What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?

A horse lives on average for 35 years and may have several names over that lifetime. What’s in a name for a horse? How important is it?

Judging by what one reads on social media groups, people have a great deal of angst about naming their horses and ponies.

A new foal needs a name, of course – and often when we acquire a new horse we feel the need to rename him (even if he came with a name) as a way of conferring ownership.

Naming a horse is as important as naming our children – the name has to fit, and be as special as the animal itself is to our lives.

A big question that causes division whenever or wherever it is discussed is whether a horse’s name is important to the horse itself. Do they know and respond to their names, and do they become confused if their names are changed by a new owner? It’s more likely, apparently, that they may recognise the sound of their names rather than the name itself.

Choosing a Horse Name

Whatever the case, naming a horse is something we take seriously, so here are a few pointers and things to consider when you are faced with making that name choice:

Breed – choose a name that suits his breed and stature.

Physical attributes – identifying markings like one white foot, a blaze, or birthmark may inspire you to think of a name.

Colour – picking up on the horse’s colouring is an obvious way to translate it into a name. Think Black Beauty!

Personality – this is where adjectives rule! You could have a Cheeky, Pretty, Silly, Earnest, Sleepy or Happy character just waiting to be exploited in a name.

Gender – decide whether you want to be gender neutral, or whether an obviously male or female name would best suit.

Official names – pedigreed, race horses and show horses for example usually have registered “formal” names, which are not the same as the names used every day in the stable. Their long-winded official names, however, can provide the basis for a shortened everyday “nickname” which they become known by.

Articulation – working on the premise, mentioned earlier, that horses are more likely to recognise the sound of their names rather than the name itself, it’s probably wise to pick a name that consists of no more than three syllables, and is easy on the ear.

Popularity – just like with human names, horse names rise and fall in popularity. If you’re fashion conscious you may want to name your horse in line with the popular names of the moment. Many horses are named after equine movie characters, or famous horses (maybe one from this list of the 50 most famous horses of all time?).

Once you’ve chosen a suitable name for your four-footed friend, why not make good use of it? Paint your horse’s name on the stable door, have it embroidered on his saddle cloths and rugs, stamped into his tack and saddle.

A name is a precious thing to be treasured and even though he may not know it, it makes your horse unique and special because it’s a gift you chose to give him.

While we can’t choose your horse name for you, we’d love to know what it is and why you chose it. Share your horse pictures and the story of his name with us on our Facebook page. It may help others in a naming dilemma to find a name that is just right for their equine.