The Rules of Naming a Horse

Posted by Victoria Barnett on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 @ 09:39 AM

Derby Experiences HorseDeciding 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:

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

Derby Experiences Horse

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.

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.)

Derby Experiences HorsesSeems 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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What would you name your horse?

Now that you know the rules, what are your ideas for really awesome horse names? We'd love to know! 

Topics: Breeders' Cup

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Kristen Doolan

Kristen Doolan was born and raised a Florida State Seminole. Making her way from Florida to North Carolina, Kristen achieved her B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing at The University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is an avid traveler, college football addict, beach bum and loves spending time with her family and friends. 


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Jazzy Morgan is originally from London, England and a die-hard Manchester United Fan. She grew up in Connecticut and made the move down south in 2011 where she attended Winthrop University and received her B.S. in Family & Consumer Sciences and a minor in Marketing. Jazzy enjoys traveling, working out, reading her monthly Vogue & Cosmo and keeping up with fashion trends.


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Evan Chronis was born in Omaha, Nebraska but has made his home in south Charlotte for almost two decades. A Tar Heel born and bred, Evan received his B.A in Media and Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is an avid Boston sports fan thanks to his family’s New England roots, and a fanboy of Wes Anderson films.