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What's In A Horse's Name?

Updated on August 27, 2011
Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbara Anne Helberg is an award-winning Fiction freelancer, Internet writer, Photographer, WordPress blogger, and former Journalist.


What can be gleaned in thought and meaning from the names horses are given?

Racehorses, such as flat track Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, harness racing Standardbreds, and Steeplechasers, may get their names more or less handed down to them: that is Lavec Dream, a bay Standardbred mare who (then aged eight) ran in a trot event during the 2009 Little Brown Jug week in Delaware, Ohio, was sired by Enjoy Lavec.

Another entry that week, Annieswesterncard, a three-year-old bay gelding, had a name directly connected to both parents, his sire, Western Hanover, and his dam, Annie Your A Card, which spoke possessively. Grammatically speaking, perhaps his mama should have been Annie You're A Card, but that's another article entirely!

Racehorse names generally don't include correct punctuation, or Annieswesterncard would be Annie'swesterncard, and so on. They also are generally limited to 18 (Thoroughbreds) or 20 (Quarter Horses and Standardbreds) letters, with spaces and punctuation each counting as one letter used. Annieswesterncard employs a technique of pushing words together to meet the Standardbred 20-letters rule while also advertising part of the horse's pedigree.


What Is True?

The Thoroughbred racer "Yes Its True", with the correct possessive spelling, it's, without the apostrophe (even though space-saving wasn't necessary in this case), was a clever moniker that teasingly stirred the imagination. What was true? Yes Its True died in 2007, so the truth of his name may never be revealed.

He also has a relative named "Is It True"? The intrigue goes on!

Some tongue-in-cheek cleverness is used in racehorse names because they are limited in scope and numbers by the long list of rules governing the naming procedure. Preachinatthebar (Thoroughbred), Imawildandcrazyguy, also a Thoroughbred, Somebeachsomewhere (Standardbred), and Deweycheatumnhowe, another Standardbred, are thought-provoking examples.

Horses of the Dance

Many categories, topics, and subjects pertaining to human existence are intermingled into the names chosen for horses. In "Horse-Report" Internet pages the names of horses-of-the-dance appear. Gene Kelly (check out the link in which the real Gene Kelly is seen tap-dancing spectacularly in roller skates) was picked in honorary fashion.

Other great names for horses chosen from the art of dance include Foxtrot, Follow My Lead, Flashdance, Disco, Cocktail Samba, Cakewalk, Bunny Hop, Belly Dancer, Begin The Beguine, All That Jazz, and Barishnikov.

Remember Those Hollywood Names?

Television shows in the 1950s were replete with Westerns and the occasional comedy creation like "Mr. Ed" that involved horses that were named in accompaniment to the owner's situation.

The Western adventure horses, those of the cowboy heroes, had great names. Roy Rogers had Trigger, (supposedly named because he responded that fast); Gene Autry had Champion...enough said.

The Cisco Kid had...? Who did Tonto ride?

In Real Life...

Robert E. Lee, generous general of the South, rode a gray horse appropriately named Traveler.

Swooping speed comes to mind with the name Whirlaway. Mr. Long Tail, as he was nicknamed, was America's popular first Triple Crown winner of the 1940s (1941) and the fifth in the short line of 11 triplers in the history of Thoroughbred racing.

Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew of 1977 was doubled-named by his two pairs of owners. Their places of residence, Seattle, Washington, and the Florida Everglades (swamps), also called slews, gave the champion his well thought out name.

Strong warrior is the meaning of the name given to the horse loved and ridden by Alexander the Great. According to legend, Bucephalus, a mighty black steed of seemingly untameable nature, was calmed by the 12-year-old Alexander and became his loyal warring partner.

Here's a tongue-twister choice: "No Pan Intended" hailed from the Peter Pan Stables in Pepper Pike, Ohio. He is a Standardbred currently at stud who is the only harness racer in history to win the Pacing Triple Crown and the Breeders Crown in the same year, 2003.

The consistently winning Standardbred horses bred by Hanover Shoe Farms repeatedly have "Hanover" tagged into their names: Ralph Hanover, Bret Hanover, Rocknroll Hanover, Western Hanover.

Walter Farley began writing "The Black Stallion" while a student at Erasmus Hall High School in  Brooklyn.
Walter Farley began writing "The Black Stallion" while a student at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. | Source

Horses of Fiction

Two of the most famous horses of fiction are Walter Farley's The Black Stallion (1941) and Anna Sewell's Black Beauty (1946).

Farley didn't have a series in mind when he created "The Black", victim of a ship wreck with young Alec Ramsey, who came to own the wild Arabian stallion. Farley's love of horses and his reading fans grew The Black Stallion into a twenty-plus book effort still popular today.

Sewell's Black Beauty (The Autobiography of a Horse) is as renowned for its story of an equine suvivor as it is for the telling of the story in first person by the horse himself.

In 1941, Mary O'Hara joined the ranks of writers publishing horsey tales that proved to stand the test of time. She authored My Friend Flicka, the story of a boy growing up on a ranch in the American West who dreams of racing his horse.

National Velvet, starring Elizabeth Taylor, may be the most popular girl and horse fictional tale of all-time. Taylor plays the young girl who wants to ride in the Grand National, England's most famous steeplechase race, when females are banned from such activity.

Most people who loved horses as youngsters know these fictional equine names that even may have shaped their interests and pursuits in their own lives.

So what is in a horse's name? Apparently, it is everything imaginable in life!


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    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      9 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Kay Creates...It's always nice to hear someone enjoyed a Hub!

      I gobbled up those fictional equine stories, too, as a youngster, and still enjoy re-reading Walter Farley, etc.

    • Kay Creates profile image

      Kay Creates 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      I enjoyed your hub. Though I've never owned a horse, I've loved some fictional ones and this hub brought back memories of those great books I read as a child.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      10 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Painter Penfield...Wow, thanks for stopping by to view my Hub and getting reinspired from my comments on yours! Terrific!!

    • Painter Penfield profile image

      Painter Penfield 

      10 years ago from Tampa Bay area Florida

      Great history and insights! I so love horses. Such a noble animal. Thanks for your comment on my making art from recycled materials hub. Keep up the good work. I have been "not" writing recently but am now inspired ;)

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      10 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Cogerson...Thanks for commenting on this Hub. (It's one of my favorites!)

      I went looking for better info on Ack Ack Ack, because I think I've heard his name, also. But only his daddy, Ack Ack, who became 1971's American Horse of the Year at the age of five, seems to have information available. I'll keep looking for some breeding info on Ack Ack -- perhaps I can find out his shed record.

      It is amazing that Thoroughbreds you'd think would readily breed champions like themselves, like Secretariat, who don't. Sec was a great broodmare sire, but had few sons that were high achievers, Risen Star being the best -- Preakness and Belmont winner -- and General Assembly, who established a modest career.

      Then there are Ack Ack Acks, who never get off the ground -- apparently! (I'll investigate him further!)

      Glad you enjoyed this Hub!

    • Cogerson profile image


      10 years ago from Virginia

      Lots of great information on this hub...very informative and favorite horse name was Ack Ack Ack....a horse that raced at Penn National about 10 years ago....the last time I saw it race it finished 2nd in a maiden race for the 12th or 13th time....I often wonder if Ack Ack Ack ever got that first win. I really enjoyed reading this hub....voted up and awesome.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      10 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @ripplemaker...Thanks for reading this Hub and sharing your enjoyment!

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      10 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @AEvans...Thanks for stopping by and for your complimentary comments.

      Naming horses is rather an entertaining adventure. I'm glad you enjoyed and were informed, too!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hmmmm...this sort of information can lead one into thinking about names and all. I had fun reading your article.

      Congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination! Gallop this way please to read and vote:

    • AEvans profile image


      10 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      I did not have any idea that names were created this way for horses. Not only did you write the hub with a sense of humor, you wrote it well and it's quite informative. Thank you. :)

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      10 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @FloraBreenRobison...Thank you for your note!

      I agree that animal names are important choices. They usually reveal something about the owner as well as the animal.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      10 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @RedElf...Thank you so much for your kind remarks!

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      10 years ago

      Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. Naming an animal is always an important choice even for one's pet, but a racehorse or movie horse will be famous and must have an appropriate name.

    • RedElf profile image


      10 years ago from Canada

      Lovely article, and full of interesting tidbits!

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      10 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      Kind regards, prashant anigras! Thank you for your interest and encouragement!

    • prashant angiras profile image

      Prashant angiras 

      10 years ago from shimla(india)

      i never thought horses can be so interesting to read,the way the horses are named,standardbred 20 letter rule and everything else that you have written is of great interest...wonderful hub

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      10 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      Thanks for sharing that thought, The Dirt Farmer. Quite comical! I figure names always mean something to someone!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      10 years ago from United States

      Wonder what the stable names reveal? We had a show horse with a name as long as your arm, but his stable name was Fluffy. And yes, he was pretty much a cream puff!


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