The name game: what to consider when naming a horse

By Wendy Talbot on 06 July 2017

Perhaps you have bred a horse or bought an unnamed youngster. Or maybe you just want to give your new horse a nickname? Whatever your reason, naming a horse is magical. It’s also a great privilege to give one of the world’s most celebrated and beautiful animals its name.

Registering a foal

Legally foals must have a passport and microchip within six months of birth or before 31 December of the year in which they were born. Often this is done through the society for the particular breed. Currently, you are not obliged to include a name in the passport application but most breeders do, often using a prefix to promote their stud – such as the famous Woodlander dressage horses or the Llanarth Welsh Cobs.

Dreaming up a name

For competition and show horses especially it’s common practice to flagship the horse’s bloodlines by using a prefix and/or a clever name association.  Often registered names are derived from those of the sire and the dam. The prolific Irish Draught performance sire King of Diamonds is a great example – many of his progeny have royalty or gemstones in their registered names such as the Grade A showjumpers Millstreet Ruby and Mill Pearl.

If you don’t want to celebrate your horse’s parentage you can have fun dreaming up a name to suit your horse’s looks and character. There are plenty of obvious ones like Blaze, Socks or Ginger but why not be more original when naming a horse – perhaps Dorian for a grey, Penguin for a piebald or Clementine for a chestnut!

Can I change my horse’s name?

Yes, you can but be aware that it’s believed to bring bad luck! You will need to apply to the original breed society or Passport Issuing Organisation with your proposed new name. If you are using a stud prefix you will usually need to submit several name choices as your favourite may already have been taken.

Famous name facts

Nick Skelton’s amazing Olympic Gold showjumper Big Star goes by the stable name of Henry.

Charlotte Dujardin’s dressage dream and multiple Olympic gold medal winner Valegro is called Blueberry at home.

Bucephalus may have been Alexander The Great’s favourite but the literal translation of his name from the Greek isn’t as glamorous as you might think – it means ox-head!

Copenhagen the Duke of Wellington’s fiery chestnut stallion was named after one of Wellington’s early victories.

One of quirkiest names was that of the US racehorse Odour in the Court who was sired by Judge Smells!



Wendy graduated from Bristol University in 1999. She then went on to complete a residency at Liverpool University and holds a European Diploma in Equine Internal Medicine. After working in practice for 13 years, she joined Zoetis in 2012 as the National Equine Veterinary Manager.

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