Sometimes I’m a little slow. While my wife and I were watching Dances with Wolves for the third time, I turned to her and said, “Oh, I get it! It’s his name!” She just looked at me and shook her head. I don’t know. Maybe my mind was elsewhere the first couple of times. I’ve always had a problem with peoples’ names anyway.
Horse names are a little easier for me. I think it’s because people pick colorful and impressive names for their horses. Like “Mashallah Almalik” or “Blue Spruce Apollo.” Some people go a little overboard and end up with something that looks more like a sentence than a name. Like “Mr. Diamond Contender From Montego Bay.” Lazy people who try to give their horses long, impressive names usually end up with nothing but a string of totally unrelated words. Like “Hesa Paso El Ahab Big Sir Mister Sea Biscuit.” Get enough names like that on a horse’s pedigree chart and you’ve got some mighty interesting reading. And no room for notes.
Some people believe that the name you choose for your horse says a great deal about you as a person. For instance, my daughter Jamie named her new Morgan “Mekong Breeze” and calls him “Eddie” for short. Mekong Breeze is the name of a mixed drink. It’s also a name of a song by the Refreshments. This indicates that my daughter is an alcoholic who likes good music. Getting “Eddie” from “Mekong Breeze” suggests mild brain damage. Poor kid.
All kidding aside, I don’t think what you name your horse says much about what kind of person you are. How you treat people means a great deal more. It’s the content of your character and the way you conduct yourself that determines your value as a human being. That and cool clothes.
Jamie and I have long debated whether or not a horse actually knows its own name. She says they do, I say they don’t. She says I don’t know what I’m talking about. I say she’s crazy. She says she’s forgotten more about horses, than I’ll ever learn. I say she’s half-right. She asks if I’ve seen Dances with Wolves lately. I shut up.
I don’t care. I’m pretty sure that if you have a group of horses standing together and you holler one of their names, that particular horse will NOT show any special sign of recognition. This is not to say that if a horse sees you standing there and you call his name, he won’t come. But don’t be deceived into believing that the horse is thinking, “Gosh, he called my name! I’ll go to him! I’m just like a dog!” Be assured that his only thought as he trots up to the fence is: “hay, hay, hay, hay …”
Just because horses ignore the names we give them, doesn’t mean they don’t have names. Maybe we’re just calling them by the wrong names. Maybe horses already have names before we try to force one on them. Maybe they give each other names, like “Dumb Brown Horse” or “Big Mean One” or “Little Fellow We Like to Pick On.” Or perhaps they have simple names like “Bill Anderson” or “Bob Johnson” or “Sue
It’s possible that we aren’t giving horses enough credit here. Perhaps the names they give one another are more poetic. I don’t mean poetic as in names that rhyme like “Ed Dead Head” or “Delores the Horse” or “Sam I Am from Vietnam.” I mean the same way Native peoples’ names are poetic. You know like “Runs With Bears” and “Soars With Eagle” and “Jogs With Turtle” and “Kevin Costner.”
Of course Native peoples’ names are more than just poetry; they can also be very descriptive (sometimes they can be a bit misleading, as well - from what I saw, Costner’s character should’ve been called “Gets Knocked Down by Wolves”. If I could apply some of these more descriptive names to some of the not so nice horses I’ve known, we could have had “Chomps on Fingers” and “Pees on Foot” and “Meaner N’ Hell” and “Doesn’t Load on Tuesdays” and “Loves Children But Will Save You the Leftovers.” The good horses I would have named “I’m Not for Sale” and “Stays in Pasture” and “Happy with Cheap Grain” and “Lifts Foot for Farrier” and “Bob.”