The Naming Game

Stories

Have you ever wondered how horses get their names?

Breeders of ‘Thoroughbred horses are governed by the rules of the Jockey Club which state that :

  • the name may not be longer than 18 characters
  • the name may not be that of a well-known person unless written permission is obtained from that person or their descendants
  • the name may not be on the list of national or international protected names
  • the name may not contain numbers and or initials
  • the name may not be similar in spelling or pronunciation to a name already registered
  • the name should not be in bad taste or in any way offensive
  • the name should not be given with advertising in mind.


The Jockey Club also reserves the right to alter a name at any given time. Owners may change a registered name only if the new name is approved and they pay the required fee. Once these prerequisites are met, breeders have carte blanche in naming their babies. And modern technology has made it as easy as logging onto the Jockey Club website on the internet to register the name.

The Jockey Club also reserves the right to alter a name at any given time. Owners may change a registered name only if the new name is approved and they pay the required fee. Once these prerequisites are met, breeders have carte blanche in naming their babies. And modern technology has made it as easy as logging onto the Jockey Club website on the internet to register the name.

“One should never forget the old belief that to rename a horse could bring bad luck.”

The Sire

But how do the names arise? Mrs. Mary Slack from Wilgerboschdrift Stud said on Telly Track earlier this year that she takes great pleasure in naming her colts and fillies each year. Many breeders use the name of the sire, dam or a combination of both to decide upon a name for the foal. Therefore many of the offspring of the world’s most expensive sire Storm Cat is named with cats in mind Silken Cat, Mountain Cat, Tale of the Cat, Cat Thief and best of all Tabasco Cat whose dam was the Sauce Boat mare Barbeque Sauce. Our own Model Man is by Elliodor out of the mare Top Model, while the colt born of Soho Secret and Bush Telegraph was aptly named London News. Mrs. Plattner’s stallion Lizard Island is out of the mare Prawn Cocktail whose sire was Artichoke and dam Crimson Saint. The Port Elizabeth-based stallion Lecture is out of the mare Narrate and Gold Press who stands with the Scott Brothers is by Seeking the Gold out of the mare Printing Press.

The names of Appaloosa horses often reflect their color patterns, like ‘One Spot’, ‘Leopard Spot’ or ‘White Face’

Origin

Then there are those horses whose names give no indication of their origins. The great Seattle Slew was by Bold Reasoning out of the Poker mare My Charmer and was named because his owners were from Seattle, and he had an unusual action when galloping. Nevertheless, many of his offspring were named with him in mind – Kentucky Slew and Slewpendous were two of those. Other breeders will choose a particular theme for the crop of a particular year, and so many foals born in 2000 were named for the new millennium. One horse that springs to mind here is the great Dubai Millenium, but this colt was foaled in 1996 and renamed by Sheik Mohammed for the 1999/2000 season.

Letters of the Alphabet

In the first half of the last century, Idle Hour Stock Farm in Kentucky was owned by Col. E. R. Bradley. There he stood Black Toney and Black Servant and the stud bred some very successful horses including Bimelech, Blue Larkspur, the great filly Busher and others.

Col Bradley only named horses bred by his stud with names beginning with B, and so when he named a colt (that resulted from the mating of La Troienne and Black Toney) after his friend John Harris who was known by the nickname of Abimelech, he left off the A and gave America a real hero in the form of Bimelech who left an indelible mark on Thoroughbreds the world over Via the great Dr Fager and Never Bend (sire of the brilliant Mill Reef).

Sense of Humor

When looking at pedigrees, the names make for fascinating reading. Very often they subtly express a fine sense of humor take the colt Poker (clearly named for a game of cards) for example or a clever understanding of the English language as one sees in the mare Nun’s Story (by Dramatic II and out of Sister Sublime) and Change Water (who was the dam of the great Fall Aspen), whose sire was the brilliant race horse, Swaps, and whose dam, the fine war Admiral mare, Portage. Next time you have some time, find an old sales catalog and peruse the names…

 

When it comes to choosing names, race horse breeders are governed by the rules of the Jockey Club

“Fashions change and what is ‘in’ today cold easily be old hat tomorrow.”

 

Warmbloods

German Warmbloods usually have names far more dour than their speedy racing cousins and breeders follow a protocol of giving their foals a name that begins with the same letter as the name of the sire. T his has led to a number of well-known lines known by letters of the alphabet there is the A line founded by the stallion Abglanz and the D line that goes back to a Thoroughbred called Devils Own XX.

The XX in Warmblood pedigree denotes a Thoroughbred while X indicates an Anglo Arab. The G and B lines are also represented in this way, breeders, on the Whole, follow this protocol when naming their foal. The system works very well until someone forgets to follow the pattern, as happened when the son of Ferdinand was named Weiler. To fix this there is now an F W line.

Breeders of Trakehners follow female lines in naming their foals, while the French tend to name in the same way that Thoroughbred breeders do. The Dutch name a crop of foals from one year with a particular letter of the alphabet. So all KW PS registered foals of 2003 will have names beginning with W while 2004 will be Z. In Belgium, the Zangheieder Stud of Dr. Leon Melchior has added a Z to the end of the name of all stallions that have stood there, and well as all their progeny. The success of this operation can be measured in terms of horses of the stature of the great mare Ratina Z, and one can be sure that just like Little Cat Z in ”T he Cat In The Hat Comes Back”, these horses will continue to carry a great punch.

German Warmbloods usually get names that begin with the same letters as the names of their sires

Welsh Ponies

Breeders of Welsh Ponies and Show Ponies usually add the stud name as a prefix to the name of the foal. The Forsythe Stud in Natal has been breeding wonderful children’s ponies for years, and the prefix Forsythe has become synonymous with great quality, as has D’leni, Dibynn, Ashgar, Henham, Bronwydd, and others.

In England, the likes of Criban, Cusop, Downland, Reeves, and Bwlch have been synonymous with great champions for many years. In fact, the great Criban Valiant stood most of his career at the Forsythe stud and was a most influential foundation sire giving, amongst others, Forsythe Valiant Bubbly, Forsythe Valiant Taffy and Forsythe Valiant Cymru. Adding Valiant to the names of the offspring tells a tale of the sire, and today if you see Bannut after the stud prefix, it means the sire was Bannut Larkspur, while Cambrian indicates Forsythe Valiant Cymru as the sire.

Lipizzaners

Lipizzanas are also named according to a specific naming protocol. There were six foundation stallions to whom all modern Lipizzanas can be traced, and the horses are named with the foundation stallion as a prefix to their name. The prefixes Maestoso, Conversano, Neapolitano,

Favoury, Pluto, and Siglavy are then followed by a suitably dignified, often very European, names like Mantua, Morella, Nirna, Isabella, Britanica, and others.

Arabians often have very romantic-sounding Arabic names such as ‘Kamar El Zeman’ or ‘Shaikh AI Badi’

Other Breeds

Heavier horses like Friesians often carry quite short, sharp names like Dan, Jildert, Eibert, Ben, and others, while Arabs often carry wonderfully romantic, expressive and artistic names fitting with this breed that is after all the foundation to all hot blooded equines. But fashions change and what is ’in’ today could easily be old hat tomorrow.

Other Breeds

Heavier horses like Friesians often carry quite short, sharp names like Dan, Jildert, Eibert, Ben, and others, while Arabs often carry wonderfully romantic, expressive and artistic names fitting with this breed that is after all the foundation to all hot blooded equines. But fashions change and what is ’in’ today could easily be old hat tomorrow.

Bad Luck

And of course one should never forget the old belief that to rename a horse could bring bad luck (here I could give the ill-fated Dubai Millenium as an example). Nevertheless, horses, like children, tend to find nicknames or stable names that they are better known by. These are usually names that suit them far better than the names found in their passports. And so my lately lamented chestnut mare was never called Dutchess, but rather christened Grumpy by the children, and I am afraid Grumpy she remained until her sad passing. Strange thing, though, how as time passes she becomes, in my mind, more like the Dutchess she never was and far less like one of Snow White’s seven companions…

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