How to Name a Horse

Naming a horse is one of the most interesting things about owning a pet. Unlike other animals, naming a horse has a style, clear guidelines, and several choices especially if you choose a thoroughbred horse. These guidelines follow mandates created by the  Jockey club since 1894. Since then most, if not all horses, have to be named, registered, and maintained by the registry of The American Stud Book.

Naming a horse requires you to know which type of name you want for your horse. There is a registered name, a barn name, a thoroughbred name, and an ordinary name. In most cases, a horse will have two or three of these names depending on the situation. In other cases, you can simply name the horse using the names of the foal’s sire and dam and use that collectively for all occasions.

All these rules and guidelines have been explained extensively in this article. So if you’re looking to name your horse, you’re in the right place. Without further ado, let’s begin!

Jockey Club Naming Rules and Guidelines

The Jockey club registers over 47,000 horses annually. These thoroughbred horses are used for racing, competitions, and other club activities. If you want your horse to be a part of the club, you have to follow the strict guidelines set up by the club.

Horse naming guide
Colorful Horses

They include mainly eleven rules that you must follow starting with; for any new registrations, you must submit the name choice of your foal to the Jockey Club by the 1st of February of the foal’s two-year-old year. What’s more;

  • Your name choice doesn’t have to be only one, you can submit up to six options.
  • The names should be jotted down by order of preference from one to six.
  • Names are assigned by order of availability.

Now let’s have a look at the rules.

Rule #1: Less than or Equal to 18 Letters

The name or names you submit may only consist of 18 letters or less. Characters such as spaces, hyphens, and punctuation marks also count as letters. For example, SunsetJoyDallasTex is an excellent name but Sunset Joy Dallas Tex or SunsetJoyDallasTexas isn’t acceptable because they surpass the allowable letters.

Rule #2: No Initials

You can use initials in the name but the name shouldn’t be limited to initials only. Say SJ Dallas Tex is okay but SJDT isn’t. The key here is to ensure the name isn’t restricted to only initials.

Rule #3: No Commercial Motives

The selected name can’t have any affiliations to commercial, artistic, or creative motives. This means that you shouldn’t name your horse in a branded manner that could imply bias or for commercial gain.

Rule #4: No Obscene or Suggestive Names

Obscene to mean that the racehorses will be viewed and celebrated by many. In events or other shows like the derby, people expect to resonate with horses that have civil meanings, not vulgar words.

Rule #5: No Offensive Names

This is just a rule that supports no discriminatory names. Discriminatory in terms of race, religion, political affiliations, or ethnicity names shouldn’t appear to humiliate, embarrass or disparage anyone.

Rule #6: No Human Names

Do not anthropomorphize your horse. The name can’t have a human’s or living person’s name unless permission has been filed as acceptable by the individual. A written confirmation is a must for the name to be accepted by the club for registration.

Rule #7: No Horse-Related Names

The rules also stipulated that you shouldn’t name the horse after a horse. Avoid names like  “filly,” “colt,” “stud,” “mare” or “stallion.”

Rule #8: No Numbers Game

Just as you’re not supposed to simply use initials in your name, you aren’t also supposed to use numbers entirely as the name. Moreover, the numbers above 30 have to be completely spelled out.

Rule #9: No Numerical Endings

The name can’t end with a numeric designation. For example, you can say, John the 2nd or Bob the 3rd. This also applies in the cases where you spell out the name like Bobthethird.

Rule #10: No Stakes or Racetracks

The thoroughbred racehorses are loved especially because you get to place stakes and other derby experiences. However, you can’t include a racetrack or graded stakes race as the name of your horse.

Rule #11: Observe Restricted Names

Even with other clubs, there are restricted names you shouldn’t use to name your horse.

These are just the top rules to be followed, there are other rules to be followed depending on the club and region of registration. This is mostly why people don’t enjoy naming their horses but with the set guidelines, it should be easy for you.

Finally, on some occasions, you may be asked to explain the horse’s name as it may not be apparent to them. Approving names for registration is a long process and if you’re sorting out a name, select the one you can easily explain to the organization.

Creating a Registered Name

A registered name is similar to the racehorse name as that of the Jockey Club. However, this type of registered name doesn’t quite follow as many rules. For example, you can choose long, short, medium, or even alphanumeric names for your registered foal.

Here’s how you can create a registered name:

  1. Consider the horse’s pedigree or breed. Most, if not all, breed registries have rules and regulations on how to name a horse of that breed. As for a thoroughbred racehorse, the jockey club rules above can guide you adequately.
  2. Before choosing or settling on any name, run an online search to affirm you are on the right track of naming your horse. Many breeders will use prefixes and other terms which may or may not be acceptable. Don’t run any risks of just choosing a name haphazardly. However,  you can simply derive a name from that of its sire and dam.
  3. The horse’s breeding lineage can also be a guiding tool for you. Look for the parents registered names and try to follow the same theme. This is a good way of adding sentimental value to the name.
  4. Always go for originality. This can go a long way especially if you decide to take the horse a different path like a racehorse. In such a case. The parentage wouldn’t matter. Consider three vital characteristics that will help you build on its authenticity; appearance, personality, and purpose.


Horses come in all shapes, colors, features. From brown horses, black, white, grey, dapper gray, silver, black and white, brown and white, and many more. Some even have unique markings on their bodies. Streaks, dots, or patterns you can use to derive a name from.


How does your horse behave or what attributes make them unique and different from other horses. Are they grumpy? A fast learner? Wild? Quiet? All these are motivation enough for names.


Last, but not least, the purpose of the horse. Unlike a dog or cat, you wouldn’t keep a horse just to sit on the couch with it. Most have a purpose, such as races, horse parades, or just for the home ranch. Use these as inspiration for naming your horse.

Filling out the Registration Application

After all the considerations, you can now fill the registration application form which often comes via mail. There are also other forms online if you prefer such. Here are the details required to fill out the form.

  • Date foaled
  • Breeding method
  • Embryo transfer date and number
  • Dam’s name and/or registration number
  • Current breeding reports
  • Foal description including 5 photos
  • Six foal name choices
  • Other foal information
  • Tax ID or social security number

Note: registration only occurs once. Once the horse has been registered under a breed organization the name sticks. Changing of names is prohibited and if not at one organization, it’s simply not something they enjoy doing.

Finding a Barn Name

A barn name is a show name or an ordinary name in other cases. It’s meant to be informal or a nickname that can also be used in the day to day life. Here, there are no rules to be followed when naming the horse. Nonetheless, you can also follow these guidelines to help you make the right choice.

Use the Horse’s Registered Name

Since the registered name will have 18 letters, it’s long and tiresome to call out all the time. Therefore, consider using a shortened version as its barn name. Experiment with multiple versions until you get one that could be a possible name. For example, SunsetDallasTexas can be sunny, dt, or even sunset.

Observe the Horse’s Character

Your horse’s behavior can guide you on the possible names you can give it. Get to know more about your horse, its habits, personality, character traits, simple observations can guide you on the best name. Draw your inspiration from similar character traits of famous shows, movies, books, or even other horses.

Learn to experiment on a few names to see which one will suit the horse best. Observe even other characteristics that not entirely speak to its behavior. It could be the color of its coat. Is it black? Brown? White? Silver? Grey? A mixture of brown and white or other unique colors.

Lastly, do a search online on the best names you can give your horse. There are numerous websites that offer names generators any inspired names you can borrow from. After you get a few suggestions here and there, settle on one name and test it out till you find the one.

Naming a Thoroughbred Racehorse

A thoroughbred racehorse follows the same regulations as the rules of Jockey Club. Probably just to add onto the naming style, here are a few tips you can use;

  • Avoid vulgar and offensive terms like the name of your foal. This doesn’t only mean you avoid curse words like shitty, the great farter, skull crusher, or such. Also avoid any discriminatory names that may offend anyone socially, politically, ethnically, or religiously.
  • Avoid renaming the horse after a victor. When the horse wins a race, credit is given to the horse, if the name was used by a previous victor, there won’t be recognized.
  • Give a name with confidence. You know how hyped derby experiences are. Therefore, you want a good name that sounds even better when people are cheering. Try something short and catchy like Ruffy, Angelo, etc.
  • Let the horse’s name have a meaning, a purpose, a reminder, or something intuitive about it. This makes even people feel more receptacle to it.

Naming an Ordinary Horse

Some of you may be getting a horse just to fill up your ranch and not necessarily because of other motives like racing and competition. In this case, you have a wide variety of choices depending on multiple factors. A good example is the color of the horse; a brown horse called all sorts of names from coffee, caffeine, chocolate, cocoa, caramel, Twix, or anything else.

You have multiple choices based on your preferences and many more themes you can use to name your horse. Unlike the other naming techniques above, this one is open-ended and has much more variety to choose from.

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