When Horsey McHorseface won his first race, he joined the ranks of equines who will be remembe
red as much for what they are called as for what they achieve, writes CAROLYN HENDERSON.
The three-year-old was named as a tip of the hat to Boaty McBoatface – the “people’s choice” when the Natural Environment Research Council asked the public to choose the name of its £200m artic research vessel. However, the government decided that Boaty McBoatface wasn’t appropriate for a vessel of this stature and instead, named it after Sir David Attenborough.
We have to stick with the names in a horse’s passport for all official purposes, so you just have to hope that whoever chose it didn’t have a wicked sense of humour. I know a showjumper who called one horse Badly and another, Topless.
He took bets on whether a commentator was sharp-witted enough to spot the potential traps. The clever ones announced him as “Here we have Badly/Topless ridden by Joe Bloggs”; you can guess what happened with the others. Topless was eventually sold to a very brave lady rider.
The British Horseracing Authority has all sorts of rules about racehorse names. No name can have more than 18 characters, including spaces between words, which is why Youlneverwalkalone lacked an l and an apostrophe.
The BHRA is particularly careful to make sure no “lewd, crude or offensive” names are registered. Someone there must have a sense of humour, though, or Hoof Hearted and Noble Locks wouldn’t have made it. If the second one has you puzzled, stress the second syllable of the first word and remember that he’s a gelding.
Showing people have a sense of humour, too. Back in 2001, Kelly Lyons was reserve in the working hunter class at the Royal International Horse Show on a lovely big Irish gelding.
He was called The Barsteward, because when he was a four-year-old, he wasn’t quite so lovely. In fact, he was a right barsteward.
Cob owners seem to have the most fun. Lynn Russell has gone through the galaxy from A-Z, starting with Apollo and finishing with Zenith. Somewhere in the middle, there was a Galaxy and, thanks to a big book of planet names, she’s unlikely to run out.
Carol Bardo and Jayne Webber had some good ones, from The Keystone Cob to Robocob and Strictly Cob Dancing. The best one, though, was Carol’s wonderful coloured cob, The Humdinger – because that’s exactly what he was.
Some horse names cause a stir for obvious reasons. Others hit the headlines even though you’d think they couldn’t offend anyone.
Brian, for example. Who could possibly take exception to a 17.2hh Shire cross called Brian?
Thames Valley Police did. They took Brian on six weeks’ trial, thinking that he’d make a formidable police horse, but announced that if he made it through the selection process he’d need a new name.
All the force’s other horses boasted names relating to deities, such as Thor and Odin. Brian was, they felt, a little too wimpy, even if it was the name of the Monty Python team’s unlikely Messiah.
When the news got out, social media went mad as Brians all over the UK complained about the slur on their moniker. In the end, Brian decided he didn’t fancy being a police horse and that rather than cope with all that city traffic, he was a country boy at heart.
Traditionally, it’s bad luck to change a horse’s name. If you really can’t stand it, you can always give him a stable name. I don’t know how the lovely ex-racehorse Beware Chalk Pit got his name, but he’s now covering himself in glory in Retraining of Racehorses and other showing classes and thoroughly deserves his stable name – Perfect Pete.
So – what’s yours called? If it’s all in a name, we’d love to know.