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Why Do Horses Have Weird Show Names?

Whether you are watching horse races, show jumping, or even dressage horses’ names often sound like a mouthful. Famous examples include Itot du Chateau, Gostzapper, Hello Sanctos, Ready Teddy, Merely A Monarch, and Horsey McHorseFace. So why do horses have weird show names?

Horses are given weird show names to prevent two horses from having the same name at an event. A common way of creating these names is by combining part of the name of the horse’s sire (father) with the horse’s dam (mother). It sounds easy enough. But depending on if the horse needs to be registered, it isn’t.

When you meet a horse at a barn or stable, their names often sound like any other pet names: Star, Snow, Rocky, and Peanut. However, see that same horse at a show, and its name could suddenly sound like wayward royalty. But what are some of the rules? Are there tips giving your own horse a show name? Read on.

Why Horses Have Weird Show Names

Horses have unusual or “weird” show names to ensure their names are unique when at a competition. However, the horse often goes by a nickname, or common name, in their everyday life at the barn or stable.

For many horses, this can be completely random. A quick internet search can produce several fun horse name generators like this one here. But for others, it is more complicated. For example, you might need to use part of the sire’s name or be required to use a specific first letter. Others restrict the number of letters and characters that can be used. Let’s look at some examples.

Naming Rules for Thoroughbred Horses

Naming a Thoroughbred is complicated and must be done through The Jockey Club. There are 17 rules to the actual name. There are more when it comes to how its birthday is registered (the January 1st of the year it is born), and a due date for the foal’s name needs to be turned in, or you’ll be fined.

Summary of Rule Highlights:

  1. Only 18 characters max, made up of letters, spaces, and punctuation.
  2. No vulgarity.
  3. It cannot be entirely composed of initials (i.e., M.A.C).
  4. The name cannot end with “colt,” “filly,” “stallion,” “stud,” “mare,” or other horse terms.
  5. It is forbidden to use a living person’s name without their written consent.
  6. Names of the dead cannot be used unless The Jockey Club approves of your submitted written explanation.
  7. The name cannot be composed of just numbers.
  8. Names are not allowed to end with numerical designation (i.e., 1st).
  9. No famous horse’s name or variation of it (i.e., Secretariat into Ms. Secretary).
  10. No name currently in use, be it racing or breeding.

Click to read all 17 rules in full.

Naming Rules for a Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse Association’s rules are a little easier. However, adjustments to the regulations can occur annually, so it is essential to look through them, even if you’ve named a quarter horse before.

Summary of Rule Highlights:

  1. No more than 20 characters in the name. This includes all spaces and numbers.
  2. No vulgarity.
  3. Punition marks cannot be used, including dashes and apostrophes.
  4. Arabic numerals at the end of the name are allowed.

Click to consult the entire rulebook.

Naming Rules for Friesian Horses

Registering an official name for a Frisian is easier than a Thoroughbred or a Quarter Horse. However, there are some rules. The main one, however, is that the foal’s name must begin with the letter of the alphabet as stated by KFPS for that year. Letters for 2021 are P, Q, R, or S.

Creating Your Horse’s Show Name

Once you’ve checked if your horse’s show name has any rules to consider, it is time to have some fun creating one. Again, its everyday name doesn’t have to be its show name, but it can be. Some show names work elegantly for both, such as Valegro.

Horse Show Names: 10 Things to Consider

  1. What’s your horse’s personality? Rightly or wrongly, names contribute to how we’re perceived. Think about it; a horse named Angel of Darkness brings up a very different image to Cupid’s Bow.
  2. What are your interests outside of horse riding? Are you into literature? Do you have a poster of the periodic table on your wall next to your framed photo from your horse safari? Have you ranked all the Disney Princesses from most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse to the least?  Find inspiration in for your horse in other areas of your life.
  3. Is it a common name? Not every breed requires show names to be registered. So if you pick something like “Black Beauty,” you might arrive at a show and discover four other horses with the same name.
  4. How hard is the name to pronounce? Typically, you will not have a chance to clarify the pronunciation of your horse’s name to judges and announcers. So, unless you want to cringe (or laugh) each time you hear it, you may want to choose a name that doesn’t require your assistance before it can be said correctly.
  5. Try to avoid tongue twisters. Betty Botter may have indeed bought a bit of better butter, but your mouth will not forgive you for this.
  6. Will you still like the name years from now? For example, naming your horse in honor of your boyfriend might seem sweet at the time, but you might feel differently two years after your breakup. Also, Hay Fever might seem hilarious now, but will you still enjoy the joke later?
  7. Will the name turn out to be a curse? For example, having a horse named Champion could prove awkward if you come in last. Similarly, naming your horse Bomb Proof is just asking for your faithful steed to start spooking at his own farts.
  8. Give it the shout test. Your horse might be a mischievous streak, reminding you fondly of the meddlesome fairy in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, “Puck” does not pass the shout test. Think about it. Robin Goodfellow, Puck’s other name, however, does.
  9. Do you want to write all that out? Each time you register for an event, you will be writing down your horse’s name. It is a lot easier to fill in “So It Goes” than “A Rose By Any Other Name.”
  10. Use a thesaurus, or consider using a word from another language. Okay, okay, your life changed when you read Black Beauty. You went on to watch the movie twenty times and vowed to own a black horse someday. But what if the name of your dusky magnificence was inspired by the famous horse rather than a copy: Obscure Splendor, Night Goddess, Onyx Jolie, or Bella Noire.


Yes, horses often have weird show names. However, when choosing one for your horse, it doesn’t have to be bizarre or mystifying, although it will help if there is originality. After all, the whole point of show names is to help your horse stand out during the competition.


Anrie Diedericks

I've been around horses since I was 6 years old and started competing at the age of 9. Horses are my greatest passion and I am thrilled to be able to share my 23 (and counting) years of experience and knowledge with you.

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