes 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 end 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 (91 .5 cms) in total length. Any hook on the device cannot protrude more than 2 inches (5 cms) 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.


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 end 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 lay. Once the scoring is determined it shall be replaced.


A broken stake is defined as any stake not in We same position as when the game started, and when both contestants agree that it is broken. When the stake breaks during an end, the game shall be discontinued at the conclusion of the previous end and the stake replaced. If a stake breaks as a result of being struck by the fourth shoe of the end and both contestants agree as to the results of the end, then it shall be counted. If they cannot agree, then a judge shall be called. The judge shall either determine the scoring for the end 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 continue.


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 court and is to be removed from the pit (If ills 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 a contestant has made contact with the foul line before the shoe is released (rule 1 A 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 30 second time limit (Rule 6 Section C No. 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 end. The second shoe must be carried to the other pit. (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 backboard, 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 a 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 parts and qualifies for a repitch (Rule 6 Section E No. 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 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 end.


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 the 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 pre-determined amount of shoes. 40 shoes is the suggested amount. It shall be an even number. When the 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-end 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.


1. In cancellation scoring only one contestant can score in each end.

a. Ringers - ringers cancel each other. A ringer of one contestant shall cancel a ringer of the other contestant and 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 ringer and no live ringers, the closest shoe in count to the stake shall score one point.

2. If there are no ringers, the closet 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 contestants 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.


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 closest shoe in count - call "one ringer, three points".

4. One ringer with the closest shoe in count - call "one ringer, four points".

5. Two cancelled 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"


1. In Count - all scoring, both contestants receive credit for the number of points their own shoes are worth in each end. Because both contestants can score in the same end (each contestant can score either zero, one, two, three, four or six points in each end). care should be taken in reporting the scores to the scorekeeper so that the proper score is recorded for each contestant.

2. When a contestant is required to pitch a number of qualifying shoes to determine a ringer percentage, the contestant shall pitch two shoes in succession as if pitching in a regular singles game and the scorer shall count the ringers and total points after the two shoes have been pitched. The player shall repeat this procedure until the total number of required shoes have been pitched. A recommended number of shoes pitched is 150.


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 scorekeeper between ends or during the half end 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. It is recommended the scorekeeper place the score on the scoring device before entering it on the official scoresheet. The scorekeeper should check both for accuracy periodically during the game.


SECTION A - If the game is to be played under cancellation scoring, there are two ways to determine who shall pitch first in the next end once the game has started. The method to be used shall be determined before play begins.

1. The contestant who scored in the preceding end shall pitch first in the next end. If neither pitcher scores, the contestant who pitched second (last) in the preceding end shall pitch first in the next end.

2. Alternating Pitch - Alternating first pitch is used to guarantee each contestant an equal amount of first and second pitches during a game. It can be done in three ways. If the game is to be played to a shoe limit, it is recommended that the limit be a number divisible by four.

a. One contestant shall pitch first in ends 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, 17, etc., and the other contestant shall pitch first in ends 2,3,6, 7, 10, 11, 14, 15 etc., until the game is completed. (This is the fairest and recommended method.)

b. one contestant shall pitch first in ends 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14, etc, while the other contestant shall pitch first in ends 3, 4, 7, 8 , 11, 12, 15, 16 etc., until the game is completed.

c. one contestant shall pitch first from one pitcher’s box and the opponent shall pitch first from the other pitcher’s box.

SECTION B - Any game played using count - all scoring shall be played under an alternate pitch format found in section A - No. 2 above,

SECTION C - Any game played under any kind of handicap system shall use an alternate pitch format.

SECTION D - If it is discovered during an end (before all shoes are pitched) that the wrong contestant has pitched first, the shoes pitched so far in that end shall be picked up and the end shall be repitched. If the error is not discovered until after all four shoes have been delivered, they shall be scored as they lay and the correct rotation shall be re-established for the rest of the game.


SECTION A - In doubles play, two contestants are partners against another team of two contestants. In regular doubles, each team uses one pair of shoes and the contestants stay at the same pitcher’s box of the court for the entire game. To begin the game, the highest rated contestants shall decide first pitch and pitch their shoes, just as in singles competition. Their partners at the other end shall decide and call the score, retrieve the shoes and pitch them back and the same procedure is followed. The decision on who pitches first in each end is contingent upon the scoring system being used following the rules of single play. When contestants are pitching their shoes, the contestants at the other pitcher’s box shall be well behind and to the side of the pitcher’s box (for their own safety) and in a stationary position so as not to disturb the contestants on their own and adjacent courts.

SECTION B - WALKING DOUBLES - In walking doubles all contestants pitch their own shoes. To begin the game, the highest rated contestants shall decide first pitch and pitch their shoes. The lower rated contestants determine the score of the four shoes their partners pitched. The partner of the scoring contestant (or the last contestant who pitched in case of a no score situation) call the score and pitches first. After all eight shoes have been pitched the contestants walk to the other pitcher’s box. The highest rated contestants pick up their shoes (already scored) and step back. The score of the last four shoes pitched is determined and called to the scorekeeper. The contestant calling the score always pitches first. This procedure is continued until the game is over.


In three handed cancellation games, when two of the players - have a ringer and the third player no ringer, the player with no ringers is out of the scoring and the other two players score according to the position of their shoes.


SECTION A - On the Courts - A member while in competition shall make no disturbing noises or movements that would distract the opponent or competitors on adjacent courts. The first offense shall call for a warning from the judge or tournament official. A second offense shall call for a forfeiture of the game being played. Any further offenses shall call for a forfeiture of all games.

SECTION B - Any member who indulges in heckling, unfair rooting or any other form of unsportsmanlike conduct toward any member or tournament official shall be subject to expulsion from the tournament and the tournament site. This covers any inappropriate behaviour (including profane or abusive language) in or around the court area. The member shall also be subject to a suspension determined by a fair hearing before a grievance committee.

SECTION C - Drinking of alcoholic beverages, chewing tobacco, or smoking on the courts is prohibited.


SECTION A - A standard method of sanctioned tournament play is round-robin play with contestants being seeded into classes. Each contestant will play every contestant in the class.

SECTION B - A contestants ringer percentage shall be determined by dividing the total number of ringers by the total number of shoes pitched. Shoes pitched in playoff games and in extra ends pitched because of tie games shall be included in these totals.

Note: Horseshoe Canada Rules Committee shall legislate technical issues not covered by these rules.

July 2000

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