Horseshoes-Outdoor Fun for July 4th

When we think about 4th of July, we usually concentrate on entertaining with food, beverages and maybe swimming, boating or fishing if you’re near, or on a lake.  How about adding a good ‘ole fashioned game of horseshoes to your entertainment venue?

These age-old games are simple to set up, easy to play and not too strenuous under that 4th of July sun, even if you’re older than a Millennial!  So, let’s brush up on the tips, tactics and techniques and maybe this year, you and your guests can get out of their lounge seats, have some outdoor fun and get a little easy exercise at the same time!

Horseshoes History

According to the National Horseshoes Pitching Assocation (yes, there really is one!), the game of horseshoes is thought to have descended from the ancient Greek sport of the discus throw.  The story goes that Greeks developed a sport where the discus was thrown at a stake.  But, many of the poorer people could not afford the discuss so they used old horseshoes instead.  (Today, we even find ‘rubber’ horseshoes in use!)

Horseshoes in the United States was probably brought over by the early English settlers. But modern horseshoes might well be called “muleshoes” because a similar game was spread by Union soldiers during the American Civil War playing the game with the discarded shoes of mules.

Today, horseshoes is popular throughout the United States. It is estimated that more than 10 million people play horseshoes every year.

Horseshoes Equipment and Setting Up Your Playing Field
The stakes should be positioned 40 feet apart. If you want a temporary horseshoe playing court, simply push the stakes into the ground. (A mallet will be useful to tap them into hard dirt.) The stakes should have 15 inches of clearance above the ground. You may lean them slightly inward toward each other, no more than 3 inches off vertical.

Make a more permanent backyard field by digging a 4-inch deep rectangular pit around each stake, measuring 31 inches wide and 43 inches long. Fill each pit with sand, sawdust or a fine filler substance.

For true regulation play, you should place the stakes about 40 feet apart.  Although not required, some folks create their own horseshoes playing field by digging out two rectangle pits, throwing in a bit of concrete to anchor the stakes and filling the pits with sand with each stake positioned in the center of each pit.

Horseshoes Rules

Aside from a few common-sense rules about standing apart for the pitch (to keep everyone safe) and being polite not to talk or make rude exclamations during a throw, the rules are all about points:

Rule 1: Ringers are awarded 3 points. To qualify as a ringer, a straight edge must be able to touch both points of the horseshoe.

Rule 2: If nobody scores a ringer, the closest horseshoe to the stake scores one point. This includes “leaners,” or horseshoes touching the stake but not qualified as a ringer. The horseshoe does not have to lean to qualify as a leaner, and the points remain the same no matter how close the leaner is as compared to another leaner.

Rule 3: Give two points to the player who threw both horseshoes closer to the stake than his or her opponent’s.

Rule 4: For the “closest to the stake” points, horseshoes must be within 6 inches of the stake to qualify.

Rule 5: Cancellation rules: The twist in the game of horseshoes is the ability to cancel out your opponent’s points, allowing for strategy within the game. If one player scores a ringer, the points will be cancelled if the opposing player tops it with another ringer during the same turn. The same rule applies for all other equal plays during the course of one turn. For instance, if both players throw a ringer and a leaner, no points are awarded. If one player throws two ringers, and the other player throws one, the player with two ringers gets three points for that turn.

Rule 6: If a player scores one ringer and has the closest horseshoe with his remaining play, the player gets points for both.

So, there you have it!  Horseshoes are a simple, yet fun outdoor game that is easy to play.  Good luck with your July 4th plans and let’s have a great celebration to honor the birth of our great nation!


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