Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Horses: How Not To Name Them

When picking a name for a horse, I was brought up to look at the whole horse. In that I mean that I'd take into consideration what the horse looks like, it's habits, it's temperament, it's basic behavior, or even where it's from.

For example, when I was growing up in Hawaii, we had a Quarter Horse named "Molokai" because it was brought over to Oahu from Molokai as a yearling. He was a great horse, sweet, calm and bombproof. He was great for us kids to learn on.

We also had an Appaloosa that my grandfather called "White Ass." Which of course was an obvious reference to it's Appy markings. And yes, I know, we really weren't that creative were we.

I knew someone who named his horse "Anytime." It was named that because anytime that horse wanted to throw a fit, it would in an instant. And of course, there was my grandfather's mule which he named "Jackass Ginger." He choose "Ginger" because she was very sweet, and she reminded him of a bartendress that he knew.

And no, I have no idea if the bartendress ever knew that that mule was named after her as sort of a tribute to her. In fact come to think about it, I never asked if it was a reflection of her personality or not. Naming a mule after an bartendress can be taken either way. She was either very nice, or a jackass.

But after considering what the horse looks like, it's habits, it's temperament, it's behavior, or even where it's from, then one should keep in mind that that name is what other folks will call the horse. I mean you wouldn't want people to have to call out to "Mammoth Hay Burner Who Throws People For Fun." So instead names like "Mac" are used. It helps when a rider says "Whoa Mac" or "Come here Mac!"

Of course I always try to keep in mind that the name I pick will be the name the horse will be stuck with. That is, of course, unless you sell the horse and the new owner wants to change the name to what they want.

I was told that it was not good to change a horse's name. First, it is not good because it confuses those working with the horse. And second, it confuses the horse.

All in all that's true unless of course the horse has a name like "Jerome," or "Julius," or "Othelia," or "Woodwind," or "Lacy," or say "Marcel." In that case I'm sure even the horse can't stand its name.

My horse Murphy is a gelding and the lady who owned him before me called him "Lacy".  I'm sorry but I just had a hard time telling folks that I was going to ride my boy Lacy! After all, he wasn't a San Francisco horse.

And besides, Lacy didn't fit him. You see after I bought him, there was one problem after another for a while there, so I thought about one of Murphy's Laws. The law that says "whatever can go wrong will go wrong," so I named him Murphy.

Yup, he became Whatever Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong Murphy! And he's been Murphy ever since.

This all reminds me of something that happened about 7 years ago, when a good friend asked me to help him take his Arab mare to the Turlock Horse Auction.

He was my horseshoer and good friend, and he wasn't happy with his Arab mare. But for me, I couldn't understand it since she wasn't a bad horse. Besides, she had papers and a bloodline that wouldn't quit.

To me, other than being in heat everyday no matter what, she was a sweet little horse. Typical Arab small pretty face, about 14 and a half hands, grey, and really not as high strung as some Arabs. And I looked at it this way, that even if she was a little flaky now and then, if she did have the bloodlines that my friend said she did than why not breed her out. 

I had no idea why he didn't want to breed her to someone who'd like to extend their bloodline. For whatever reason, after a few years of owning her, he wanted to take her to the Turlock Horse Auction.

So because of that, along with her outstanding conformation, it made me wonder why he wanted to dump her at the Turlock Auction.

Some refer to the Turlock Horse Auction as a "Killer's Auction" because some of the regular buyers there are looking for horses to turn into dog food. My opinion of the place hasn't changed for year. As far as I've always been concerned, it was definitley a "Buyer Beware Auction."

So along with me and my friend who needed my trailer to get his mare down there, my kid brother from Hawaii was up here visiting, and he went with us.

He does a lot of Rodeo. He knows stock and cowboying pretty good, so it was great to have him along. And like he said, "You never know what you'll find that someone is selling. There are prizes and surprises. Hopefully you buy a prize and not a surprise."

When we got to the auction, my friend went over and take care of business, while my bother and I decided to check out the local horse flesh up for sale. I was not there to buy a horse. I was just the driver delivering one.

But as everyone knows, cowboys at a Horse Auction have to see what's being sold. It's sort of like taking your wife shopping, there's no guarantee she'll just look at the things she doesn't have on her shopping list. There is just too much temptation.

My shoer pulled me over to where he was standing just so that I would take a look at the horse, and even my brother who was standing there said, "Brother, that's the horse for you!"

I said "I saw another horse over there ...," but they wouldn't hear it! They were convinced that this was the best horse at the sale. This was the horse that I was looking for to give my horse Murphy a break.

And yes, there at the Turlock California, Horse Auction, I found a horse I liked. He was stocky, short back, straight legged horse in the small show coral. And though he didn't have a BLM freeze brand, he was built more like a Mustang than a Quarter Horse. But if he was a Quarter, than that was fine with me because I like Quarter Horses.

He was about 15.2 hands, and he was being ridden by a 13 year old girl without a problem like there was no tomorrow. And looking at the horse, I have to say that I couldn't help but agree with my friend and my brother. He was built like a tank.

So even though I really wasn't in the market for another horse, once the Auction started, I wanted that horse!

Well, I got him. And once the paperwork was done, I went outside to load him. And yes, he loaded great. In fact, he trailered great and rode quiet all the way back from Turlock which was about 3 hour drive.

Once I got him home, he handled like a charm. Talk about proud cowboys, I think our hats were way too small for our heads. I can say with certainty that at that precise moment that there was no better Horse Traders in the entire U.S. of A. And yes, all the way home, I heard nothing but how good they did picking out this horse.

The next day I put my saddle on him and we went out for a short ride in the nearby BLM land. A nice easy ride. Nothing hard to handle, especially for a horse built like this guy.

During our ride, he was a little blowy. But other than that, he worked fine. After we got back, I put him up and since I was busy that day with other things to do. I didn't work him anymore and later only fed him when I fed everyone else.

Since the horse had no name. I figured that I really should find a nice name for this great looking Red Roan. Beings that he has some red spots on his rump, almost an Appy sort of markings that looked like a shotgun spray pattern, I thought I'd name him "Buckshot."

Great huh? I thought so at the moment. When I was a kid, there was a horse that was named "Buckshot" that was a real nice horse. It was horse on TV in one of the many Westerns that used to be all over the tube back then. Of course being a Cowboy Shooter, I figured Buckshot would be a good link to that as well.

The next day, my shoer friend came back out to shoe Murphy. While we drank coffee with my brother, my friend went on and on about the horse that he picked out for me. My brother, not wanting to be cut out of the at-a-boys wanted his share of the credit for my purchase.

I just grinned and laughed. Told them about taking him out yesterday and how it was. The coffee was good and I loved it all.

That is until we walked over to where I had "Buckshot" tied and found him breathing fire as I tried to reach to untie his lead rope. He reared back and became wild eyed and crazy. He spun away each time I reached for him. He tried all he could to pull free.

My shoer friend, who not so secretly always wanted to be a Trainer, said, "I'll sack'em out!" But the horse was crazed! Turning he fired kick after kick at my friend, until my friend gave up out of fear.

My bother said, "Oh man, Tommy, you been took! Look what you bought! He was drugged!"

My friend looked at me and laughed, "Wow! You picked a rank horse Pard!"

After a few minutes in disbelief, my brother had to leave for an appointment in town. My good friend left soon after him, laughing as he drove off. Personally, I didn't see the joke.

No way, I thought. Since I rode him the day before, I had a hard time accepting that this horse was the same horse that I rode. I decided that I had to ride him out, so I went into my tack room and got my saddle off it's rack and headed for Buckshot.

It took me a while of fighting with him, but I did get him saddled. Then I decided to take this real slow, and lead him out into an open area.  He seemed to lead OK, unless of course I turned to face him. I found that if I did face him, he'd get wild eyed and pull back and almost rear up.

Out away from trees and anything else, I put my left foot in the stirrup and then just as I was about to throw my right leg over ... he blew!

Now if you've been to Rodeos than you know what a Bronc coming out of the chute looks like. Well without a bucking-strap he went straight up into the air and into the air and into the air, bucking over and over and over again. 

No it wasn't just really bad crow hopping. He was bucking like nothing I'd ever seen in or out of a Rodeo.

He came down so hard once, that he lost his footing, crashed right into my picket fence around my home, and tore up a few sections of picket fence before moving on and away from the house.  

Just before he got up, my thinking was that he may have been done, but then he started up again as I went towards him. Again up and in the air again and again until he went head first into a tree. That knocked him silly and down onto the ground, and again I thought that that was the end of it - and again I was wrong.

This time he bucked over to some water-pipes, and stomped them good before heading for my lower well pump house. Yes, I really thought he was going to take out my pump shack. But instead, he headed toward my creek.

In the blackberry bushes, he was slowly calming down. Finally, he just stood there nostrils flared and breathing heavy. I slowly walked over to him and reached for his lead rope, then took it and lead him over to his pen.

Later a friend of mine shook his head and laughed a little when he heard about Buckshot going berserk, saying, "Look on the bright side. Naming him Buckshot was fairly accurate. He is explosive!"

I replied that I now understood why the people who sold me the horse didn't named him. Afterall, there is the possibility that they didn't want to name something that they might feel like shooting later!  

Do I regret caling him Buckshot?  Well let's just say that after seeing him buck the way he did, I started to think that maybe I should've named him "Peaceful!"

Story by Tom Correa


  1. To be witty is not enough. One must possess sufficient wit to avoid having too much of it.

  2. Your article about naming horses and other animals got me to thinking:"What other names should I NOT give to my pets"? And then I thought about it. Don't ever name your pets "Dammit", "You Bastard", or "Stains". If you do, you will look like the bad guy. Can you imagine riding your horse and telling them, "Go faster, Dammit!" Or petting your cat and getting scratched and then saying, "Ouch, You Bastard that hurt!" Or what about this one? You're playing fetch with your dog named "Stains" and you explicitly (no pun intended) start yelling, "Come Stains"? That's gonna get you some awkward stares. But the worst name you can give any pet would be either Geronimo or Stupid. Can you imagine going sky diving with your support dog and yelling "Geronimo!" once you jump out the plane? Or telling your dog Stupid to be quiet by yelling at him, "Shut up, Stupid!". But when it comes to horses, don't ever name them after something you might have to eat. For example, don't ever call them Beans, Beets, or Tater. And never name them after countries. Who wants to ride the range on a horse named Mexico? Or a mare called Uganda? But the most offensive name to give a horse would be Jackass. It's bad enough that the horse is a little slow but calling him an ass is even worse. And one more thing, if you're gonna name a horse you really like, don't go with Widowmaker because 1.Most men ain't married 2.Not many women want to get married. and 3.Some widows have lost their husbands a long time ago so to name your horse Widowmaker according to them would just be a slap in the face. But anyway, I hope this helps. Adios, amigos.


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