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The Name Game – Creating the Perfect Name for Your Foal

Creating the perfect name for a new foal is one of the most exciting moments for horse owners. This name will stick with the horse through its show career. Great horses are remembered by their name. It can be passed on to offspring like Vital Signs Are Good and RL Best Of Sudden. Usually, you can tell the bloodlines of a horse by its registered name, but sometimes owners get creative when naming their future sires and show pen champions and name outside the pedigree.

We spoke with Kari Ellingson, owner of World Champion sire Gone Viral and World Champion sire Makin Me Willy Wild owner and North Farm Breeding Manager, Debbi Trubee, to get their thoughts on how names have evolved over the past decade. We also asked how they continually come up with unique ideas.

The Evolution

Fifty years ago, the names you heard were compiled from the founding sires of AQHA. Most names included the words Zippo, Pat, Bars or Dash in one way or another. Some of those are still used today. In the past five to ten years, there have been noticeable changes in names including naming a horse after a song title, a famous person or even a catchy tagline. Kari Ellingson, the owner of AQHA stallion Gone Viral, has seen a change since she was a youth.

“I think they have become more fun and creative over the years,” Ellingson said. “The best name I have heard, probably ever, is KM Sudden Fried Chicken. I mean, that’s just amazing. Every time they said the name at the AQHA World Show, my mom and I just laughed. It was adorable and so memorable. I like where the names are going these days much more than I did when I first started showing. A couple of my childhood horses names were Three Jets Imp and Gallberry Sweet Spot, so I’m thinking the names are getting much more fun.”

The Creation

The process of coming up with a great name that will be readily remembered can be a challenge. Breeders have put more importance on names than they previously did. Debbi Trubee, the owner of North Farm, uses a couple of tactics to generate fresh names year after year.

“We try to incorporate the sire and dam’s name in the foal’s name when possible,” Trubee said. “We also try to have something that’s catchy or fun as I think those types of names are much more memorable. I keep a running list of names, so I’m not stumped when it comes time to register our foals. We have loads of fun with names for our Winnies Willy foals, and some of my favorites are, Who Willy Knew, Willy Cant Miss and Willy Good Ride. There are a lot of fun choices for Willy. We also had a big bay colt years ago that had a perfect white question mark on his head so I named him No Question Im Lazy. Events can also spark a good name choice. We had one baby that was quite the little man sired by Hot N Blazing. His name ended up being, He Thinks Hes Hot, which was quite fitting.”

Ellingson has also used techniques when naming horses. She has changed a few registered names to benefit her future foal crop with Gone Viral.

“We knew he needed a name that everyone could remember,” Ellingson said. “It took a while to think of one. We knew it had to be perfect and we had a whole list of names, but nothing was fitting for him. Gone Viral could not have been more perfect for him because that is exactly what he did. He went viral. Jason and Susie Roberts thought of his name, so I can’t take credit for that one. James Deen Daydream (Hotrod) came to me with the name Hotrod Gypsy. That wasn’t going to work, so I changed it. I have an ongoing list in my phone. There are probably 40 names on it, and whenever I’m driving to a horse show or in the car for a while, my mind just goes non-stop with horse names.”

Ellingson adds, “I don’t particularly care for the generic names. I love names that are completely different. When trying to decide on Hotrod’s name, the Taylor Swift song, ‘Style’ was popular and I had it playing on my iPod non-stop. I love Taylor Swift. And whenever that part was on, the ‘James Dean daydream look in your eye’ just kept replaying in my head. He has the prettiest, kindest eyes and I would just sing that to him over and over, so I just went with it.”

The Marketing Aspect

When the industry knows a particular stallion and wants to spread the word, his name becomes well-known. Having a name that is appropriate and upbeat is essential. Trubee mentioned how advertising can play a role with names too.

“I think it’s imperative to have a catchy, fun and non-controversial name for a potential stallion,” Trubee said. “Advertising pays, and something that slides off the tongue or is easy to remember will pay dividends in the future for a stallion.”

Simplicity can also be valuable at times. Shorter names are easier to remember and identify. Ellingson mentioned she also liked how owners have started using initials in names.

“I prefer stallion names that are bold,” Ellingson said. “Two-word names for studs, for some reason, have always been my favorite. They are short and to the point. I like that a lot of people are starting to put the stud’s initials in front of their names. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but now having my stud, I want his future babies to promote him in the winning circle. When a horse is good, I always wonder who their sire is and as soon as they call out the initials of the sire, I know, so I like that part about it.”


Both of these ladies gave great advice for people who might be struggling to come up with a distinguished name.

“Keep a list and when something pops into your head, write it down,” Trubee said. “Nothing is more aggravating than thinking of a good name and then not be able to remember it later when you need to register.”

“I look up a lot of idioms that may be catchy, or that would work for a horse,” Ellingson said. “I love to think outside the box when it comes to names and not try to always name them after the sire or dam.”

Portions of this article originally published March 2018.