Horseshoe Rules

Horseshoe rules are simple and define the play of a traditional and still very popular game that anyone can play. Horseshoes are not just for kids and seniors. There are horseshoe leagues and tournaments that may play by slightly different rules. However, the rules for a friendly game of horseshoes with family and friends are simple and basic.

  1. Rules for the horseshoe playing field. The playing field for horseshoes is 50 feet in length. A stake (32 inches by one inch with fourteen inches above ground) is placed at each end of court so the stakes are 40 feet apart. A box six feet long and 36 inches wide is drawn around each stake, with the stake in the center, creating the legal throwing area and foul line.
  2. Horseshoe scoring rules. A game is played in innings where each team member throws two horseshoes with the object of getting the horseshoe the closest to the stake. The first team members pitch two horseshoes each before the opposing team throws. The winning team is the first to score 21 or more points. To be eligible for scoring, a horseshoe must land within six inches of the stake. Ineligible shoes are removed from the playing field. Zero points are awarded for horseshoes that tie. One point is awarded for the closest horseshoe when all shoes have been thrown. Two points are awarded when a player has two horseshoes that are the closest to the stake. Three points are awarded for a ringer, which is a horseshoe that surrounds the stake. Three points are awarded for a player who has two ringers when his opponent has one ringer because the tie rule applies and eliminates two of the ringers from play. Four points are awarded when the same player has a ringer and the closest horseshoe to the stake. Six points are awarded for two ringers when the opponent has no ringers.
  3. Rules defining a ringer in horseshoes. A ringer is a horseshoe that surrounds the stake and is measured by drawing a line from end to end of the horseshoe. If the drawn line doesn’t touch the stake, it is officially a ringer.
  4. Rules defining a foul in horseshoes. A foul horseshoe is ineligible for scoring and happens when a player steps over the 36 inch foul line in front of the stake or a thrown horseshoe lands in front of the foul line or box. Foul horseshoes outside the box of the target stake will be removed from the field of play.
  5. The rules of horseshoes. The first throw is determined by flipping a coin. At the end of an inning, the team with the most points throws first. In the event of no score, the team throwing last will throw first in the new inning. To determine the closest horseshoe there will be a measurement with a ruler. When a thrown horseshoe moves an existing shoe, the positions will be measured at the end of the inning. Players will be silent and still to avoid interfering with a throwing player. Players now throwing must remain behind the stake on the opposite side of the active player.
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