Thursday, March 29, 2012

Naming names

One of my favorite things about getting a new model horse is choosing its name. I am an unabashed word nerd and I love naming things.  In  fact, I suspect this is one of the main appeals of blogging--every day I get to name a post.

The highlight of my naming life came during the summer of 1989.  That was the year I worked at the Don K Ranch, a guest ranch located in the San Isobel mountains west of Pueblo, Colorado.   The Don K owned just fifteen horses which was not nearly enough to accommodate the fifty to sixty riding guests who visited the ranch each week.  To make up the difference, they leased a revolving string of horses from an outfit called Sombrero Ranch.

This was not a unique arrangement.  Sombrero Ranch owns literally thousands of horses, which they rent to guest ranches, summer camps and livery stables throughout the Rocky Mountain region.  It's definitely a quantity over quality type of operation, and we went through nearly one hundred and fifty horses looking for fifty safe, sane and reasonably sound mounts for our guests.

None of these horses came with names.  Sombrero identified them solely by the numbers branded on their butts.  That's efficient but not friendly.  After all, what guest wants to spend a week riding "2695?"  They needed names and they needed them fast.  

It was a name lover's bonanza.

Not that I'm biased or anything, but my roommate and fellow wrangler, Gina and I chose the best names.  This gaited gelding's bald face made him look like a mime.  We named him Marcel.
Someone suggested Picasso for the paint, but we decided that was too obvious.  He became Pablo. 
And what else but Frank for this old blue eyed Appaloosa?
Some of the other girls favored names with a touch of glamour, such as Abercrombie...
and Aspen. 
The boys' choices were all over the map.  They started out with traditional Western selections such as Gunsmoke and Colt 45...
Colt 45
but eventually moved on to names that reflected their taste in music...
Judas Priest who was later renamed Judge
and alcohol.
Annoyingly, they also had a tendency to ignore gender when choosing names.  That explains how this dumpy little mare ended up being called Chief...
while this mare got stuck with Diablo!
A few of the name debates became rather heated.  Gina and I thought this Appaloosa should be called Himalaya because he was easily the tallest horse on the ranch.  Unfortunately, we were outvoted and he became Joaquin.
This horse had perhaps the most inexplicable name progression.  He started out as Pet Project and ended up as Cuddles.  It should go without saying that I had no part in either selection!
Fortunately, there were a few names that pleased everyone.  This little gelding was a boy named Sioux... 
while this Appaloosa just looked like a Reggie.
Shamu was a giant whale of a mare--perfect for our plus sized guests!
shown here with non plus sized Gina
As the summer wore on and we went through more and more horses, the names got sillier.  How else can I explain Humperdinck...
Humperdinck, Humperdinck, Humperdinck!
and No Name?
The last Sombrero shipment consisted of just two horses.  I named this one Clyde because he kind of looked like a Clyde.
When it came to this pretty chestnut mare, however, everyone had run out of ideas.  We let her first rider, a teenage boy, choose her name.  He selected Ice and that was fine.  Really, by that point, anything would have been fine.
So many horses, so many names....  And although it's hard to believe, there wasn't a Fred in the bunch!


  1. My goodness. I grew up near Sombrero Ranch in east Boulder. Their main house was on Cherryvale Road, about 2 miles from us. Stables and pastures (it is now a development). I had my first riding lessons there circa 1970. The pony was cream colored and wearing full winter coat, and her name was Puffy.

  2. Hey, count yourself lucky, they were all different colors. At Girl Scout National Center West in Wyoming, they seemed to only send the nondescript bay geldings for the summer. Plus they came from 2 or 3 dealers who frequently traded with each other so most of the horses had the exact same brands. Holy cow. Some of them were close to impossible to tell apart!

  3. My coworker and I named all the horses at our summer camp job. I don't remember all of them, but I do recall:

    Popcorn--white pony
    Handful, later Dumplin'--difficult to handle, and so fat she only got a token handful of grain at mealtimes.
    Curious George--friendly on the ground (unmanageable under saddle)
    Fletcher--named for a nearby town

  4. I should get some pics and post them of the grey ex-steeplechaser gelding I rode the other day, he's called Comet in teh paddock but he needs a show name if he ends up being mine like his current owner is sayng!! I thought of Charisma, but it sounds more girlish to me...i should find out his race name, maybe that's half way decent, but then why does his owner want a name for him??!! lol! I'm utterly useless with names!!

  5. Susan--I just love these kinds of "small world" moments. Sometimes I think we're all a lot more connected than we realize!

    Pat--We had some of those nondescript bays, too. In particular, there were two little mares that were assigned to the kiddie string. Their names were Gypsy and Asker, and for the life of me, I could never remember which one was which. It wasn't that I couldn't tell them apart because I could. I just had a mental block regarding their names!

    LBC--I like the name Handful! There was a Popcorn at the Don K. He was another bay kiddie horse. I don't remember who named him. Wasn't me!

    Kismet--Obviously Comet's show name should be Fred. Haha! Just kiddding! You should post pictures of him on your blog and ask for suggestions.


  6. Well If you like naming things, do you think that you could give my new palomino clysedale mare a name,(customized her from a old beat up cldesdale mare mold and use her as Creamcycles mom!)she has a large blaze and 4 higher socks. I'm thinking Sandy for the stable name after my guinea pig but I can't think of a show name!!!

    PS Guinea Pigs DO NOT like horse tack!