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Horseshoes Rules & Regulations

By Alex Oppenheimer

Horseshoes is a popular sport that has been around for hundreds of years. The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America, or NHPA, is the official governing board that sets all rules, scoring and other aspects of the game.

The Game

A game of horseshoes involves two teams of two players each. Each player has two throws per inning. An official game lasts 20 innings or until a team reaches a predetermined point total, usually between 21 and 40 points.

Field of Play

A horseshoe lane is approximately 40 feet long from stake to stake. Each team must throw their horseshoes from the throwing line, located three feet in front of their own stake, or 37 feet from the opponents' stake. Horseshoes is usually played on a softer surface, such as dirt or grass.


A horseshoe that is thrown within six inches, or about the length between the front arms of a horseshoe, is worth one point. A "ringer," or when the horseshoe wraps around the stake, is worth three points. If a team throws both a ringer and the next closest horseshoe, it gains four points. If a single player throws two ringers in the same turn, the team gets six points. Ringers from opposing teams in the same inning cancel out, and no points are earned.


Fouls in a horseshoe game are as follows: If a horseshoe rolls out of the pit or hits the backstop. If a second shot is thrown with a different hand than the first shot. If a second shot is thrown from a different platform than the first shot. If a player steps over the designated throwing line during her turn.

These shoes are referred to as "dead shoes" and should be removed from the playing field. In the event that a dead shoe hits another shoe in play, that shoe must remain as it lies.

Determining a Winner

In the event of a tie, either a draw is determined or a "sudden death" can be played, where the winner is determined when one team has more than the other at the end of an overtime inning.

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