The Rules of Horseshoes

Rules of Horseshoes

Since we’ve been talking about horseshoes so much lately we thought it would behoove us to discuss the rules as well.

Horseshoes is a fairly simple game, but there are always predators out there looking to take advantage of your warm and giving personality. Knowing the rules helps to keep the game moving in the right direction and to quell any disagreements that may take place.

If everyone has a firm understanding of what’s going on the game will be more enjoyable for everyone. That, and when the cocktails begin to flow rules can become quite flexible. It’s good to have a firm grip on these sorts of things.

We want to touch on some of the rules that are official, as described by the National Horseshoes Pitchers Association (NHPA), as well as a few that we think are important for the general enjoyment of the game (ones that are decidedly unofficial).

Let’s try and remember that, after all, throwing ‘shoes is about having fun with your family and friends and a victory can be enjoyed, but not at the expense of everyone else’s enjoyment. So here are the rules, officially and how we see them.

Horseshoes, the rules

  • There are two ways to score in horseshoes: by throwing what is called a "ringer" or by having your 'shoe closest to the stake
  • A ringer has a value of three points whereas a horseshoe that isn't a ringer but is within six inches of the stake counts for one point. A quick way to check if it's within scoring range is to take a horseshoe not in play. If the horseshoe touches both the horseshoe in play and the stake it's close enough
  • Scores are cumulative- if you throw two ringers that's six points. If you throw a ringer as well as the closest thorseshoe, that's four points
  • If both players throw a ringer, they will cancel out. If one player throw two ringers and the other only throws one, that's only three points
  • The winning score is largely up to those playing, but typically the game is played to 21 with the winning having to win by two points
  • A player or team may only win on his or her own toss. If you're leading and your opponent bumps your horseshoe into position to win, the game is not over as you have not sealed the victory yourself
  • Stakes are usually set at 40 feet (12 m) apart. This is traditional but not necessarily required. Find the right distance for your skill set as this will make the game more enjoyable
  • We suggest always having a drink in your hand to keep the game light and interesting
  • Win by two always applies. This rule is non-negotiable
  • Teams can be solo or comprised of two people. Make a number of teams and hold a round-robin style tournament to keep everyone invested in the game
  • Have fun! Throwing 'shoes shouldn't be a serious matter unless you plan on taking your skills to the pro circuit (note: I don't actually know if there is a pro circuit as we stick to backyard rules and fun)

At the end of the day you want to follow the rules as closely as you can, but as we said, having fun should be your number one priority. The rules are there to prevent heated discussions from taking place.

If your game of ‘shoes comes to a heated argument, however, it may be time to take stock of your priorities. Get out there, have a few cocktails, and enjoy being around the people you love. Throw those ‘shoes with reckless abandon and release your inner child. We’re here to facilitate your fun, not get in the way of it.

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