How to Play HORSE Basketball

Have you ever heard of horse basketball? If your answer is no, you are not alone.

When most people think of basketball, they think of the fast-paced, aggressive game that gets everyone’s adrenaline pumping. But horse basketball may be a new term for many readers. 

Horse basketball has all the makings of regular basketball, but without the wild intensity we witness on a court.

Still not sure what we are talking about? Continue reading to learn how to play horse basketball, as well as a detailed guide on basketball horse rules.

Horse Basketball Defined

Horse basketball is all about using your imagination and creativity to express yourself on the court. It is more about how the shots are made than the number of shots.

The goal is to create as many unique shots as possible so that your opponent(s) cannot duplicate them.

As the player attempting a shot first, you have to clearly explain how you intend to make the shot to the rest of the players. Then, the opponents need to understand how you went about it to attempt to replicate it.


Horse basketball is similar to hangman. You have five tries at gathering and replicating the opponent’s shots and learning from them. If the opponent fails to replicate the shot, they are handed a letter from the word ‘horse’ to indicate a failed attempt.

Once you have spelled out the whole world, that’s the end of the road for you.

Horse Basketball Rules

Again, the game of horses is governed by creativity above all. So it is no wonder that new variations will crop up depending on where it is played.

That said, there are some basic commonalities when it comes to the rules that govern the game. 

1. The Number of Players 

The rule of thumb here is to have at least two players to qualify as a game. Remember, two is the minimum number of players required, so if more people want to join in, that is fine as well. The more, the merrier.

If you are pressed for time, you might want to limit the number of players, as more players mean a longer game. 

2. Find Order 

To keep it from getting chaotic on the court, you need to establish a shooting order. You can use any chronological sequence of your choice. You can consider age, height, the first letter of each player’s name, alphabetical order, etc.

Whichever method you choose, just make sure it creates some order. You don’t want anyone to feel left out. 

3. The First Shot 

Whoever gets to go first has the leeway to make the shot from any point of their choosing.

Should it be successful, it sets the pace for the next player as they must attempt the same shot from the same spot. 

4. Shot Specifics 

The first player needs to give details on how they made the shot. These are the specifics that will determine whether or not the next player has successfully replicated a shot.

In the absence of these specifications, the only qualifying factor used to judge the second player’s shot is the spot where the first shot was taken. 

5. Game Progression 

Once the first shot has been made, every player gets an attempt to replicate it. Should all the players be successful, then the first shooter has to create a different shot for the rest to replicate.

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Should anyone be unsuccessful at replicating the first shot, they will receive a letter from the word "horse" in chronological order until they have gathered all five letters.

After an unsuccessful shot, the next person gets the creative freedom to create an entirely different shot for the others to try and replicate.

In some game variations, players whose shots are successfully replicated by all the other players acquire a letter. So, be as creative as possible. 

6. Points 

There are no points in a game of horse basketball. At the end of the game, the person with the least letters from the word "horse" takes the day.

This means that they had the most successful attempts at replicating shots created by other players. 

7. The Number of Tries 

Generally, each player gets only one try to replicate a shot made by a previous player. The only exception is made when players are on their last letter.

Then, you have a maximum of two tries to make a successful replication of the shot you previously made. If you fail to do so, you will be eliminated from the game.

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Game Variations

Like all good things, horse basketball takes on a life of its own, depending on where it is played.

As a result, there are multiple variations of the game with slight differences in the rules. Let’s have a look at some of them. 


Like any other game, this one also has some restrictions. These restrictions are to avoid the unfair advantage of some players over others.

For instance, a match between expert and new players will have a prominent skillset variation. In such a case, the beginners may not even have a chance of winning.

To ensure fair play, authorities would impose restrictions on experts to make complex shorts that newbies would not attempt. 


Like a horse game, a pig game works by eliminating players who collect all of the word’s letters. There are several similarities in the basic rules of horse basketball.

The only difference is that the game is much shorter than that of the horse. Pig is likely to be played when time is a factor of concern or when too many players are up for horse basketball.

Even the experts enjoy this shortened version of horse basketball. Here’s a video of Steph Curry and Kevin Durant testing out their shooting skills in a game of PIG:

Tip Horse

Tip horse allows players on the verge of elimination or those already eliminated to get back into the game.

For example, if a player makes a bad shot, others can step in and try to get the ball into the basket.

Should the attempt be successful, the player who missed the shot gains a letter for the failed attempt and can get another for tipping the ball.

The tipping party can get a letter gathered in previous failed attempts removed. Tip-horse is the most inclusive of the variations and is excellent as a warm-up game. 

The Race to the Finish

Here, the rules of game progression work in reverse. Instead of gaining a letter for every failed attempt, you acquire a letter for every successful attempt.

This is a speed-focused game. The person who can make five successful attempts first spells the word "horse" and thus wins the game. 

Referee Roles

Given the friendly and recreational nature of horse basketball, referees are rarely necessary. The rules of the game are easy to understand and make it easy for players to self-govern.

The best thing is that disputes that need sorting out during the game can easily be discussed amongst the players and solved right away. Remember, it is never that serious. 

In a more traditional game of horse basketball, referees are required to determine the shooting order, the legality of a shot, and keep track of "scores."

What You Need To Play Horse Basketball

We have already covered what the game is and how to play it. Now let’s look at what you need to play.

You would not be playing any basketball games without a ball, would you? Due to the nature of the game, one ball is sufficient to play horse basketball successfully. 

Next, you need a hoop. How else are you going to determine the success of a shot? Again, only one hoop is required since players are taking turns playing.

This makes it easy to play the game at home or have two games running on the same court. 

Standard vs. Trick Shots 

In horse basketball, you are encouraged to be as creative as possible when making shots. For that reason, boundary rules and several other regulations that would apply to conventional basketball do not apply. 

Use the opportunity to come up with as crazy a shot as you can attempt. You can shoot when seated, with your eyes closed, incorporate dribbling skills, and so much more.

Some research before the game can inspire you on shots to try out.

Parting Shots

For centuries, sports have been a great way to unwind and bond with others. Horse basketball is no different.

Apart from fostering creativity amongst players, a recreational horse game can be valuable as a learning tool for young or inexperienced players. It is an opportunity for them to practice a wide variety of shooting techniques in a short amount of time. 

Aside from learning, horse basketball can serve as a warm-up game before an intense practice session or formal match.

Boosting morale and getting people pumped for the game is a great way to motivate the team. Similarly, it can be seen as a way to cool off after an intense session.

Lastly, the only limitation to horse basketball is your creativity. You have the leeway to make the most outrageous shots humanly possible.

The name of the game doesn’t have to be limited to five letters. You can make it as long as you want, provided you have the time to go through all the letters. Just be sure to keep proper track of your scores.

Here are 9 other fun basketball games for kids.

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast