What’s in a name?

Sometimes, especially in the Pryors, there seems to be unnecessary drama surrounding what to name the new foals. There’s a lot of people in the community, and everyone wants their name to be the one. I get it, foaling season is an exciting time, but unless it’s a question of the sensitivity of the name, I don’t see much reason to get worked up about the outcome. I think part of being a strong advocate is evolving one’s views, so here’s the evolution of naming horses in the Pryors.
I’m not sure of the exact timeline prior to 2000, but there wasn’t an organized way of naming horses. Some of the first horses documented in the Pryors either didn’t have names, or given numbers. There’s even a handful of older horses currently in the range where their parentage isn’t fully known.
Starting in 2000, the Billings BLM and Mustang Center started giving the foals names that corresponded to the alphabet. Horses in 2000 were given names starting with A, this year foals are given names starting with R. It’s good in theory, names are easier to remember than numbers, but not every group was on the same page with the system. Sometimes, the horses got separate names by the Mustang Center and The Cloud Foundation. The Cloud Foundation has a special connection to those horses related to Raven, and thus wanted to give them fitting names.

Quanah and Halcyon

This is Halcyon’s 2016 colt Quanah.

Regardless of intentions, the double naming system was confusing to people following both pages. In more recent years, both advocacy groups have been working together to find the perfect name for the horses. There are always a few people who have their nicknames for the horses, and for some reason it seems like people are getting offended by the names more often. For those of you interested in naming a foal, here are some of the things I’ve noticed.
Who reported the foal?
The person who reported the foal gets some say, but it’s never been guaranteed that their name will get used. There’s a lot of thought that goes into the name, so the Mustang Center and TCF get final veto power.
How Spanish is the name?
The horses are known for having a Spanish heritage, so some feel it’s important to honor that when naming foals. There are not a lot of herds that have that history, so it’s a nod to the conquistadors that reintroduced horses.
Native American Names
The Crow Native Americans have a reservation almost adjacent to the range. They also have a strong history with the horses. The goal is to honor that, although sometimes there’s a fine line between that and cultural appropriation.
How well does it connect to the foal’s lineage?
Not only is there an effort to keep track of birth years, there’s also an effort to make it easier to remember the sire and dam of each foal. It’s not 100% certain which stallion the sire is, but especially for rare bloodlines it’s a good way to make connections.

Norma Jean and Greta

Greta’s foals are given German names, or names of actors/actresses.

Does it fit the foal?
Even with all this in mind, it’s important to see the gender, and personality of the foal before naming it. Personally, I think there’s sometimes too much of a rush to name a foal. There was one year in particular that the foals had names, only for a handful of them to get changed. I’ve already mentioned the confusion of double names, so the easiest way to avoid confusion is to name them the right name the first time.


Sometimes names are given before it’s been confirmed if it’s a filly or colt. However, Outlaw is still a good fit.

Did you submit the name?
You’d think this would go without saying, but the Mustang Center might not know someone is interested in being part of the discussion if they don’t take initiative. Communication is a two-way street. It might be a good idea to submit the name while reporting the foal to avoid misunderstandings.
While it’s a bummer when names don’t get used, it’s only as dramatic as you make it. No one is ever going to convince me that the horses care what they get named. I think no matter how disappointing it is if someone’s name does not get used, it’s important to handle it with grace. There’s a point where we need to realize that a name is just a name. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: there are bigger things to worry about than what a horse is named. If we make names into a big deal, we risk perpetuating the stereotype that advocates are subjective, and can’t make appropriate management decisions.
To quote Shakespeare: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

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