January 2016


(aka The RGS Book)

printable versions require adobe reader

Table of Contents
Playing Rules
Shoe and pit illustrations (page 48 in printed book)
Printable version
Complete Book

Published by The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA)

(January 1, 2016)

The Specifications Section includes information about specific measurement requirements for equipment and for court layout (including Covered and Indoor Courts), the sanctioning of horseshoes and courts, and the allowable repairs for horseshoes. Diagrams are included here (see back cover), but for individuals or clubs that are constructing new courts, detailed plans can be found on the NHPA website at www.horseshoepitching.com.


SECTION A – Sanctioned Horseshoes (also see diagram on page 44)
All horseshoe designs and prototypes must be approved and sanctioned by the NHPA before the shoes they represent can officially be manufactured and used in NHPA sanctioned competition. The maximum weight and measurement standards are as follows: The horseshoe weight shall not be more than two (2) pounds, ten (10) ounces (there is no minimum weight). No horseshoe can exceed seven and one-quarter inches (7-1/4”) in width or seven and five-eighths inches (7-5/8”) in length. The opening of the shoe must not exceed three and one-half inches (3-1/2”), measured from a parallel line three-fourths of an inch (¾”) inward from a straightedge touching the tips of the shoe points (a one-eighth inch (1/8”) tolerance to three and five-eighths inches (3-5/8”) is allowed on used shoes). No part of any horseshoe shall exceed one inch (1”) in height when placed, with calks down, on a level surface. Shoes not meeting these requirements shall be declared “illegal”. Illegal shoes shall not be used in any NHPA sanctioned competition and all games pitched with illegal shoes shall be forfeited. All horseshoes used by a pitcher may be checked at any time, before or during competition, to verify that they are legal shoes. A judge or other Tournament/League Official will do this checking. (see Bylaws, Standing Rules 7 & 8 for additional information)
SECTION B – Altered Horseshoes
Any sanctioned shoe that has been physically and permanently modified from its original design (calk, notch, etc .) shall be considered an “altered” shoe . In addition, no shoe can be temporarily modified, with the exception of painting . An “altered” shoe is illegal and cannot be used in any sanctioned event . Contestants using altered shoes in a sanctioned event shall be subject to penalties, which could include a one (1) year suspension from the NHPA (see Bylaws for additional information) . Note: The NHPA Executive Council has the right to waive the “altered” shoe provision for a physically challenged contestant .
SECTION C – Legal Horseshoe Repair
Through prolonged use, horseshoes may become bent or warped and “mushrooming” or “roll-over” may occur on the inside of the “toe” area, or elsewhere. Horseshoes may also crack or break into two or more parts. When possible, these conditions may be corrected by filing, grinding, heating, pounding, or welding of the shoes, so long as the original design of the shoe is not altered in the process and so long as they still meet all of the measurement requirements for NHPA sanctioned horseshoes. (see Section A above)
Section D – Horseshoes Sanctioned in Other Countries
Any horseshoes sanctioned in other countries may be used during NHPA sanctioned play, but only by contestants from that country, and only if the shoes meet NHPA horseshoe specifications. They are not allowable for use by U.S. citizens in NHPA sanctioned events unless the horseshoes have also been sanctioned by the NHPA. (see Section A above)
Section E – Pitching Accessories
It is legal for a contestant to carry and use a blunt-ended hook or horseshoe pick-up device, but it cannot exceed thirty-six inches (36”) in total length. Any hook cannot protrude more than two inches (2”) from the main shaft. Care should be taken in using the hook so as not to endanger the opponent or other contestants. Contestants are also encouraged to carry measuring tools as well as a file and towel to keep their shoes burr-free and shoes/hands clean and dry. Note: All measurement tools manufactured for sale purposes must be pre-approved by the NHPA Council.
II – SPECIFICATIONS FOR COURT LAYOUT (also see diagram on inside back cover)
SECTION A - Sanctioning of Courts
Court conditions inconsistent with the NHPA specifications listed below are discouraged, primarily because of the need to standardize the conditions and results of play for all pitchers. All NHPA sanctioned events must be contested on fully or conditionally sanctioned courts. These courts must be re-sanctioned by the Charter RD (or designates) every four (4) years, beginning in 2007.

1. Full Court Sanction – Permanent, in-ground courts that meet all of the specifications listed below in Section B may receive a Full Court Sanction Certificate from the Regional Director of that Charter, once these specifications are verified. Any sanctioned league or tournament may be contested on these courts. The use of fully sanctioned courts is highly recommended for all Charter State Tournaments and may be required by some Charter Bylaws.

2. Conditional Court Sanction The NHPA recognizes that while some older permanent, in-ground courts may not meet all of the court sanction specifications listed below in Section B, all courts constructed before January 1, 2007 must meet the basic court requirements of: 1) correctly marked foul lines, 2) minimum pit dimensions, 3) specified stake diameter and placement, 4) specified stake height and angle/lean, 5) legal pit material of minimum depth, and 6) a protective barrier surrounding the courts. In addition, ( effective 2019 ) these pre-2007 court complexes must have at least three (3) courts with short-distance pitching platforms to provide for a 6-person class which may include Women, Elders, and Junior Boys or Junior Girls . These specifications are detailed in Section B, below. Upon verification of these basic requirements by the Regional Director, a Conditional Court Sanction Certificate may be issued and sanctioned events can then be contested here. All clubs are encouraged to work annually on any remaining court improvements and to strive for fully-sanctioned courts. Note: All courts constructed after January 1, 2007 must meet all of the court specifications listed in Section B and become fully sanctioned. In some cases, the NHPA Chairman of Regional Directors may grant a temporary court sanction waiver for specified non-basic requirements so that sanctioned league and/or tournament play can begin in a timely manner (see Court Sanction Waivers, below).

3. Portable Raised Pits – Portable raised pits may be sanctioned by the Regional Director so long as they meet all of the construction specifications set forth in Section C (below) and also meet the six (6) basic court set-up requirements, named above and that are detailed in Section B (below). Any sanctioned event may be contested on these sanctioned portable courts.

4. Court Complexes – Since only one court sanction certificate will be issued in locations where there are multiple courts, all courts within the complex must meet the specified requirements for the issuance of a Full Court Sanction Certificate, or for the issuance of a Conditional Court Sanction Certificate.

5. Court Sanction Waivers – Waivers for some non-basic court requirements may be granted if approved by both the Charter Regional Director and the NHPA Chairman of Regional Directors. Note: A Conditional Court Sanction Certificate is to be issued in all cases where any waivers have been granted.

  1. Temporary CS Waiver – Issued for a specified and reasonable period of time; where additional time may be required for the completion of work, for example.

  2. Permanent CS Waiver – Issued to some indoor or older court complexes for an indefinite period of time where the current specifications cannot be easily met and/or seem unreasonable to change. Example - Concrete pitching platforms or walkways that may be a few inches less than the specified eighteen inch (18”) requirement.

  3. A Special Waiver – Any portable or in-ground courts that measure less than the specified thirty-one inches (31”) inside width, but not less than twenty-nine inches (29”) inside width, and were built prior to 2007, will be granted a permanent CS waiver and considered conditionally sanctioned, provided they meet the remainder of the minimum basic requirements. Should these courts ever be refurbished, they must be modified to meet the original thirty-one inch (31”) minimum inside width at that time. The sidewalls of these waivered courts are still considered foul territory, and any live shoe that touches, comes to rest on, or is directly above the sidewall is considered a foul shoe, regardless if it is within six inches (6”) of the stake.

  4. Other Court Sanction Requirements may be waived by the Chairman of Regional Directors and/or the NHPA Council under special circumstances, some of which are explained more fully in REQUIREMENT 5, Section B).

SECTION B – Other Court Requirements/Specifications
  1. Court Dimensions – The rectangular playing area of a horseshoe court shall be six feet (6’) wide and forty-six feet (46’) long. An additional two feet (2’) of buffer zone, along each side and behind each pitching box, is recommended for safety reasons. This combination of measurements results in an overall court area that is ten feet (10’) wide and fifty feet (50’) long. All surfaces within this area shall be level. A north-south orientation for outdoor courts is recommended, to minimize the effects of sunlight.
  2. Court Surfaces – 1. There are no specific court surface material requirements other than the use of suitable pit substances (see #9, below). The same surface material should be used for all pitching platforms and crossover areas surrounding the pit. For outdoor courts, recommended materials for all walkways, platforms, and crossover areas include concrete or paved asphalt. For indoor courts, concrete, wood, or suitable carpeting is recommended for all platforms and crossover areas. Other court surfaces may consist of any natural or man-made material, so long as it provides a safe, non-skid surface. Suitable drainage of surface water away from pits and platforms is recommended for outdoor courts. Shrubs, signs or other objects must not block the view of pitchers or interfere with their necessary movements on the court.
  3. Multiple Courts – In facilities with multiple courts, the following layout guidelines shall be observed:
  1. Side-by-side Courts – For safety reasons and to minimize distractions, the stakes of adjacent courts must be no closer than ten feet (10’) apart. A distance of twelve feet (12’) is recommended.
  2. Back-to-back Courts – The stakes of back-to-back courts must be a minimum of sixteen feet (16’) apart and a visual and protective barrier (a minimum of six feet (6’) high is recommended) must separate the courts.
  1. Pitcher's Box - The pitcher's box is a six-foot (6’) by six-foot (6’) area at each end of the court. It is composed of two main parts: The Pit, and the Pitching Platforms. The back of each box should be forty-six feet (46’) from the back of the opposite box.
  1. The Pit - The pit is a rectangular area filled with the “pit substance” into which the shoes are pitched. The maximum inside length of the pit (in the direction in which the shoes are pitched) is seventy-two inches (72”) and the minimum inside length is forty-three inches. (43”) The maximum inside width is thirty-six inches (36”) and the minimum inside width is thirty-one inches (31”). The pits shall be centered on the courts’ lengthwise centerline, which is also midway between the full-distance pitching platforms. For safety reasons, the use of sideboards to contain pit material is not recommended. If used, they shall not exceed a height of seven inches (7”). Note: The areas behind and in front of the pit are referred to as “crossover” areas (also see RULE 3, Section D.3).
  2. Pitching Platforms
  1. Full-Distance Pitching Platforms – These pitching platforms flank each side of both pits and are parallel to each other. They shall be eighteen inches (18”) to twenty and one-half inches (20-1/2”) wide (depending upon the width of the pit) and shall be a minimum of six feet (6’) long, and shall provide a nonskid surface .
  2. Short-Distance Pitching Platforms – The pitching platforms, on each side of both pits, shall be extended forward an additional ten feet (10’) to accommodate short-distance pitchers, or for the full length of the court (recommended) to provide a continuous walkway. These platforms shall be level with and be of the same width as the full-distance platforms. The surface material should be the same as the full-distance pitching platforms.
  1. Imaginary Stakes - Imaginary stakes are a useful reference, for short-distance pitchers, on where to stand. They shall be marked (often by a spot of paint or other marker of the same diameter as the official stake) midway between the extended platforms, or on the inside edge of the extended platforms, at distances of thirty feet (30’) and twenty-three feet (23’) from the opposite stake.
  2. Stakes - The stake is the target at which the shoe is pitched. Stakes shall be positioned in the very center of the pitcher's box, on the court's lengthwise centerline, with a minimum of twenty-one inches (21”) from the stake to the front and back of the pit substance. The distance between stakes shall be forty feet (40’). This distance is to be measured from the front of each stake, level with the pitching platform. Stakes shall be one inch (1”) in diameter and shall be made of cold-rolled steel, mild iron, soft metal, or NHPA-approved synthetic material. The top of each stake shall be no less than fourteen inches (14”) and no greater than fifteen inches (15”) above the level of the pitching platforms (see exception for raised pits in Section C, below). Stakes shall be securely mounted ( see diagram on page 46 ) and have a three inch (3”) lean toward the opposite stake.
  3. Foul Lines – Foul lines shall be defined by straight lines extending across the full-distance and extended platforms and shall be placed perpendicular to an imaginary line between the stakes. The thirty-seven foot (37’) and twenty-seven foot (27’) foul lines shall be measured from the front of the opposite stakes. A single, twenty-foot (20’) foul line shall be marked on each platform at the exact mid-point between the stakes. Foul lines shall be measured at the level of the pitching platforms (see exception for "Raised Pits" in Section C, below). While the width of foul lines may vary (two inches (2”) is recommended), their location shall be marked in a way that is clearly visible to the pitchers and judges.
  4. Backstops/Backboards and Protective Barrier
  1. Backstops/Backboards – For safety reasons, every pit should have a backstop/backboard. It shall be at least three feet (3’) behind the stake, be at least one foot (1’) high, and extend to the width of the pit. For spectator visibility, a mesh netting or chain-link material is recommended. If made of solid material, it should be a color that will provide a contrasting background so as to make the stake more visible for the contestants. Note: The backboards of raised/portable pits are usually attached to the inside of the wooden framework and may therefore be as close as twenty-one inches (21”) to the stake.
  2. Protective Barrier – For safety reasons, all court complexes shall be surrounded by a protective barrier. This barrier should be at least eight feet (8’) behind the stakes. A chain-link type of fence at least four feet (4’) high is recommended.
  1. Pit Substance - Clay, sand, dirt and NHPA-approved synthetic materials are all legal pit substances. The minimum depth of the pit substance shall be four inches (4”). An eight inch (8”) depth is recommended for ground-level pits.
  2. Overhead Court Clearances – The air space above all courts shall be free of all natural or man-made objects such as tree limbs, wires, etc. for a height of at least twelve feet (12’) above the playing area.

SECTION C – Specifications For Raised Pits
Also known as temporary or portable pits, raised pits are often used for events of a relatively short duration such as the world tournament, a local fair, or an exhibition. Normally constructed of treated plywood and framing lumber (2X4s and/or 2X6s), the height of the pit framework shall not be more than seven inches (7”) above the level of the adjacent pitching platforms. For sanctioned events, the minimum inside dimensions shall be the same as stated in Section B, 4.a above. (See exception in Section A-5.c) After the proper positioning of the stakes/pits (see Section B.6, above), the thirty-seven foot (37’) and twenty-seven foot (27’) foul lines shall be measured/marked from the front/base of the opposite stake before the approved pit substance is added. The stakes/pits should be anchored in such a way that they will not move during their use. The top of each stake shall be no less than eighteen inches (18”) and no greater than nineteen inches (19”) above the inside, bottom of the pit. The pit substance in the scoring area surrounding the stake shall be maintained at a depth of four inches (4”), between games.

SECTION D – Specifications For Covered and Indoor Courts
The specifications 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 twelve-foot (12’) vertical clearance for shoe trajectory, at or near mid-court.