How to Play Horse: A Basketball Game

Variation requires only two players and one goal

Older man playing horse basketball with granddaughter
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H-O-R-S-E is a great multi-generational game since it requires shooting skill rather than stamina and athleticism. Any child who is old enough to sink a basket can play. And grandparents, too! Playing horse requires only a single hoop, so it's a great basketball game for driveways and playgrounds that may not have a full-sized court. 

How to Play

Players line up. The first player announces what shot he is going to make and takes his shot. If he misses, he goes to the end of the line. If he makes the basket, the next player must make the same shot. If the second player misses, he gets an “H,” and it is the next player’s turn to announce a shot and try to make it. Each time a player fails to make a shot that his predecessor made, he gets another letter until someone has spelled “horse.” At that point, the player is out. The other players continue to play until only one player is left.


If there are large differences in height, you may want to outlaw the dunk shot. Some players allow the player who has received the "E" one more shot to try to stay in the game. If longer or shorter games are desired, different words can be spelled.

Benefits of Playing HORSE Basketball

Horse may not give you or the grandchildren the cardio workout that regular basketball provides, but it still has physical benefits. The act of shooting works the muscles and refines eye-hand coordination. It also requires balance and spatial awareness. Add dribbling between shots, and you'll increase the benefits. Simply tossing the ball from hand to hand is another drill that improves coordination. Still, the most powerful benefit that you are likely to receive from playing horse is the chance to bond with grandchildren.

Incidentally, you no longer have to have a permanent, set-in-concrete goal in order to enjoy basketball with your grandchildren. Portable hoops can be put away when not in use. Most models have a base that is filled with water or sand for stability. There are hoops for children of all ages. 

More Basketball Games

Knockout: This one can be played with two or more players. The object of the game is to "knock out" the player in front of you by making a shot before he or she can make a shot.

The players form a line at the free throw line and the first two receive basketballs. The first player takes a shot at the basket. As soon as the first player's ball misses or hits the hoop, the second player can begin shooting. Once the initial shots are taken at the free throw line, shots can be taken from anywhere on the court. If the first player sinks his shot first, he goes to the back of the line after passing his ball to the next person in line, who then competes with the second player in the same way. The game continues until all but one player has been "knocked out."

Dribble Tag: This one is fun even if you don't have a basketball goal, but it does require that players have some basketball skills. Each player has a basketball, and one is designated "it." All the players begin dribbling their balls at the same time, and "it" tries to tag the other players. The last player to be tagged is the winner. The first player tagged is "it" for the next game.

If your players are beginners, you may have to allow them a few dribbling errors. One easy way to do this is to say that three dribbling errors are the equivalent of being tagged, and the player is out. With this variation, you will need an adult watcher to help count errors. 

Around the World: This is a simplified version of a shooting drill. It is is a good driveway game. Choose a series of shooting spots and use chalk to number the spots from 1 to 5. The players line up. The first player takes a shot ​from #1. If he makes the shot, he advances to #2, where he waits for his next turn. If he misses the shot, he can wait where he is for his next turn, or he can take a "chance" and take a second shot. If he misses the second shot, he has to move backward one spot. Of course, it's impossible to go backward from #1, so that's a good time to take a second shot. The first player to complete all five shots is the winner.