A Horse by Any Other Name

Names of characters are important, and names of villages and houses. And almost every Regency Hero rides a horse. Or several horses. (http://rakehell.net/article.php?id=152&Title=Regency-Horses) I’m currently listening to Diane Gabaldon’s Lord John stories, and in the second one he has a beautiful and intelligent horse named Carolus.

I read Black Beauty as a youth, and stuck on the name of his brother, Rob Roy. And later the pony Merry Legs made me smile. I loved lots of horse books after that, the whole Black Stallion series, My Friend Flicka (TV series and movie, too) and Stormy.

I also loved stories where a horse was a character, even if the book or tv show wasn’t about the horse in particular. Silver from the Lone Ranger, Trigger from Roy Rogers, and a host of others. Even Mr. Ed drew me in as a loyal viewer.

Now when I read a Regency, I am always interested in what the hero’s horse is named. It seems important, because as a writer I learned never to give a character a name unless he or she is important to the story.

In my early work in progress, with the working title of The Mouse and Miles, but probably going to be submitted with the title The Viscount’s Mouse, his horse is very important due having been injured badly through the stupidity of a rider, and the means of bringing the horse back to complete health. This is a very important key to the whole plot.

I love thoroughbred horse names, and for a while my friends and I in High School would bet on the races using tokens one of the friends made and the daily paper which showed the horses in the race that day and the winners from the day before. We always looked for special horse names, like Star Something.

Different breeds of horses were, of course, bred for different tasks. But blood horses were how the animals were categorized. (http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/the-english-blood-horse/)

We are lucky these days that Wikipedia has a great list of names of horses from history, from literature, from movies and television. The list is amazing. But not everyone can have a horse named Bucephalus. How about Hot Spur? Eight Bells? Ajax? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_horses

Lots of names come from the look or personality of the horse, for example: Flair, Blue Skin, Paloma, Chaos, Ruffian. I think Scoundrel would be a great name for a noble steed. Great figures in history lend their names easily to horses, Cortez, Khan, Attila, Hannibal, Senator, Tiberius, Bloodaxe. Native American Indian tribe names also work, Cherokee, Iroquois, Comanche, as well as Scout, and Warrior. Some tribe names might not work. Like Secwepemc.

The world around us is used frequently, in Storm Cat, Cloud, Eclipse, Tempest, Thunder, Lightning, Fair Sun, Comet, Moon Dance. Birds that are swift show up, too, in Lark, Sparrow, Falcon, Sparhawk.

Mares need names as well, and good candidates include Silk, Easy, Gypsy, Hera, and Juno. Ponies usually have cutesy names like Tuppence, Acorn, Whisky, Kelpie, Sugar, and Sassy. Big horses were used as draft and work horses, with names like Sampson, Goliath, Orion, and Rex.

Last year, a good friend of mine who heads Chivalry Today (https://www.facebook.com/ChivalryToday) came to talk to the Romance Writers of America, San Diego Chapter, on what a knight wore and rode. He established the fact that a knight would have several horses. A smooth-gaited mount for travel, a sturdy horse for combat, and various others for hunting or other leisure activities. While many of us love to picture a knight in shining armor on a Friesan (http://www.horsechannel.com/horse-breeds/profiles/friesian-horse-horse-breed.aspx), but in fact the destrier (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destrier) probably resembled an Irish Draught, a lighter horse for work or riding. (http://www.irishhorsegateway.ie/dashboard/buyers/irish-horse-breeds/irish-draught/)

My thoughts now about a hero or heroine is that he or she would have had more than one horse, if the income was there to stable them. Horses are present in Jane Austen’s writings as a large expense, not just for the cost of feeding the beast (eating their heads off is a common phrase in Regency romances to discribe horse being kept without being used over much) but also for the pay of the stable hands to groom, exercise, clean up after, and saddle. Then there’s the farrier and the tiger and all other types of people to keep the animal healthy. (tiger: http://candicehern.com/regencyworld/regency-glossary-general-terms/)

Probably the subject I have had to research the most about horses is the speed they can travel. So I keep Kristen Koster’s page with this information bookmarked. (http://www.kristenkoster.com/2011/01/regency-era-horse-sense/)

Let’s imagine you live in Regency England, and you have just been gifted with a mount. What kind would you hope for? And what name would you give your present? Hope to find your answers in the comments! Have a great week!

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