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Sports / Outdoor Physical Games Category: Horseshoes

Hobby / Travel:

How to play horseshoes.


Horseshoes (a.k.a. horseshoe pitching) is a great, simple game to play in your backyard at your barbecue event. Professional tournament and league competitions, including the World Horseshoe Tournament, are overseen by the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America (NHPA). There are several versions of the game, formal and informal. Here is the basic set-up and easy-to-follow rules of one backyard version:

How to Play Horseshoes:

  1. To play the game, you need a total of four horseshoes, two iron stakes, and a measuring tape.

  1. Anchor the stakes firmly into the ground, approximately 40 feet apart.

  1. The number of players may consist of either two people or two teams comprised of two people each.

  1. Each person or team receives two horseshoes.

  1. Decide on a set number of points scored to determine the winning player or team (i.e. the first player or team to score 40 points is the winner).

  1. Flip a coin to decide which person or team will go first.

  1. Each person or team must equally stand and pitch approximately 30 feet from the stakes.

  1. The winner of the coin toss throws one horseshoe at a time at the stake with the intent to encircle or ring the stake, which is appropriately called a ringer. The horseshoe toss alternates in that the opposing player or team tries their hand next at ringing the stake. An inning is played when each person or team has had their turn.

  1. The scoring for each inning is as follows: Three (3) points are scored for each successful toss (i.e. ringer). (Remember, each person or team has two horseshoes; therefore, each person or team gets two tosses, for a potential score of six (6) points per turn). However, if an equal number of ringers are scored by each opposing player or team, this designates a tie and zero (0) points are awarded. Likewise, if all the horseshoes land at an equal distance from each stake for both of the players or teams, this is also considered a tie and thus no points are gained. A player or team is awarded one (1) point per horseshoe if it lands within six (6") inches of the stake, and is closer to the stake than the opponent’s horseshoe. (Therefore, if the tosses are unsuccessful (not ringers), leave the horseshoes on the ground at the exact spots each landed, because a possible two (2) points can be awarded to a player or team if both horseshoes are closer to the stake than the opponent’s horseshoes, and within six (6") inches of the stake).

The horseshoe tosses continue to alternate between each person or team. The winner of the game is the person or team that is the first to reach a predetermined number of points (i.e. 40 points).

Helpful Tips: No matter what sport or physical activity you and/or your guests decide to participate in, this section provides useful information and tips for optimal performance and enjoyment:

  • Stay Hydrated! If you and/or your guests engage in outdoor physical activities, especially during hot weather, remember to drink plenty of fluids! Drinking simple,


    pure water is a great option to replenish your fluids during and after exercising. Most tap water is excellent. However, if you are still concerned about lead content and other potentially harmful particles in your tap water, using a water filter or purifier is one way to go. A water filtration system (i.e. Brita, Culligan or Pur) can keep vital minerals in the water like fluoride, while filtering out any contaminants or pollutants that may be in your tap water.


While exercising, perspiration allows your body to cool off as the sweat evaporates from your skin (a natural cooling mechanism), but in the process of this thermoregulation you loose electrolytes in addition to H2O. Therefore, if you’ve been especially sweating a lot, you need to replenish your lost electrolytes.  In this case, sports drinks - fortified with electrolytes - (i.e. Gatorade, Powerade, All Sport, Recharge, Extreme Ripped Force and Champion Nutrition Revenge Sport) are good choices.

There are also other energy drinks available on the market, such as vitamin-fortified water (i.e. Glacéau (a.k.a. Glaceau) Vitamin Water, Glacéau Smart Water, Glacéau Fruit Water, Glacéau Vitamin Energy, Propel Fitness Water and SoBe Life Water).

  • Play it safe! Wear the appropriate safety gear for each sport or activity you engage in. Also, make certain that you have all the necessary equipment for the sport or activity. Visit your local sporting goods store for assistance.

  • Stretch and warm-up! It’s important to stretch and warm-up before participating in any physical activity or sport. Stretching has many benefits: It allows your muscles and joints to relax, it improves your range of motion and it may prevent injuries. Before starting any sport or physical activity, consult your physician and get a physical exam. 

  • Keep an over-the-counter pain reliever handy! Don’t let minor aches and pains slow you down or prevent you from participating in a sport or physical activity you enjoy at your outdoor barbecue event. Over-the-counter pain medication (i.e. Tylenol (Acetaminophen), Motrin (Ibuprofen), Advil (Ibuprofen), Anacin (Aspirin), Bayer (Aspirin), Aleve (Naproxen), etc.) work great at relieving minor muscle and joint pain. Note: Always consult your physician before taking any medication, and use as directed.

  • Should any emergencies arise, keep a cell phone handy, or even a walkie-talkie! A walkie-talkie is a two-way radio transceiver, which is convenient, portable and handheld. It allows you to communicate with another person that is located at a reasonably close distance to you (i.e. if you are in the backyard, you can easily communicate with someone that is inside the house if you are both using walkie-talkies). It’s a great way to keep in touch!

  • Keep a first-aid kit handy! Accidents happen, so, for minor scrapes, cuts, etc., readily have available bandages; gauze; adhesive tape; sterile swabs; antiseptic (i.e. hydrogen peroxide topical solution, antibiotic ointment (i.e. Neosporin), alcohol pads, etc.); tweezers; anti-itch ointment (i.e. hydrocortisone); etc. Seek medical attention if necessary.

  • Prevent sunburn! Protect your skin from the sun’s potentially harmful rays, which may cause premature aging (i.e. wrinkles) and skin cancer. So, don’t forget to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and one that offers broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. If participating in outdoor sports or activities, consider wearing a sunscreen that is waterproof.

  • Avoid pesky bug bites! Keep a bottle of bug spray handy. If you do get bit, use anti-itch ointment (i.e. hydrocortisone) to help relieve the sting of the bite.

  • Keep allergies at bay, and enjoy your time outdoors! If you suffer from allergies, have readily available an over-the-counter allergy medicine - (i.e. Claritin (Loratadine); Benadryl (Diphenhydramine); Sudafed PE (Phenylephrine); Zyrtec (Cetirizine HCl); Zyrtec-D (Cetirizine/Pseudoephedrine); etc.) - to relieve allergy symptoms, such as red, itchy, watery eyes; nasal congestion; sneezing, etc., due to the increased levels of pollen, dust, mold, etc., in the air. Note: Always consult your physician before taking any medication, and use as directed.

  • Set Realistic Goals! Don’t overexert yourself, especially at an outdoor get-together where the idea is to relax and have a good time. Remember, as with most things in life, practice makes perfect! So, if you’re really interested in a particular sport or activity, practice it often, and you’ll be sure to impress your friends and family at your next outdoor event.

  • Most of all...Have Fun! Whether you’re a competitive athlete or an amateur, playing sports and exercising should be about enjoying yourself, spending time with friends and family, getting in touch with the great outdoors, teamwork, the spirit of the game, stress-relief, and good health!

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team


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