Backyard Horseshoe Rules

Backyard Horseshoe Rules (Official Rules and Scoring)

The backyard horseshoe game is an old game that is still a favorite for many people, and this is because it’s fun to play and great to watch. Moreover, the game’s rules are few and easy to remember.

The horseshoes game aims to toss horseshoes to a stake anchored to the ground. When you can successfully ring the horseshoes to the pole, you earn the maximum point, which is 3 points.

Today, we will tell you all you need to know about the horseshoes game, how points are awarded, how the game flows, and how issues are judged in the game.

The Pitching Division Of Horseshoes

Horseshoes is a game that anyone can enjoy, from kids as young as 7. The official horseshoe division is:

Section A – Juniors

Under the Junior pitching division of horseshoes, there are three categories:

1. Junior Cadets

This cadre is of horseshoe pitchers who are 12 years and younger and may pitch from any place on the extended or full-distance platforms, while they must also observe the 20 feet’ foul line.

2. Junior Boys

This cadre is for male pitchers who are 18 years old or younger. Junior Boys may pitch from any place on the extended or full-distance platforms and must observe the 27 feet foul lines.

3. Junior Girls

This is for young female pitchers who are not more than 18 years old, and they pitch from any place on the extended or full-distance platforms and observe 27 feet foul lines.

Section B – Open Men 

This cadre is for men and does not have any age restrictions when they contest in a game; they pitch from on or behind the full-distance platforms and shall observe 37 feet foul line.

Section C – Open Women

The Open Women contestants are women of all ages who may pitch from any place on the extended or full-distance platforms and observe the 27 feet’ foul line.

Section D – Seniors

This division is for people who are at least 60 years of age. Seniors remain in the Open Men or Open Women Divisions if they wish. This section has two divisions.

1. Senior Men

They pitch from on or behind the full-distance platforms and shall observe the 37-inch foul line.

2. Senior Women

Senior women pitch from any place on the extended or full-distance platforms and shall observe the 27 inches foul line.

Section E – Elder Men

Elderly men are eligible to pitch in this division when they buy the NHPA card dated for the calendar year they are 70 years old. There are two units in this division:

1. Elder Men

They may pitch from any place on the extended or full-distance platforms and shall observe the 27 inches foul line. Elder Men must send a notification to notify their Charter secretary, in advance, of the date that they intend to begin pitching from this shorter distance.

2. Physically Challenged Men

Men who are physically challenged and less than 70 years old are permitted by their governing Charter to move to the extended platforms in the Elders Division where they can observe 27 feet foul lines.

READ: How To Play Horseshoes

Backyard Horseshoe Rules 

The official game of backyard is divided into two innings, and each inning consists of 2 contestants with two pitched shoes each.

The pitched shoe is considered a live shoe if the shoe is pitched according to the rule of the game and rests within the pit area. If the horseshoe is delivered but not in compliance with the game’s rules, the shoe pitched is called a dead shoe.

All contestants must pitch their shoes from within the platform, not beyond it, or they will be considered dead shoes.

The first contestant to take the first toss delivers both shoes (underhanded and one at a time), and afterward, the second contestant delivers their shoes in the same manner. In 1 inning, each contestant must pitch their shoes from the same platform but may change in the next inning.

A contestant shall deliver both shoes within 30 seconds; extra time will, however, be allowed if a shoe is damaged and has to be repaired or if the contestant is distracted by an unusual playing condition, a spectator, or another contestant.

When a contestant is not pitching, he/she shall stand stationary and quietly behind their opponent to a distance of at least 2 feet from the opponent, behind a y pit her on an adjacent platform or their court’s opposite pitching platform.


Points are awarded in the game of horseshoes only if the shoes are pitched in compliance with the rules. 3 points which is the maximum point, are awarded for a shoe toss which is known as a RINGER, and it is a live shoe that comes to rest while encircling the stake

If a live shoe comes to rest at least 6 inches to the stake, the toss is called a “leaner”, and 1 point gets awarded. A shoe is out of the count, and no scoring value is awarded if it is tossed and comes to rest more than 6 inches from the stake.

The Flow Of Horseshoe Game

For every inning, once all four shoes have been pitched, the two contestants will walk back to the opposite pit, and there they will determine their score for the inning before retrieving their shoes, and the shoes must only be removed. The scoring value has been determined.

If the scoring value is not so clear, then a nudge is called who takes some measurements and hence determines the shoe that scored. It is a good idea for contestants to come up with their measuring tools so that the issue of judging the score value does not take a lot of time.

If a contestant mistakenly pitches his/her opponent’s shoes during an inning and the opponent does not object, then the remaining shoes may be pitched, and the score will be based on the shoes they pitched.

If, however, the contestant does not agree on pitching the remaining shoes, then the shoes pitched shall be picked up, and the entire inning shall be re-pitched, and now with the right shoes. A judge is brought to judge the case if the two contestants do not reach an agreement about the wrongly pitched shoe.

If the shoe or the stake is accidentally moved when a contestant or a judge is taking a shoe measurement, then the inning shall be scored only if the contestants can agree. If not, the judge shall decide on the issue. The judge will either void the inning, in which case the shoes must be re-pitched, or the judge can determine the score.

Suppose, for any legitimate reason, a contestant has to leave the court area before the game’s end. In that case, he/she must notify the scorekeeper, any other official there, and their opponent.

If the league officials usually determine that the contestant will forget the next game if he/she does not return within a reasonable period.

Methods Of Scoring In Horseshoe

There are two methods of scoring the game of horseshoe, and they are :

  • Cancellation Scoring
  • All Count Scoring/Count All Play

Before the start of the game, the scoring method to be adopted is announced by the official.

1. Cancellation Scoring

In this scoring method in a horseshoe game, the ringer of a contestant cancels that of the opponent. This means that only one opponent can score in each inning.

The ringers who are canceled are called “dead ringers”. As the ringer off one contestant cancels the ringer off the opponent, the read ringer gets awarded 0, and only the uncanceled ringer gets 3 points.

In this scoring method, the opponent’s shoes are touching the stake or that are in the count and also of equal distance from the stake. The two leaders shall cancel each other and, like canceled ringers, no point gets awarded to either contestant. The next closest shoe in count (if there is one) gets 1 point.

All other points are awarded accordingly; for instance, If there are no ringers, the closest shoe in the count is scored 1 point, and If the other shoe of the same contestant is the second closest shoe in the count, it will get another 1 point. A contestant gets 4 points if they have an uncanceled ringer and their other shoe is the closest in-count shoe to the stake.

The contestants receive credit for their points at the end of the inning.

2. All Count Scoring/ Count-all Play

In this scoring method, each contestant gets awarded the points they get for pitching their shoes: 3 points for a ringer and 1 point for a leaner in any live shoe within 6 inches of the stake. Each contestant’s points are summed up at the end of the inning.

How Long Does A Horseshoe Game Last

There are three ways to determine how long a game of horseshoe will last, and they are:

1. The Point Limit

Here a given number of points is pre-determined before the start of the game: say 40, for instance, so the first contestant to reach (or exceed) 40 points is the winner.

2. The Shoe Limit

For the shoe limit method, the game is played to a pre-determined even number of shoes, and the contestant with the highest point after the shoe limit wins. For instance, it could be said that the game ends after a 50 shoe limit.

3. The Point Limit or Shoe Limit

Here, a shoe limit and a point limit are pre-determined, and the game ends whichever limit is reached first. So, for instance, 40 points or 50 shoes, whichever comes first, can be the limit. Hence, If the shoe limit is reached before the point limit, the contestant with the highest score is the winner.

If there is a tie at the end of the game, an additional inning is added, which is the tie-breaker. The tie-breaker may be played using the same method to begin the game, and the contestant who may reach (or exceed) the point limit first is the winner.


Horseshoe is an interesting and refreshing game that can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages. Understanding the game’s rules will help you enjoy watching the game and help you play better too.

Helpful Links:

We trust this article helped you learn more about backyard horseshoe rules. You may also want to check out: How to Throw a Horseshoe Like a Pro.

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