Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's Possible That I'm Terrible at Naming Horses

by Natalie Keller Reinert

This is not the blog post I set out to write this morning.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not even sure what I was going to write. I think it was something about how I'm terrible at naming books. That's mainly because I've been editing my forthcoming novel, about a three-day-eventing rider, and I feel like the title is a terrible mistake in this age of Google and online searching and accidental anonymity through uncreative titles. (The title is Ambition, by the way, which sums the book up perfectly, so if anyone would like to comment on that, your thoughts are welcome.)

But it somehow morphed into a post on naming horses, and the realization that as bad as I am at naming books, I might be worse at naming horses. I might have the worst taste imaginable. Possibly.

Read on, fearless equestrians, and tell me what you think.

It feels like this great, grand responsibility, granting a name to a horse. And in a way, it is -- especially if you subscribe to the superstitious belief that changing a horse's name is bad luck. I definitely agree with that superstition, as long as the name isn't too stupid.

But on another level (also, possibly, spiritual in nature) I've always had this grand idea that you're  bestowing an identity on an animal for the rest of his or her life. Be it grand, or be it comical.

It's always a wonder to me when a horse with a name like Cocoz Lil Zipper or DivorceLawyerWins or something horrid like that wins a race. I think "Wow, horse, way to overcome the total lack of self-respect you've been awarded by whoever named you." And then I think of a much better, more high-minded, literary/lyrical/literal name that I would have granted that brave, persevering horse, had I but been given the opportunity.

Princessforaday, Dayjur-Gallapiatsprincess. My husband named her.  

And then, in research for this blog post (yes, "research"), I was glancing down a 2008 entry at New York Times' horseracing blog, The Rail. The 500 worst-named racehorses of all time! This is perfect. I'm scrolling through, chuckling, shaking my head, and then...

I see it.

My favorite racehorse name of all time. 

I Died Laughing.


Oh, the heartbreak.

I Died Laughing was a 2000 bay filly by Montbrook and out of Regal Ties, by Regal and Royal, according to pedigreequery.com. When I was frequenting the pavilion at Ocala Breeders' Sales back in my Florida days, I Died Laughing's name was one of those Florida-bred regulars in the catalogs, showing up time and time again in different listings and sales.

So obviously, I Died Laughing's name had zero-zip-nada to do with her breeding, but I didn't care. I loved it. I said it aloud. I giggled. I pointed it out to people. Her name it's so awesome.

(My husband agreed. My husband humors me, though. I know this.)

I began to think a little more deeply about my taste in racehorse names. And another favorite came to mind: Enjoy the Silence. Another broodmare regular, her foals going through the sales at various ages, I fell in love with her from afar. When she finally went through the sale herself, I hurried to the walking ring to see her. At last! Enjoy the Silence! I'd been loving her in print for years, now I would see her in the flesh.

And she was a chestnut.

And, I mean, I love chestnuts. So much. But her name was Enjoy the Silence. That's an awesome Depeche Mode song. Obviously she would be black, or at least dark bay, and she would look around the walking ring with an air of haughty disapproval, as if all of us humans in our stupid uniforms of blue jeans and polo shirts with our logos embroidered on the chest and our stallion-show baseball caps were the lowest of the low.

But she really just looked like the nicest ol' broodie you ever saw in your life.

Which probably shouldn't have been a come-down, but it was, after all I had built up in my mind for a mare called Enjoy the Silence.

So maybe it doesn't matter what a horse's name is. Maybe I've been wrong all these years, with my high-minded notions and superstitious suspicions about the value of a name. After all, of my two favorite names, one is apparently the worst name ever and the other gave me a completely mistaken idea of what the horse was actually like.

Or maybe I'm just terrible at horse names.

It's possible.

So here is a little exercise for you. Here are several names of horses from my books. Which ones do you like? Which ones don't you like? And what, in your opinion, makes for a great horse name?

Can't wait to see what you think on this one! (And if you like, I'll tell you where the inspiration for the name came from.)

A few racehorse names from "The Head and Not The Heart," "Other People's Horses," and "Claiming Christmas":

-Luna Park
-The Tiger Prince
-Virtue and Vice
-Idle Hour
-Personal Best

And here's that list of the worst-named racehorses of all time.  "I'm Ugly But Fast" really does belong on the list.



Tara said...

I like Virtue and Vice, and Idle Hour.

I have always laughed at the name Hoofhearted...well played name...maybe I am sick humored here...lol...
Years ago, I was on the horse hunt...and fell in love with the name of a TB...and now I can't really recall the name!! I think it was Night Blues or something like that....horse was in OR..wish I could remember his name..was in 98 -99 when I was looking....

darlene said...

Really doing a good job naming the horses in the books They are believable as well,as,dignified
I always laughed when Bodacious Tatas would run And wonder a bit at how it got approval from Jockey Club
On the other hand I would cringe aa bit when Gourmet Dinner or Better With Butter would run Names just brought to mind horse slaughter

irish horse said...

I think your racehorse names are respectful, but I too like I Died Laughing, and am now disappointed in Enjoy the Silence.

But I actually love a couple names on the "bad" racehorse name list, but my favorite is:


I would totally bet on that horse.

I am always annoyed that my horse's official name is spelled incorrectly, Majestik. Would it have killed them to just use a C? Maybe it was taken. I get over it by knowing he is always called by his nickname, plain old Major.

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

@irish horse

GOOD NEWS: It turns out Enjoy the Silence was, at one point, a total bad-ass rebel. This is from my Facebook page: "I used to gallop Enjoy the Silence! She was a nut, had to gallop her the wrong way when the track was cleared...great name though."

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

@darlene, thanks so much!

I do have a serious problem with the food-related names.

And this one.... TORSION.


You might as well call him Founder or Swamp Fever. The worst.

Natalie Keller Reinert said...


Hoofhearted gets a pass for all the teenage boys it brought to our noble sport.

But seriously that was a good play.

Hannah Hooton Books said...

As part of my Creative Writing course we had to do a bit of "found poetry" so taking words or phrases already in use, so for instance road signs and airport departure boards, and making it into something resembling poetry. I decided to use racehorse names, and seriously, all of these exist.

“Hello Bud!”
“Hey Big Spender.”
“Why The Long Face?”
“No Kidding!
Where’d Ya Hide It?”
Imeanseriously –
I Can Dance,
For Heaven’s Sake!
These Days
Theatre Royal,
Broadway Royal –
They All Forgot Me.
‘Gone Astray’
They Say.”
“That’s Showbiz.
Off Shoot.”
“Now Now
You Can Dance
West End Rocker.”
“Not Now!
It Won’tbelong Now
Dancing Bud
Will Bloom
Dance With Destiny!”
“You’re right!
Apple Crumble!
Here I Come!”
“Go Get Em Kid!”

RiderWriter said...

Hannah, that is just delightful! Thanks for sharing. :)

I do not care for the "run-together words" names for TBs. They used to only be popular with Standardbreds. Not that I dislike the latter, but I just think that racing breeds should be kept apart.

Natalie, I think the names in your books are just great! I agree with Darlene, they are dignified, believable and appropriate. You really do have to wonder how some of them get through the JC... I haven't heard of Bodacious Tatas but that's just terrible! (Although, way to get men to bet on her, LOL)

Hannah Hooton Books said...

There was a horse a few years ago called "Something", which sounded ridiculous in commentary and I always thought it was so insulting to the horse. But then I thought how did they come up with that name and the conversation I imagined happened was: "What are we going to call our horse?"
"I don't know. What do you want to call it?"
"I don't know! What do you want to call it?"
"I don't know!"
"Well, we have to call it something!"
"Okay, fine! We'll call it Something!"

Natalie Keller Reinert said...


Ugh. You guys. Hannah Hooton is such a good writer. See how she doesn't mention that here? Look her up.

@RiderWriter thanks for being nice about my horse names. I remember Bodacious Tatas too, so it was a real thing. I heard another story about a horse that had the word "Tits" in the name somehow. I can't remember the name or how they managed it. Nothing like a healthy dose of misogyny to go with your horrible horse name, right?

White Horse Pilgrim said...

Do racing commentators in the US speak incredibly fast to keep up with events? They do in Britain, leading an owner to try to name his beast "The Orse". The body that runs the sport wouldn't allow this, however it's amusing to think of a commentator speeding along with "The Orse" in the running.

AareneX said...

I do like Virtue and Vice.

Speaking as the owner of "Naked Willow" (thank you SO much for approving that, USTA, yeah not really), I do like a good name. Which is why I registered her with AERC as "Fiddle."

And then there's the fictitious (sorta) horse I invented: Holdmybeerandwatchthis. Yeah. Not based on a real creature at all.

Sterling said...

Virtue and Vice is my favorite on your list, and The Tiger Prince is probably least favorite.

No stranger to unusual names here. We always have fun when anyone asks the name of the big bay, ex-racing standardbred mare that we adopted. Her registered name is I Forgot. It's a regular Abbott and Costello act every time.