Choose a Great Name for Your New Horse

Choose a Great Name for Your New Horse

When this AQHA member found herself with some unexpected new horses, she needed names. Here’s a guide to picking good ones.

Sorrel foal named Freebie standing next his sorrel dam in a pasture.

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"Journal, The American Quarter Horse Journal" logo

By Becky Newell

In this article, we'll cover:

  1. Using AQHA's 'Research Foal Names' tool.
  2. What happens when a name is already used.
  3. AQHA naming rules.
  4. Reusing an American Quarter Horse's name.
  5. Changing a horse's name.

But first, let's go back to fall 2017, when Lara Simmons of Bristol, Wisconsin, bought a Quarter Horse mare in an online auction.

“She was 2 years old and had been started, but the owners found out she had an (osteochondritis dissecans) lesion and needed surgery,” Lara says. “She had the surgery in April 2017 and was laid up for several months. When I bought her, they said she was ready to go back to a job but had been turned out in the pasture in Oklahoma and was fat and fuzzy.”

Lara Simmons named this foal Completelyunexpected, aka "BOGO," after the foal's unexpected arrival. (Credit: Amy Dotzler Ellis)


The mare arrived at Lara’s place in October 2017 and was, indeed, fat and fuzzy.

“So we started getting her conditioned and put her on a bit of a diet,” Lara says. “She’s a dark brown mare and, because our horses have alcohol-themed barn names, we nicknamed her ‘Kahlua.’”

Four months later, Lara and her husband were in Tennessee to pick up another horse that Lara had purchased.

“We had decided to make a long weekend of it, and we were getting ready to go to the Grand Ole Opry when I received a call from my friend Luann, who was farm sitting for me,” Lara says. “She asked, ‘Is Kahlua supposed to have a foal? Because there is a foal in her stall.’ ”

Yep, Lara’s little 2-year-old mare had the equivalent of teenage pregnancy. 

“She had this baby all by herself, even with a sheet on,” Lara says. “When they found the baby, he was several hours old, up and nursing, and everything was fine.”

So, of course, Lara gave him the registered name Completelyunexpected. His barn name, an exception to Lara’s alcohol theme, became “BOGO,” aka Buy One Get One. She adds that the previous owners didn't know Bogo's dam was pregnant when they sold her, as the mare had been staying at another facility. 

Later in 2018, Lara bought another 2-year-old mare in an online auction.

“In January 2019, I told my husband that I thought she was pregnant, and he told me that it was virtually impossible that I could buy two horses in two different years from two different owners and have them both end up pregnant as 2-year-olds,” Lara says, laughing. “In April, I pointed out that the ‘merely chubby’ mare was starting to bag up. My hubby had the vet out to check her. The vet stuck his arm in there and said, ‘Yep, there’s a leg!’

“I laughed at my hubby for days,” Lara says. 

That foal was born in May 2019 and was nicknamed “Freebie.” Lara would like to register his name as something like What Are The Odds.

“Because what are the odds that I buy two horses in two different online auctions in two different years and they arrive pregnant?,” Lara asks.

We loved Lara’s story when we saw her post on Facebook. She had some great ideas about naming.

But how can she and other members find out whether they can use the name What Are The Odds?

Using AQHA's 'Research Foal Names' Tool

We’ve got some great advice and a cool tool. AQHA has registered more than 5 million horses since the 1940. It can feel like a daunting task to choose a name for your foal with so many names already taken, which is why AQHA developed the Research Foal Name tool:  

Step 1: Go to

Step 2: Under the Ownership section, click Research Foal Names. 

Step 3: Log into your AQHA account. If you do not have an AQHA account, learn how to create one here.


Step 4: Check name availability. 

Step 5: If a name is not available, click Reset to check another name. 

What Happens When a Name Is Already Used

We checked on What Are The Odds and found out that the name belongs to a 1998 chestnut gelding by Runaway Winner and out of Merri Kismet by Merridoc. He was bred by LP Racing of Wittmann, Arizona, and is owned by Ernesto Soto of El Paso, Texas. With that name already in use, Lara can’t use it, but we found a few other options that are available:

  • What R The Odds
  • What Are The Odds 19
  • What Are My Odds

AQHA Naming Rules

The Research Foal Name tool can be fun to play with, but keep in mind the AQHA naming rules. An American Quarter Horse can be named anything you like. Although many people prefer to, you are not required to name your AQHA foal according to pedigree.

  • The name cannot be longer than 20 characters (this includes blank spaces and numbers and is simply because AQHA computer systems are not programmed to allow more)
  • Spacing matters. (Example: The name What Are The Odds is taken. That means Whataretheodds is also not available.)
  • Arabic numerals (1234 … and so on) are permitted at the end of a name, so long as there is a space between the name and number placed on the end.
  • Punctuation marks are not permitted (so if you are looking at DASHS DIGIT, there is no apostrophe in the word ‘dashs’ because it is not allowed per AQHA rules).
  • Keep the name clean. (We do attempt to red flag anything that seems inappropriate.)
  • You have to have written permission from celebrities to give your horse their names, even if that celebrity is dead, such as John Wayne. 

Reusing an American Quarter Horse's Name

Sometimes, a name can be reused. Let’s check to see whether Lara could use the name What Are The Odds as a rename using the following rules:

  • The horse cannot have any offspring with a performance record (show or race).
  • The horse must be deceased, and that must be reported by the current record owner of the horse.
  • The horse cannot have competed in any AQHA event. (This confuses many people. By "not competed," we mean cannot ever have raced, even if it came in dead last, and cannot ever have even set foot in the ring of an AQHA show.)
  • The horse cannot have earned a special achievement award. (The AQHA Horseback Riding Program is considered an award/achievement on the horse’s part, so those names cannot be reused. AQHA Incentive Fund or Challenge nominations are not considered awards/recognition, so that name could be reused so long as the horse – as stated above – was never shown or raced.)
  • The horse cannot have any produce or get younger than 10 years of age, and the horse’s produce or get cannot have received any of those awards/achievements or special recognitions.

Let’s check them off, one by one: What Are The Odds is a gelding, and he has no offspring. It’s looking good, Lara!

But the next two conditions disqualify the name: What Are The Odds is an older horse, but he’s still alive. And he has raced! In 24 starts, he had a top speed index of 104 and won six of those races, earning $38,311 on the racetrack. So the name What Are The Odds will never be available. It belongs to a pretty good racehorse. But as we said earlier, there are still plenty of names for Lara to choose, including Freebie.

Changing a Horse's Name

Now let’s imagine that Lara sells her Freebie, but the next owner – who paid good money for the horse – doesn’t like the name Freebie. Owners can change their horses’ names as long as:

  • The horse did not compete in any AQHA event (show or race – same as reusing.)
  • The horse didn’t earn a special achievement award. (See the AQHA rulebook.)
  • The horse didn’t earn any money or award with an AQHA affiliate as shown on AQHA records.
  • The horse didn’t ever appear on any breeding document submitted to AQHA or have any registered offspring. (This means that if the horse is a mare, said mare cannot even have been on a breeding report – even if the breeding was five years ago and didn’t result in a foal.)

Owners who want to change a horse’s name can send AQHA the horse's original certificate of registration, a signed statement requesting the change and your name choices. You may send one name choice or 10. Just be sure to number them. One is your favorite, two the second favorite and so on. The fee for name change is $100 ($155 if your membership is not current). And, before you ask, yes, you can send a name change request with your transfer when you purchase the horse, and we’ll take care of you!

Planning for Next Breeding Season: Stallion Directory

AQHA's online stallion directory,, is a trusted source of data for both mare and stallion owners. 

  • Data is fully vetted before it's posted.
  • Go-to site for pedigrees, performance records, photos, videos.
  • Make successful mare-stallion crosses using the nicking tools.

Use the Stallion Locator to find stallions near you. Learn more about QStallions.comlist your stallion or visit the site at