Horseshoes: What It Is and What to Know

Whether your family is highly competitive or you just want something with nostalgia, the horseshoe game fits the bill. It’s quite fun and enjoyable to do, and it doesn’t require a lot of room or cost. The horseshoe game set up is easy, making it suitable for a weekend barbecue or a family reunion.

While some take the sport seriously, it’s meant more to be a backyard pastime. Most people are leisurely with the game, which allows them to keep up a conversation and not break a sweat.

How to Play Horseshoes

Horseshoes is quite simple to play and doesn’t require a lot of equipment. You can find a horseshoe game set at various stores or can make your own. The horseshoe game distance is 40 feet between the stakes.

The horseshoe game is played on the lawn between two people, or there can be two teams, each with two people. There are two throwing targets called stakes, and they are often set in a sandbox or right in the lawn. Each person or team gets four horseshoes with which to play.

Your goal is to get a ‘ringer’ where the horseshoe goes around the stake and stays there.

Horseshoe Game Rules

Of course, there are some horseshoe game rules to follow. For one, you need to understand that there are 20 innings in an official game. Most backyard games go to a specific number of points, usually 15 or 21.

People should stand apart during the game to ensure that everyone is safe. It is also required to be polite during the game. No one should be talking or making rude comments during the service. Other than that, most of the rules focus on the points. Also worth noting, it’s hard to keep score at times, but it does get easier with practice.

  • Rule 1: A ringer (hooking the horseshoe around the stake) is worth three points. However, it has to qualify as a ringer, which means if you draw a straight edge, it can touch both tips of the shoe.
  • Rule 2: If no one gets a ringer on their first or second turn, then the closest shoe toward the stake gets a point. This can include a leaner, where the shoe touches the stake, so it doesn’t qualify to be a ringer. However, the shoe doesn’t necessarily have to lean to be a leaner, and the points are the same if both opponents get a leaner.
  • Rule 3: If one player throws both of their horseshoes closest to the stake, they are awarded another two points.
  • Rule 4: To qualify as ‘close to the stake’ points, the horseshoes have to be at least six inches to the stake.
  • Rule 5: There is a twist for horseshoes. You can cancel out an opponent’s points. If you score a ringer, you could lose your points if the opposing player also gets a ringer on the same turn. This rule also applies for all equal plays in one turn. If you throw a leaner and they throw a ringer, no one gets points.
  • Rule 6: If you score a ringer and you also get the closest horseshoe on the second play, you get points for each.

Variations of the Horseshoe Game

Redneck or Hillbilly Horseshoes is a variation of the game, and you throw 2.5-inch washers into cups or holes. You can use a board with up to three holes, each with different point systems. The rules can vary, but most people use 10 feet from the front of the boards.

Tips for Success

Though the concept is easy, it’s hard to throw the horseshoe just right. Practice is essential. Make sure that you’ve got a good grip. Hold the shoe in the middle of the curve or by one straight edge. Try to add a slight clockwise twist as you throw to help the horseshoe ‘catch’ the stake.


The game of horseshoes is highly popular and doesn’t take up much space. You can set up multiple game areas so that many people can play at once. Consider making up some new rules and use things around the house to make it more interesting or if you’re in a pinch. This game is a fun way to spend an afternoon and give people a chance to do something different.