How to Play Horseshoes Better. The Basic rules explained

Are you planning a camping trip or a picnic afternoon at the park? If so, you might be wondering how to play horseshoes.

It’s likely that one of the places you visit will have a Horseshoe pit. So here’s a guide on how to play horseshoes, a fantastic game for 2 or 4 players

This is a common amenity in parks, so let’s go over the rules for how to play. Horseshoes is a fantastic game and it can even make for a great tournament competition within the family.

If you don’t have access to a traditional horseshoe pit, rubber portable horseshoes are an alternative and fun option.

If neither of these options is available, there are other games similar to horseshoes that offer more portability.

We’ve put together an easy-to-read infographic on how to play Horseshoes, but keep reading for more specific details below.

How to Play Horseshoes Infographic:

How to Play Horseshoes Infographic

How to Win Horseshoes:

The Goal

The goal of how to play Horseshoes is to score 21 points to win, but in competition games, the score is 50 points.

When we play in tournaments, we play mini-series of 11 points.Horseshoes can be played with 2 or 4 people.

You can find the full rules for competition horseshoes on the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association website.

In this guide, we’ll cover the simple rules that we use for backyard and camping games.

Horseshoes Setup:

The Pit

To play Horseshoes, you’ll either use existing pits or set up your own. Here’s how to play horseshoes with the right setup

Setting up your pit involves hammering a stake into the ground.

Horseshoes is best played in a sand pit to absorb the bounces and control the rebounds. For safety, this is the best recommendation, as you are throwing large metal horseshoes.

To set up stakes, place them 40 feet apart.

The Lines

In the official Horseshoe rules, the men’s throwing line is drawn at the end of the pit, approximately 37 feet from the stake.

The women’s line, or the line for those under 18, is 27 feet from the stake.

Throwing lines cannot be passed by hand or foot.

When throwing, stand on the pitcher’s platform, a 15-inch platform on either side of the pit.

For regulation games, the pitcher’s platform should extend to the 27-foot spot to accommodate the women’s line.

How to Throw a Horseshoe:

The Technique

Each round consists of 2 opponents, standing beside the same pit, aiming at the opposite one.

There are a total of 4 throws per round. Each player throws both of their horseshoes, aiming for the stake, hopefully for a ringer!

Once both players have thrown their 2 shoes, the round is complete.

If playing with 4 people, the next round is for the 2 players at the opposite end of the field.

The team that scores the most points in a round gets to play first in the next round. There are different techniques for throwing horseshoes.

You can hold the horseshoe in the middle of the bottom or between your thumb and index fingers along one side.

When throwing, try taking a step at the same time to gain more momentum.

How to Score:

The Points

Horseshoes scoring works on a “cancellation” basis, meaning if both players get a ringer, the points cancel out.

Here’s how to score points in each round:

  • Ringer = 3 points. Wrap the horseshoe around the stake for a ringer. To qualify, the horseshoe must fully encircle the stake. You can measure this by drawing a line from each end without touching the stake.
  • Closest horseshoe = 1 point. If no ringers are in the pit, the point goes to the closest horseshoe.
  • Double points = 2 points. If both of your horseshoes are closest to the stake, and the second one is within 6 inches, you get 2 points. If you have a ringer and the second horseshoe is within 6 inches, you get 3 points for the ringer and 1 for the closest ring. If your opponent is the second closest, you only receive the original points.

Horseshoes is a relatively simple game to learn, but it can lead to debates over who is closest.

There’s no shame in using a measuring stick to determine which horseshoe is nearest.

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