Scoring Rules for Horseshoes

horseshoe image by Henryk Olszewski from

Horseshoes is a classic lawn game where teams or single players toss steel horseshoes towards a metal stake in an attempt to get closest to the stake. You toss horseshoes for fun to try and get a ringer, but a little competition always adds more to the game. At first, scoring horseshoes may seem complicated, but it is easy to figure out and implement into your game.

Single Points

The horseshoe that lies closest to the stake is awarded a single point. Each player throws two horseshoes, so there is a possible two points per round for single points. The closest horseshoe must be within inches inches or a horseshoe’s length from the stake to count as a point.

For example, Player 1 throws two horseshoes within six inches of the stake. Player 2 throws two horseshoes but only one gets close to the stake. The one horseshoe from Player 2 would cancel out one from Player 1 and Player 1 would get one point for the round. If Player 1 had both of his horseshoes closest to the stake, he would get two points.

If opposing horseshoes are equal distance to the stake, they cancel each other out and no points are awarded.

Leaning Horseshoes

Horseshoes that lean or touch against the stake only count as one point. If two horseshoes are touching, they cancel each other out, but a leaning horseshoe counts as closer than a horseshoe that is just touching.


A ringer is worth two or three points depending on what you decide before the game. Ringers are counted with the surrounding horseshoes. For example, if Player 1 scores a ringer, but Player 2 has a horseshoe touching a stake, the horseshoe that touches is cancelled out by the ringer and Player 1 is awarded two or three points.

Two ringers are worth four or six points. Players can cancel out ringers by topping them. For example, if Player 1 scores a ringer and Player 2 gets a ringer over that, then all the points are cancelled. If Player 1 scores two ringers and Player 2 only gets one, then Player 1 only receives points for the single ringer.

Winning the Game

Players can successfully win in horseshoes by reaching a certain score or playing a certain set of rounds. Typical scores are 15 or 21. You can also play a game of 10 or 20 rounds and award the winner to whoever has the highest score at the end of the rounds.