It took me several days to figure out what to call my third foal of the year. My first two foals were named fairly quickly, within in a day or so of their birth. The third one, though, took me longer than usual. In part it was because he was born just two days after the previous one, and I had my hands full taking care of all the new life. And then there was the fact that the third foal chose not to nurse for nine hours after birth, so for those first critical hours my thoughts were centered more on keeping him alive than what to call him.
When I name my foals, I try to choose a name that is reasonably consistent with Fell Pony naming practices. Because I regularly peruse the stud books of the Fell Pony Society, I have become aware of what those naming practices are by watching how other breeders, especially long time ones, name their ponies.
Fell Pony names typically have two parts: the prefix and the name. In most cases, prefixes are related to the breeder’s location in some way. My prefix, for instance, is Willowtrail. Willow trees/shrubs/bushes (and their close relatives such as cottonwoods) grow along water in this part of the world. Water is an incredibly vital resource here, so I am always watching where it flows. Often willows are clues to where there is water, even if you can't see the water on the surface. So willows mark the trail of water, hence Willowtrail!
Somewhere I once read that pony names need to be limited to three words following the prefix. I can’t find that rule in any regulation now, but generally speaking, names are simple. Often they are names that people also might have: Tom, Alice, etc. Or they are about landscape features: Heather, Mountain, etc. I ran across a series of foal names from one breeder that were Caraway, Cardamom, and Chervil, which I found delightful since I also love to cook! Sometimes themes are combined, such as Heather Belle or Mountain Lad. Or names are somehow descriptive of a pony’s character, whether actual or fictional, such as Ranger or Warrior or Jester. Or names are repeated from ponies-past in the pedigree: Prince II or Model IV, for instance. Some breeders choose to name all their foals in a given year with a common first letter: Lily, Liz, and Lancelot for instance. And some breeders choose names that don’t follow any of these conventions!
I consider naming my foals an important part of my responsibility as a breeder. Because I use their names every time I see them, the foals learn to recognize their names. Therefore I try to choose names that subsequent owners will want to use so the ponies aren’t confused by name changes. To try to give the names lasting power in the human realm, then, I try to choose names that have meaning for that particular pony. As a result, there’s a story behind every name, a story which I enjoy sharing with new owners to introduce them to the wonderful world of Fell Ponies!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2019
More stories about Fell Pony culture can be found in my book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding, available internationally by clicking here or on the book cover.