Most of us have played games like horseshoes, whether in a backyard, a fair or some other activity. Few of us, though, play the game of horseshoes with any sort of consistency.

The Basics

Horseshoes is always played outdoors between two people or two teams of two people. Two targets are used (usually stakes) that are set in an area of sand. These stakes are usually placed 40 feet apart, and players take turns tossing the horseshoes at them. The modern game uses horseshoes that are about twice the size of shoes used on horse hoofs.


The NHPA (National Horseshoe Pitchers Association) is the recognized governing body of the sport/game of horseshoes. They outline acceptable gameplay practices, rules and styles of play on their website.

The most common way to play horseshoes begins with – you guessed it – a horseshoe toss. Whoever’s horseshoe lands closest to the stake gets to throw first. This person throws both of his or her horseshoes at the stake in one turn. Once one round is over, the process is repeated in reverse order.


The most points are gained/awarded when a player throws a ringer. This is when the horseshoe completely encircles the stake, and three points are awarded for one of these throws. Points are also awarded for horseshoes that land close to the stakes. If one of them lands 6 inches or closer to a stake, one point is awarded to the thrower. If all the players throw all ringers, then they all cancel each other out and no points are awarded. Most games are played to 40 points.


The great thing about horseshoes is that it is easy to play; you only need two stakes and four horseshoes. Of course, you need someone else to play with as well. The rules aren’t complicated, and you can play however many rounds you want.