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Talk Derby to Me: How to Play Horseshoes

How to Play Horse Shoes at your Kentucky Derby Party |

Playing horseshoes is a fun activity for your Kentucky Derby party guests. It’s easy, you won’t get dirty, and you can mingle and play at the same time.

Set up an area outside away from the party where non-playing guests won’t walk into a flying horseshoe or get hurt.  Pick two teams of two people.  You will need four horseshoes and two stakes. The stakes traditionally are placed 40 feet apart.  The game is played by players alternating turns tossing horseshoes at stakes in the ground.

There are two ways to score in a game of horseshoes: by throwing “ringers,” or by throwing the horseshoe nearest to the opposite stake.  A “ringer” is a thrown horseshoe where the horseshoe completely encircles the stake. The game’s scoring system is where the expression “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades” comes from.

To total your points:

1 Point   – The nearest horseshoe to the stake within 6 inches

2 Points – If both of one player’s horseshoes are closer than the opponent’s or a leaner (a leaner is where the horseshoe literally “leans” on the stake)

3 Points – A ringer! (If each player throws a ringer, the ringers cancel and no points are scored)

Most games are played to 21 and the winner must win by two points.


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