The game of horseshoes or horseshoe pitching is a game in which players attempt to encircle a stake with thrown horseshoes. It is closely related to quoits, a very similar game, and it has been played for centuries in Europe. Evidence suggests that the Greeks and Romans played some version of the game, and it was very popular in England by the 1800s. International players may compete for titles and prizes at competitions organized by various host nations.
The basic equipment for horseshoes is very simple. Players need a level court, a stake, and a set of horseshoes. Some companies sell the supplies for horseshoes, but people can also improvise with iron or wooden stakes and found shoes or shoes purchased from a farrier, a professional who specializes in shoeing. The shoes used in professional horseshoes have standardized sizes and weights, but in casual play, this is not as important.
Two to four players can play horseshoes in teams. The first team tosses its shoes in the direction of the stake, trying to land on the stake or as close to it as possible, and the second team follows suit. A horseshoe which manages to encircle the stake is called a ringer, after the characteristic sound it makes when it hits the stake, and it is worth three points. If a horseshoe is touching the stake, it is a leaner or hobber, worth two points. Finally, a single point is also awarded for whichever team lands a shoe closest to the ring without actually touching it. Casual games go to 21 points, while professionals may play for up to 70.
There are numerous variations on the rules for horseshoes, especially surrounding scoring. In some cases, horseshoes must land within a certain distance of the stake to be counted, for example. The length of the court also varies, and in some versions women are given an advantage by being allowed to throw from a position which is closer to the pole. The basics of the sport are relatively easy to learn, however, and some people find the sport to be an enjoyable method of relaxation.
In some regions, courts or pits for horseshoes are established in public places for recreational players to use at whim. This also allows them to meet other players and socialize. People can also set up horseshoe courts at home, or establish temporary ones at the beach and in other spots. While competitive by nature, the sport can also be very fun, especially in a big group of people taking turns.