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The Game of Horseshoes

Horseshoes is an entertaining social game that requires skill, strength, finesse, and a fine sense of distance. The actual horseshoes used in the game are too big for most horses and are designed especially for pitching. The official sanctioning organization specifies that horseshoes be no more than two pounds and ten ounces. These must be pitched at a stake nearly forty feet distant.

Bunch of Horseshoes Image

Although there is nuance and skill involved, the rules of horseshoes are relatively simple. Each player, or team, chooses a set of two horseshoes. Standing near one of the two stakes one player "pitches" two shoes, trying to get the shoes as near as possible to the stake at the other end or ideally wrapping a shoe around the other stake (called a ringer). Then the other player pitches.

Score is kept by one of two methods. In all-count, every shoe within six inches of the stake is counted, but the most common is cancellation scoring where only one player may score per inning. This is the player with a horseshoe closest to the stake or who has the most ringers. (If ringers are tied, they cancel each other out.) Players continue to an agreed upon score, either 21 or 40.

The game of horseshoes, or its equivalent has been around a long time. Horseshoe history goes back over two millenia, beginning with the Greeks. The first sanctioning organization was formed in Kansas in 1914.

Iconic lucky horseshoes abound. The luck they are thought to bring has roots in the fact that iron (the material from which they are made) and horses are also thought to be lucky. A horseshoe hanging above a door is said to gather luck and when tipped pours the luck out on the house.

The game of horseshoes is very popular. So much so that saying, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades," is immediately recognizable as an implication that something is close, but not close enough.

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