How To Play Horseshoes

Learn How To Play Horseshoes With These Easy Steps

Last Updated on May 21, 2020 by Austin Cunningham

Are you looking for the perfect game to play with your friends and family on a summer holiday? Then horseshoes might be the game for you. It is a game that is playable by everyone, packed with fun and is sure to give you a good time.

This game is a true classic. With a little expense, a small linear space, two stakes, and horseshoes should be all you need to play this game.

We will now show you the ropes and help you get started with this fantastic sport. Let’s dive in and learn how to play horseshoes.

Introduction to Horseshoes

Horseshoes is an amusing yet straightforward game. It involves the use of simple equipment and very little space.

The main objective of the game is to throw metal arches at stakes. Although two players often play the game, there is also room for team play involving more players. In that case, players will alternate between turns to throw the horseshoe arches.

It might not take much to learn the game, but becoming skillful at the game is a challenge. So, do not get carried away by the simplicity of the game.

Origins of Horseshoes

The origins of horseshoes date back to centuries. Analysts think that the game has evolved from a Greek game called quoits. These two sports have striking resemblances.

People enjoyed horseshoes for hundreds of years. A general agreement was made in the twentieth century on the rules of the game. Local newspapers also contributed to informing the customs of horseshoe matches.


You are going to need the following if you wish to get started with playing the game.

  • Horseshoe disks weighing 2½ pounds.
  • Two stakes.
  • A measuring tape.
  • White chalk.
  • A flat playing field. The playing field has to be 40 feet or more in length.
  • 2-4 players depending on playing singles or doubles.

If you can fulfill these requirements, you are ready to begin playing the game.

Setting Up the Playing Field

You need to set up the court before you start playing the game. We are going to show you step-by-step how you can do that.

Firstly, measure a line of 40 feet on the playing field. Then, plant two stakes on both ends of the pitch, having 15 inches visible off the ground. Make sure the stakes are slightly bent inwards.

Using chalk of strings, map out the foul lines on the pitch. The markers should be between the stakes, each being 3 feet from the nearest stake. If kids are playing, you can bring the foul lines an extra 10 feet closer to their targets.

How to Play Horseshoes

Horseshoes is a straightforward game to play. The primary focus of this game is to throw horseshoe disks at the stakes to score points against each other.

Both teams stay at their pits opposite to each other. From there, they throw the arches to get a ringer. When the horseshoe lands on the stake, it is called a ringer. A ringer gives maximum points to the player.

In each turn, players throw from their pitch to the target stake, and then the scores are calculated. Next up, the players throw at the opposite stake and calculate the scores from there. If the horseshoes land near the stake or lean on it, you get fewer points. The points might get canceled out for various reasons as well.

When it comes to official games, players play the game for 20 innings. They might also play up to a specific point target, generally 15 points or 21 points for backyard horseshoes.

Rules of Horseshoes

Just like other sports, the game comes with its own set of rules. You need to familiarize yourself with the laws of the game before playing. We have outlined the rules of horseshoes for your convenience.

  • Each side has to pitch both their arches in one turn. After one side throws their horseshoes, the other hand would have to pitch both of their arches as well.
  • During pitching, the players are not allowed to cross the foul line. If a player crosses the foul line in a turn, the thrown arch will not be counted.
  • At the time of team play, half of the team have to throw from one stake. The other half have to throw from the opposite stake.
  • It is possible to play the game up to 40 points in a point limit game. Playing with a shoe limit is also possible, where a 40-shoe limit can be used. In that case, the side with the highest scores wins. If there is a tie, then the match can be called a draw, or a two-inning tiebreaker game can be played.

The Scoring System

The scoring system of horseshoes might seem a little complicated at first. You score points according to the position of the metal arches relative to the stake.

We have described the scoring system in detail for you to understand.

  • The arches must be withing 6 inches from the stake to score points. If the thrown horseshoe is farther from the stake, then scores will not be counted.
  • Among the two horseshoes, the one that is closer to the stake scores you a point.
  • If two of your horseshoes are closer to the stake than your opponent’s, you get 2 points.
  • Try to go for ringers as they score you 3 points. The horseshoe must completely encircle the stake to be considered a ringer.
  • You can get 4 points if you have the closest horseshoe and a ringer at the same time.
  • Both of your and your opponent’s horseshoe can stack on top of one another as a ringer. In that case, the points get canceled out.
  • Leaners are the closest to the stake as they lean on the stake itself. That means leaners are guaranteed to give you 1 point.

Modes of Play

Horseshoes can be played in the form of singles or doubles. Both of these modes are dependent on the number of players.


In singles, only two players participate in the game. Both sides have one player. This form of play is more engaging and competitive.

Players toss metal arches in a turn-based fashion. Besides that, all other rules of the game remain identical.


In this game mode, a total of four players take part in the game. Each team consists of two players. Doubles are more reliant on teamwork and tactics.

When a team is throwing, one player throws the arch, and the other player counts the score. This practice prevents any cheating or misconduct. After a group throws their shoes, the opposition starts to toss. In this way, doubles are played out.

(Read More: How to play spikeball, How to play tetherball, How to play ring toss game, How to play ladder ball, How to play kickball, How to play horseshoes, How to play croquet, How to play cornhole

Final Thoughts

Horseshoes is a fun and exciting lawn sport for all kinds of people. You can surely get hooked up to this game for hours without feeling bored if you know how to play it right.

While being a great game for casual scenarios, the game also has made a name in the competitive scene. The friendly, bond-forming aspects of the game could be the reason why this game is so prevalent in the United States.

We hope our article on how to play horseshoes helped you get a clear concept of the game.

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