The basic scoring rules of horseshoes are three points for a ringer and one point for a leaner. A ringer is a horseshoe that rests around the stake, and a leaner is a shoe that rests within 6 inches of the stake.
There are two main ways to keep score in horseshoes: cancellation scoring and count-all scoring. A shoe that lands over 6 inches away from the stake has no point value. Cancellation scoring means the ringers of one player cancel out any of the other player's ringers, meaning only one player scores in each inning. Count-all scoring means both players get points for all ringers and leaners thrown.
Use a coin toss to determine who pitches the first horseshoe. Determine who throws first in the remaining innings by alternating or favoring the higher scorer. If there is no higher scorer, the person who pitched first in the previous inning pitches first again.
The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association lists three ways to determine the length of a horseshoe game in the official rules and bylaws: point limit, shoe limit or a combination of the two systems. Moreover, players may use two additional innings as a tiebreaker. The suggested point limit is 40, while the suggested shoe limit is 50. Using both point limit and shoe limit scoring to determine who wins the game means resolving the winner using whichever goal comes first.