The Horse Shoe Spread – Practice Reading

Here is a Tarot Reading for you to have a go at.  It is a Reading I did a few years ago. I have been given permission from the Querant to use it for Practice Reading purposes when teaching.  The Horse Shoe Spread is very popular among Readers of all levels and can be used for multi-purpose Readings. It is a variation of the Celtic Cross Spread.  It has a basic shape of 7 Cards laid out in a Horse Shoe shape.  In the Reading below, extra Cards have been drawn for some of the positions at the request of the Querant at the time.  When doing Readings, it is perfectly fine to add extra Cards in a Spread, but try not to add too many as the Reading is liable to get confusing. In addition to the Cards drawn for the Spread, I have also added the Base Card.

The Base Card is the Card that is found at the bottom of the Deck, after all shuffling has been completed, and before Cards are drawn.  It is the very last Card in the Deck. The Base Card often yields substantial information about the nature of the Reading, and as a Stand Alone Card, it can be uncannily accurate.  The Base Card should be looked at before any other Cards. If its meaning is not clear at first, it will likely make its relevance apparent as the Reading progresses.

It is important to understand what area a Position in a Spread covers. It is best to approach each Position with a flexible and open-mind. This is important for the Querant to understand too.  For instance, Querants do not always understand what the Past Position means. They can take it too literally; they can think it refers to the recent past or distant, but not both.  You may see something in their Past Position Card and go to great lengths to explain what it is.  The Querant can look blank and say it has no meaning for them.  This gets you off to a bad start.  You may see a broken relationship in the past that is causing them problems, but they disagree with you. Later in the Reading this comes out again and again before the Querant eventually makes a connection saying, ‘oh yes, there was a relationship, but that was over a year ago. I thought you meant in the last couple of months’. So a two-way flow of communication is very important. The Querant must know what you are referring to in relation to time spans and what the Position implies. However, do not get bogged down in having rigid views.

The Horse Shoe Spread has Seven Positions

Position 1 – The Past (This can be any time from a couple of weeks ago to two years ago.  Depending on the Reading, and if you get a sense about it, it may refer to the distant past or childhood.  Experience and practice will help with this. This Card should give background information as to the root cause of the situation i.e. where it is coming from).

Position 2 – The Present (approx. 3/4 weeks each way, but it may be more than that, so keep an open mind.  This Card should yield information about what is happening in and around the situation at the moment. This Card can also throw some light on the people who are involved if Court Cards are present.

Position 3 – The Near Future (approx. 3/4 months) This Card should give an indication of where the situation is heading based on the last two Cards, how it is likely to develop. Here is where the first bit of constructive advice can be given if the Card appears to be negative or unwelcome.  The Past cannot be changed, the Present is happening now,  but the Querant does have the power to take steps to change the future. They can do this by changing their attitude, behaviour, feelings and actions. If the Card is a Major (one of the 22 Cards of The Major Arcana), then the situation will be quite difficult to change as these Cards indicate a more fixed state.

Position 4 – The Answer (one of the most confusing Cards and needs a lot of practice to understand its nature.  The Answer does not mean the Outcome. The Answer can represent The Desired Outcome and may not be based on reality, but more like wishful thinking.  The Answer can represent advice, or the solution to the situation or issue, but it does not mean that it will occur or be taken on board. The Answer can act as confirmation or reiteration for the Outcome Card, suggesting that yes, it is the best Outcome under the circumstances. The Answer Card if in opposition to the Outcome Card, can suggest that you are heading for the wrong Outcome by the choices you are making. The route you are taking is not in your best interest, there is another way.

If you are looking for a definite ‘Yes’, then the Outcome and Answer Card should both be Upright. A Reversed Answer Card can indicate blocks or set-backs to the Desired Outcome. Once again, if the Answer Card is a Major Card, either Upright or Reversed it carries more weight than a Minor Card.

The Answer Card can also stand as a representation of the Querant, highlighting their personality or where they stand in the situation and how it is affecting them.

The Answer Card in The Horse Shoe Spread is generally read last. However, should you see a very positive Outcome and Answer Card from the outset, it can be very reassuring to let the Querant know this. When both Outcome and Answer Cards appear Negative or Reversed attention should not be immediately drawn to them.  The Reading should be worked through so that the Querant is gently guided and assisted in understanding the reasoning and logic behind them.

Position 5 – The Surrounding Energy (Another difficult one for Readers to interpret. It is a bit like the Base Card, but instead of it giving you background information, it will let you know the general feel surrounding the issue or situation.  It can show how others are perceiving  the issue, family and friends for instance, and whether the atmosphere is either positive or negative. It can expose information that the Querant may not necessarily wish to reveal, therefore, hidden agendas or the ‘real story’ can turn up in this area)

Position 6 – Hopes and Fears – This is quite straight forward.  If it is an apparent Negative Card, then it represents the Querant’s Fears about the situation. It is also shows that they are quite pessimistic about the Outcome. Their Fears can be discussed and extra Cards may need to be drawn to get to the root of these fears.  If it is an apparent Positive Card, it reflects the Querant’s Hopes, and suggests they are quite optimistic about the Outcome and have a positive outlook.

Position 7 – Outcome – This Card represents the Probable Outcome and not a definite Outcome.  In Tarot, nothing is set in stone or absolute. No guarantees should ever be given.  Telling a Querant that a certain Tarot Card is telling them exactly what is going to happen or what they have to do is interfering with the individual’s freedom of choice. No matter how excellent a Tarot Reader you think you are, you can never be 100% accurate.

The Outcome suggests the most likely Outcome based on the attitudes, actions, behaviour, feelings and thoughts of all involved, if the situation continues as it is. If the Outcome Card is Positive and Welcome, it suggests that there is great potential for all to work out in the end. This can be very reassuring for the Querant.  If the Outcome Card is Negative and Unwelcome, then it can suggest that the Querant is unlikely to be happy about how things are going to work out. They may not get what they want.  If you are using Reversed Cards, they may have appeared in the Reading highlighting blocks, negative mind-sets or behaviour that is stymieing a successful Outcome.  Constructive advice can be given or extra Cards drawn for further insight. Look to the Answer Card in Position 4 for advice, solutions or options.  It is quite common to do a second Reading using a Negative Outcome Card as the focus, with the intention of seeking constructive advice and a way forward for the Querant.

Along with Reading the individual Positions, you should be observant of Cards that are opposite each other, and diagonal to each other. If there are Court Cards, note which way they are facing and which Card is opposite them. For instance, a Court Card directly opposite an apparent Negative Card can throw light on who is causing the problem.


Querant – Male. Late Fifties. Quiet spoken and a bit unsure as to what will come of the Reading.  Slow to communicate in the beginning, but once he settles into the Reading and sees how relevant all the Cards are he becomes quite animated and leans closer to view the imagery on the Cards for himself.  He has never had a Tarot Card Reading before but connects quite quickly to their symbolic nature.  He sees things in the Cards himself and points them out to me as we go along.

Question – I am going through a difficult time at the moment and would like to know what the next year holds for me.  I am filing for divorce, have a lot going on in work and can’t seem to see the wood for the trees.  My divorce is not amicable so I know it is going to be tough going.  The good thing is, I am in a very strong relationship but feel I cannot fully commit until I am totally free.  I feel tired of it all right now and would love to see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.

The Horse Shoe Spread

Judgement UprightBase Card (see notes)

2 of Swords Rx                                                                             8 of Wands Upright

Position 1 (Past up to 2 years)                                            Position 7 (Probable Outcome . see notes below)

10 of Wands Upright                                                                             6 of Swords Upright

Position 2 (Present 3/4 wks each way)                          Position 6 (Hopes and Fears. see notes below)

7 of Wands Upright  5 of Wands Upright                                                9 of Pentacles Upright   4 of Wands

Position 3 Near Future (3/4 months)                           Position 5 – Surrounding Energies. see notes below)

                                                                   10 of Cups Upright

                                               Position 4 – (Answer or Represents Querant)            


Horse Shoe – Seven Card Spread laid out in shape of a Horse Shoe.

Base Card  – Judgement (XX) Major Arcana

Card 1 – 2 of Swords Reversed

Card 2  – 10 of Wands

Card 3 Near Future – 7 of Wands and 5 Wands

Card 4 Answer – 10 of Cups

Card 5 (Surrounding Energies) – 9 Pentacles/4 Wands

Card 6 (Hopes and Fears) – 6 Swords

Card 7 (Outcome) – 8 of Wands

Practice Readings

Copyright © 2006-2012 Vivien Ní Dhuinn

13 replies »

  1. Thank you for all of the work you put into this amazing site! I just stumbled across this spread and was wondering if you could elaborate on how you pulled the cards. That is, in position 3 and 5 you pulled two cards each. Did you pull them immediately after one another (meaning you pulled two cards for position 3 before moving to position 4, for example) or did you go back after laying out all positions and add the second cards. Do you recommend reshuffling when laying out an additional card or just pull the next one on the top?

    Thank you so much for your insight! This is by far one of the–if not THE–best tarot sites!


    • Hi Kell,

      Thank you for your lovely comments. With regards to the Horse Shoe Spread I would draw only the 7 cards first. Then as I went through the reading if there were any cards I was unsure of, or wanted more information on, I would usually draw an extra card or two. I would always re-shuffle the deck before selecting and concentrate on the card and position I am seeking more information on. I would then take the top card from the deck, or if selecting two cards, the one from the bottom too. Decide before shuffling whether you intend to take one or two and also be clear with your intention that you will be drawing from the top and the bottom in order to get the best cards for the reading.

      Best of luck.


  2. Hello.
    I was wondering if I can draw an extra card as a timing card in a horseshoe spread or is it redundant. If yes, what should I keep in mind in order not to be overwhelmed by all the hints on timing the cards already laid can give me since they already are positioned in a time frame i.e. past-present-future.
    Many thanks


    • Hi Mila,

      Exact timing in tarot is very difficult. Some readers have a knack for reading between the lines with timing but it is often hit and miss. The Past can mean yesterday, last week or last year. The Present can mean Today, yesterday, last week and even tomorrow, as it is deemed current. The future can be tomorrow, next week or next year. When focused timing is required, you must concentrate and set your intention on specific time frames when shuffling and drawing. Working with any spread, set definite time parameters for each position. If you want to add another card to the spread as a Time Position, be sure you set the parameters for the time your refer to. Do you seek time of day, a day of the week, a certain month, year, season etc. as asking just about time is too broad and leads to confusion in interpreting. It is not one of the areas I am not drawn to when reading. A spread with a future outcome normally runs from 1 to 2 years but is not intended to be rigid either. The past is always easier to deal with as it has been and gone, the present is just forming and the future will be based on how the present is formed along with some surprises. The past can still be the present if it is still has an influence. The past can also determine the future if it is still been carried forward. However that is easy to determine once we see similar themed cards from the past infiltrating the present and future positions in a spread. It is best to give rough time guidelines when reading as too much emphasis may be placed on something that is supposed to happen on a certain day, month or year. Hope this helps.



  3. Dear Vivien, sure it helps! easy and very senseful explanation about the always hard and very relevant question about time…of course we all want to know when? 😉 jeje! Your web site is absolutely brilliant! Thank you with all that is in me because you are helping me in this weird path of conscious evolution I am trying to walk…God Bless your Soul!!


  4. Hello,

    When pulling cards from the deck how should I flip them? Would this not affect the outcome of the cards meaning if it is reversed or not? TIA


    • Hi Sarah,

      Whatever way you flip the cards over, make sure it does not affect the orientation they were drawn in. A good way to get used to this is to practice with the deck face up. Let’s say you draw the two of cups upright. Now turn it face down keeping the orientation it was drawn in. Nowd flip it over in various ways, side to side, top to bottom or bottom to top. Make a note of the methods that retain the Upright Aspect of the Two of Cups. Your flip should be in one move, not two or three, right to left or left to right or top to bottom, or bottom to top. This will quickly show you the best method. Also try this out as if you are reading for someone and they are at the opposite side of the table when they finish shuffling the deck or draw cards. Place the upright deck, or cards drawn face up (images showing) on the opposite side of the table as if someone was sitting in front of them. Now go to your side of the table. How will you take the deck over to your side, without losing the orientation of the deck. Keep the cards face up so you can see what is happening. If you reach over and lift them as they are and then put them in front of you, you will have lost the orientation as you are sitting opposite them. You will see that a 180 degree rotation is required when you take them over to your side. If you were sitting beside the person who was shuffling and drawing, then you would leave them as is. Keep the cards face up in order to check if you are switching orientation when you take up the deck or when flipping over cards.

      I hope that helps. I know it is confusing but once you get the hang of it, you won’t have a problem.



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