So you have played a few games of horseshoes and want a more authentic feeling? Tired of horseshoes bouncing all over the grass? Time to make some horseshoes pits!
You can always construct a professional horseshoe pit, but for the purpose of this article I am going to explain how to create a “backyard” pit. First thing you should do is drive the stakes into the ground. Each stake should be 40 feet apart from eachother. You also want to pick out relatively level playing ground for both sides. When you drive the stakes in the ground they should go in at an angle. You do not want to have stakes standing straight up in the air because ringers can bounce off of them easily. Also, from constant contact with the horseshoes, the stakes will begin to slant backwards which makes it extremely difficult to get a ringer. The angle of the stakes should be roughly 12 degrees (about three inches) pointing towards eachother. From a pitcher’s view, the stake should be slanted towards you when throwing.
The stakes are about 36 inches, and you want to drive them into the ground until about 14 inches remains above the earth. One thing that cannot be avoided during play is the slanting of the stakes. After enough horseshoes hit them then will begin to move around. The dirt surrounding the stakes will loosen up a bit and make the stake a little unstable. While other pit material (explained later) helps, the stakes will still become loose after enough play.
To combat the stakes moving around you can dig a hole where the pit is. Dig down about 8 inches. The hole does not have to be huge, but should be large enough to put a piece of 4×4 lumber in there. The piece of lumber should be about 8 to 10 inches long. Once you have the lumber placed in the hole, take a drill and drill a hole in the lumber at a 12 degree angle. The idea is to place the stake through this hole in the wood. Once the stake is through the hole, fill it up with dirt again until it is level with the ground. Now continue to drive the stake in the ground until 14 inches remain. When horseshoes hit the stake, the lumber in the ground will help the stability and prevent some movement.
Another great idea (if you are skilled enough to do so) is to weld a metal plate to the horseshoe at the 14 inch mark. Make sure to weld the plate to the stake at an angle as well. With the metal plate and the lumber in the ground, the stake will be able to take most backyard beatings. Just remember to keep the stakes aligned and pointed towards eachother when doing this. There is nothing worse than making these horseshoe pits and then realizing that the stakes are not aligned correctly.
Now that the stakes are firmly in the ground it is time to create the border that defines the horseshoe pits. Take 3 pieces of 4×4 lumber as this will be the border for one side. The backside of the pit should measure about 36 inches. Then cut the other two pieces of lumber to be about 48 to 60 inches. Drill holes in these pieces of lumber large enough to fit a piece of rebar through it (or some other tough metal spike). Drill 2 holes in the 36 inch piece and at least 3 holes in the 48 to 60 inch pieces. The stake should be roughly 1 foot away from the back of the pit and in the center of the sides. Now lay the lumber down in the correct positions (the open end should face the opposite stake) and drive the rebar through the lumber into the ground. The rebar should be at least 1 to 2 feet long. Now repeat these steps for the other stake.
You are doing great! You now have the stakes placed properly and securely in the ground with sturdy borders surrounding it on three sides. The next step is to dig up the first 2 to 4 inches of dirt. You now have to make a decision as to what type of pit materials you want to use. Popular choices are dirt, sand, and clay. If using dirt, make sure the soil is loose in the entire pit. If you are going to use sand or clay, then pour it in the pit. If you dig up 4 inches of dirt, pour about 2 to 3 inches of sand or clay in the pit.
Time for the finishing touches! Place two markers in front of each of the stakes. One marker should be 3 feet in front of the stake, the second should be 13 feet in front of the stake. Be sure to have the marker be about 3 feet wider than the pits on each side. If you have followed the measurements so far your pit should be 36 inches wide. The markers should be about 9 feet long. Or, you can just have 2 markers each three feet long and place then next to the horseshoe pits on both sides. These are the foul lines. Any child under the age of 18, women, and senior citizens can use the second foul line (13 feet in front of the stake). All other men must use the foul line that is 2 feet in front of the horseshoes stakes.
Now take a step back and look at your brand new horseshoe pits. Grab a few of your friends, your horseshoes, a few cold ones, and game on!