How to Play Horse in 5 Easy Steps: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide!

So many days were spent on the driveway with friends playing hoops. Sometimes, however, games of 21 or King of The Hill can get stale, and you need to mix it up!

Luckily for you and me, we can learn how to play horse!

Horse is the game where those crazy shots you shoot at the end of a long workout really come in handy.

And let me tell you, nothing is more satisfying than giving your opponent that final “E” to end the game.

Ahhh, those oh-so-beautiful bragging rights!

Whether you just installed your beautiful brand-new basketball hoop and are looking to break it in or just looking for something a little outside the box, Horse is a great game to play with family and friends!

If you’ve ever been asked to play horse and have no idea what the other guy is talking about, you’re in the right place!

What is Horse?

We’re not talking about those things that eat hay and race for Triple Crown glory.

No, no, no, sir. We’re talking about you and your buddies getting on a court and playing horse in basketball.

But Mark, How do you play horse in basketball?

Hold your horses! (See what I did there?) We’ll get to how to play it in a second. First, let’s go over what it actually is.

If you’re unfamiliar with Horse, it’s a shooting game where players take turns attempting trick shots.

If a player makes a shot, the next player has to attempt the same shot. If they miss, they get a letter.

The first player to spell out H-O-R-S-E loses.

Reasons You Need to Know How to Play Horse Basketball

You need to know how to play horse for when someone asks you: Do you want to play horse?

It’d be pretty lame if you said, “No, I don’t want to ride a horse!”

They’d probably think you were weird and ask the next guy, leaving you to twiddle your thumbs and wonder what went wrong.

All alone.

Anyway, you need to learn it because it’s fun!

Step-by-Step Instructions for Playing Horse

Let’s take a look at some instructions on how to play so that next time someone asks you: Do you want to play horse?

You can say, “Heck yeah, sir! You’re goin’ down!”

Ready to roll?

Let’s get started!

1. Basic rules

The first player takes their turn by attempting a shot of their choice.

If they make it, the next player shoots the exact same shot.

And I mean the exact same shot. If the original player called bank or swish, the next player has to bank or swish. Again, the original shooter must call this out before shooting.

If the player calls bank, but their made shot wasn’t a bank shot, it is a missed shot, and the next player is up.

If the next player misses, they get a letter.

Play continues in this manner until one player has spelled out H-O-R-S-E.

Also make sure your basketball is properly inflated. If you don’t have a pump, learn how to pump a basketball without a pump.

2. Choosing your shots

To improve your chances of winning, choose shots that are difficult but within your ability.

Try to think of shots that your opponents might struggle with but that you’re confident you can make.

One of the fun aspects of Horse is that you can get creative with your shots.

Don’t be afraid to mix things up and try something unconventional. Try shooting backward, an opposite hand shot, or even a no look shot to keep your opponents on their toes.

It’s a fun game. Treat it as such.

3. Take your time

One mistake many players make when playing Horse is rushing their shots. It’s not all about trick shots, sometimes you can stump your opponent with a simple jump shot.

If you can make a shot from beyond the three point line, but your opponent can’t, use that to your advantage.

Take your time and make sure you’re setting yourself up properly.

Practice your form and develop a consistent approach to each shot.

There’s no shot clock in a Horse game, so you have all the time you need to make the shot.

4. Maintain a positive attitude

One of the great things about Horse is that it’s a lighthearted game that’s meant to be enjoyed.

Don’t get too caught up in winning or losing, and try to maintain a positive attitude throughout the game.

Remember, everyone is there to have fun and improve their basketball skills.

5. Practice your shots

As with any game, the more you practice, the better you’ll become.

Set up your own mini-horse tournament with friends or family members, and use the opportunity to work on your shot selection and technique.

The more comfortable you become with making difficult shots, the more likely you’ll be able to pull off that game-winning trick shot when it counts.

Key Considerations for Successfully Getting Your Opponent to Spell The Word Horse First

Mix in standard shots with trick shots.

A lot of people go for the home run on every shot, then get discouraged when the ball doesn’t go in the basket.

You definitely want to shoot a standard, makeable shot on the last letter because your opponent may challenge you to make it again (“prove it”).

Don’t get too confident with a big lead. There’s no game clock, and the game isn’t over until the fat lady… err, until you make your opponent spell horse.

Taking It to The Next Level: How to Shoot A Shot Over The Backboard

Don’t be intimidated by this shot. It’s actually very easy. Once you get it down, it’s a surefire way to give your opponent a letter.

It’s simply a jump shot with a much higher arc. Don’t just throw it in the air and pray to the basketball gods that it goes in. Use your shooting form and let that baby roll off your fingertips like a regular jump shot.

You’ll get good at this with practice.

Alternative Games You Can Play

A shorter version of horse is pig.

Same game, shorter word.

Around the world is always a fun game to play. All you need to do is make shots from designated points around the basketball court first, and you win!


Basketball players are constantly practicing and working on their skills. With all this hard work, you need to find ways to keep it interesting.

Games like Horse or Pig or Around the World are low-stress games that allow you to work on your skills while having a lot of fun!

Remember, the key to success in Horse is a combination of creativity, strategy, and practice. So grab your basketball and start hooping it up!


Do I Need Basketball Shoes to Play Horse?

Nope! Since Horse doesn’t have any running or jumping, you can play in any comfortable shoes.

How Do You Play Horse With 3 People?

Easy, it’s the same rules, but instead of the game going back and forth, you’re adding a third person to the rotation.

You can play with as many people as you like!

What is The Best Basketball Hoop to Play Horse On?

I’ve played Horse on mini-hoops before. As long as you have a ball and a hoop, you can play.

Here’s an article if you are looking for the best basketball hoops around.

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