The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America is the official governing body for tournament horseshoe play in the U.S. Most casual backyard play follows NHPA rules as well. Pitching distances are determined by the division the player is in. The pitching platforms measure 6 feet in length from the back of the pit and the extended platforms for short distance pitching add 10 feet to that. Foul lines are 20, 27 or 37 feet from the target stake.
A Junior Cadet is any child who is 9 years old or younger for the entire calendar year in which the tournament is played. Junior Cadets are permitted to pitch from any spot on the platforms—either the extended or full-distance platforms. They cannot step over the 20-foot foul line. Junior Boys are pitchers who are 18 years old or younger for the calendar year. They are allowed to pitch from anywhere on the platforms but have to observe the 27-foot foul lines. Junior Girls are pitchers who are 18 years old or younger for the entire calendar year. They may pitch from anywhere on the platforms while observing the 27-foot foul lines. Junior Cadets, Junior Boys and Junior Girls may move up to the next highest division earlier than the age guidelines specify but cannot return to their former status once they have made the move.
The Open Men division has no age restrictions. Men may pitch from the full-distance platforms or from behind the platforms. They have to observe the 37-foot foul line. The Open Women division likewise has no age restrictions. Women pitch from anywhere on the extended or full-distance platforms and observe the 27-foot foul line.
Seniors reach eligibility for the Senior division at any time during the calendar year that they turn 60. They can choose to remain in the Open Men or Open Women divisions. Senior Men pitch from the full-distance platforms or behind them. They observe the 37-foot foul line. Senior Women pitch from anywhere on the extended platforms or the full-distance platforms. They cannot overstep the 27-foot foul line.
The Elder division rules apply only to men, as Senior Women already observe the 27-foot pitcher's foul line. Elder Men reach eligibility for that category in the calendar year in which they turn 70. To play under Elder division rules, they must obtain a dated card from the NHPA that shows their birth date. Elder Men can pitch from anywhere on the extended or full-distance platforms and are bound by the 27-foot foul line. Physically Challenged Men pitch under Elder Men rules in tournaments. They need a medical exemption form to qualify for the shorter pitching distance.