Naming Your AQHA Foal

Naming Your AQHA Foal

Learn the rules for naming an American Quarter Horse, plus how to reuse or change a horse's name.

mare and foal at crofoot ranch

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Editor's Note: article updated April 2, 2024

At AQHA, we're often intrigued about some of the names owners and breeders come up with for their American Quarter Horses. We’ve seen plays on words; made-up-on-the-spot-for-the-occasion names; we-must-have-let-that-one-slip names; cliché names; and the ever-popular pedigree names. We chuckle as we wonder, “How in the heck did they think of that?” 
What and how an American Quarter Horse can be named is a common question. AQHA does have rules that tend to change from time to time regarding naming a horse. We’ll explain these rules, plus tell you how to change your horse’s name if you decide you don’t like it or didn’t pick it in the first place. Check out the  AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations for a complete look at AQHA rules and regulations. 

Rules for AQHA Horse Names

  • You can choose a name so long as it meets AQHA naming rules and polices. 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.  

  • 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 and in good taste. (We do attempt to red flag anything that seems inappropriate.) 

  • You must have written permission from John Wayne to name your horse John Wayne. (The same goes for every celebrity.) 

  • Keep in mind that AQHA has the right to reject any name if it does not meet AQHA naming rules and policies. 

Now you know the basics when looking to name your AQHA foal. If you have a name in mind, and you're a current AQHA member, you can login to Member Services and use our Research Foal Name tool located in the Horse Research menu. If you're not a member, join or renew  to take advantage of this and other awesome tools and benefits available to you as an AQHA member. You can also contact AQHA Member Services to have a name researched. 
Keep reading to find out how to reuse a name that is taken and how to change a name you don't like. 

Reusing a Name

  • 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-approved 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-approved show.) 

  • The horse cannot have any offspring and cannot have appeared on any breeding documents filed with AQHA. 

  • 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 the name 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.) 

That seems like a lot of exceptions, but we see a lot of names that are eligible for reuse. With more than 6 million horse names in our database, you're bound to come across one if you need to! 

Changing a Horse’s Name

Now, have you ever purchased an American Quarter Horse, looked at his certificate and went bug-eyed at his name? Drove away with your new horse in tow wondering how on earth you are going to take a horse called "Pick My Booger" to a show and live through it? No boogie! Er, we mean biggie. Just change his name! 

  • The horse cannot have competed in any AQHA-approved event (show or race – same as reusing.) 

  • The horse cannot have earned a special achievement award. (See the AQHA Handbook.) 

  • The horse cannot have earned any money or award with an AQHA affiliate as shown on AQHA records. 

  • The horse cannot have ever appeared on any breeding document submitted to AQHA or have any registered offspring. (This means that if said 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.) 

If you want to change your horse’s name, send us the horse's original certificate of registration and 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!