The Rules of Naming a Horse

Posted by Victoria Bryant on July 24, 2015

Deciding on a name for a newborn is challenging, right? It can be quite a lengthy process. There are so many things to consider such as whether you want a unique or common name, whether you name the child after your great grandmother, how you should spell the name…the list goes on and on. Well, if you think that’s complicated, you should try naming a horse.

Naming a horse brings a whole new level of complication because not only must the name sound really awesome when shouted out loud, but it must adhere to strict guidelines put forth by The Jockey Club.

In order to name your foal, you must submit your name choice to The Jockey Club by February 1 of the foal’s two-year-old year. You can submit up to six names and order them based on preference. Names are assigned based on availability and the compliance of the rules listed below:

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Rule #1

The name may consist of no more than 18 letters. Spaces and punctuation count as letters.

Rule #2

The name may not consist entirely of initials.

Rule #3

The name cannot have clear commercial, artistic or creative significance.

Rule #4

The name cannot be suggestive or have vulgar or obscene meaning.

Rule #5

The name cannot be considered in poor taste or be offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups. The name cannot appear to be designed to harass, humiliate or disparage a certain individual, group of individuals or entity.

Rule #6

The name cannot be that of a living person unless written permission to use their name is on file with The Jockey Club.

Rule #7

The name may not end in any horse-related term such as “filly,” “colt,” “stud,” “mare” or “stallion.”

Rule #8

The name may not be made entirely out of numbers. Numbers above 30 may be used but have to be completely spelled out.

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Rule #9

The name cannot end with numerical designation such as 2nd or 3rd, regardless of whether the designation is spelled out.

Rule #10

The name cannot include a racetrack or graded stakes race such as “Preakness.”

Rule #11

The name cannot be from the restricted list (i.e. Horses voted Horse of the Year, Kentucky Derby Winners, etc.)

Seems like a lot of rules doesn’t it? There’s even more than those listed! Now it makes sense why it’s such a challenge to name a horse. Not only do you have to make sure you aren’t selecting a name already chosen, but you also have to abide by all these regulations. Talk about a lengthy process!

Once the name has been selected, its registered name is tattooed under its upper lip. This way, if a race horse is missing his or her registration papers, the horse can be easily identified. Also, a name can be changed as long as it is prior to the horse’s first race and the horse hasn’t been used for breeding purposes.  

One thing to note is that horses many times alternately go by a barn name in addition to their racing name. For example, Man O’ War was simply known around the barn as Red.

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