Regulation Horseshoe Pits

by Karen Cashin

About Karen Cashin

Karen Cashin began writing and working in public relations in 1999. Her work has appeared in the "hapwise" newsletter and on Cashin has experience in the health care, consumer and automotive fields, and holds a Health Insurance Associate designation from America’s Health Insurance Plans, along with her Master of Arts in public relations and organizational communication from Wayne State University.


Because the game of horseshoes is so much fun, it can be easy to forget that it is also a serious sport with official rules and regulations. These regulations include guidelines for the size and layout of the horseshoe pit. If you're considering entering a competition or interested in hosting one, the particulars of a horseshoe pit are fairly easy to assess or create yourself.


Horseshoe pit regulations began in England in 1869, when the distance between the stakes was 19 yards and the ground between them was clay. These rules were accepted in the United States early in the 20th century. In 1914, the Grand League of American Horseshoe Pitchers Association began serving as the ruling body for tournaments and competitive play. It changed some elements of the pit size. As the governing body morphed into the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America, the regulations for horseshoe pits evolved to encompass all of today's standards.


The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America states that official horseshoe courts are 50-feet long and 10-feet wide. This includes the playing area that is 46-feet long and 6-feet wide. The additional footage is for safety and buffer reasons. The pitcher's box, which contains the pit and the pitching platforms, is 6-feet by 6-feet. The pit is a rectangle centered inside the pitchers box, measuring not more than 36-inches by 72-inches. The stake is in the middle of the pit. Stakes are an inch in diameter and rise 12 inches above the ground. The pitching platforms, the area in which the horseshoes must be thrown, sit to the right or left of the pit. They are 18-inches to 20.5-inches wide, with a minimum length of 6 feet.


The pit should contain a loose or putty-like material to fill in the area around the stake. Common blue clay is one of the most effective materials. Sand can also be used in the pit to cushion and hold the horseshoe when it lands. Clay must be kept moist to prevent hardening. Sand pits need to be maintained during play to ensure a level consistency. Grass is often used for the playing area of the horseshoe court.


Official horseshoe play has multiple divisions based on age and ability. The regulation size court and pit for the game does not change based on the divisions, but the starting location for the throws does. Women, juniors and those older than age 70 throw from 30 feet. This means that the pitching platforms will not be in use for these divisions.

Informal Play

Informal play does not require a regulation size horseshoe pit or the particulars of two stakes and recommended materials. For play taking place in a backyard or a picnic, any object that can be used as a stake that is approximately 40 feet from the pitcher is acceptable.

Photo Credits:

  • Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or