“Today our ‘Feel Good Sunday’ post deals with the naming or renaming a horse or an animal companion. Terry and I have always subscribed to the principle that when we adopt a critter, their name comes with them. (Hence huge MOOSE who I may have called Dozer or Tank) But things changed several months ago when Terry brought in a male cat that had been living in the woods on our property. (He is fixed, now, and has had cosmetic surgery to repair a damaged eye) When I came home from a month overseas, and this is when cats, dogs and animals usually find their way into our home, Terry introduced me to her latest rescue; a 15 lb male cat that she named Rusty. Rusty?
What kind of a name is that for a male cat that lives in a house of female cats? So I was granted a hall pass and allowed to RENAME him…TANK. And he is all of that, my buddy when I am home laying between my legs in the easy chair; we two dudes hang out and prove that size does matter. So both he and I are glad to have changed his name…but when it comes to a horse, that is a matter of another color.
(Remember, this story comes from the UK and the home of Monty Python so it is a tad tongue-in-cheek) Keep the faith! ~ R.T.
Last month, Brian briefly became the most infamous animal in Britain
“Why the long face, Brian?” I ask my interviewee.
He snorts and gives me a dirty look.
But that’s because he is a horse, annoyed that I haven’t brought him a Polo mint, and getting a bit fed up with being the centre of attention.
Last month, Brian briefly became the most infamous animal in Britain, and The Stables Equestrian Centre in Bedfordshire was inundated with requests to meet him from as far afield as Australia.
Harry Wallop pictured with Brian (David Rose/Telegraph)
It was not his impressive physique that caused a stir. He is a rather magnificent Shire-cross, 17.2 hands tall, with a powerful kick, as I discovered when I visited him this week.
No, the problem was what he was called.
Brian is a perfectly decent name, but one so mundane that it verges on the comical. There have never been kings, popes or prime ministers called Brian. Monty Python chose it at the least likely moniker for a Messiah.
This came to a head when Brian was sent to the Thames Valley Police mounted section on a six week trial. The police declared that his name would be changed if he passed his probation period. Brian would be scrapped and replaced with a “more fitting name” relating to war or a deity.
The current stable of TVP horses are called Samson, Caesar, Pagan, Mallory, Albert, Trojan, Odin, Thor and Luna. Brian may have ancient Irish and Norman roots but it was considered not martial enough.
Jo Samuel-Blackstock, 39, Brian’s owner, told me: “If you are stood in a football riot, and you’re trying to push the crowd back, you can’t say ‘come on, Brian’ or ‘come on Dobbin’. They want something that sounds hard or authoritative. That’s what Thames Valley said — they needed a strong name. Like Hercules.”
The Brians of the world were appalled and petitions (naturally) were started.
Brian had not been named by Samuel-Blackstock; she bought him from a dealer and it was the name on his pet passport. “I was always told it was bad luck to change a horse’s name,” she says.
The row – which involved the Thames Valley Police having to put out a statement denying they had ever said Brian was a “sissy’s” name — shed light on Britain’s strange relationship with animals. And the even stranger way they go about naming their horses.
As it happened, Brian failed his police exam and he had to return to his stables with his tail, literally and metaphorically, between his legs.
When I visit, Dan Barnes, a local three-day eventer, is riding Brian to see if the horse can cut it as a show jumper.
“He’s a Brian,” Barnes says categorically. He too thinks it is bad luck to change a name, “however silly it is”.
He should know. He often has to ride a horse called Butterfly Twinkle.
“Was it named by an over-excited 6-year-old girl?” I ask.
“No, that’s what makes it worse. It was done by some lads. Can you imagine stepping into the ring and being announced as Dan Barnes on Butterfly Twinkle?”
Samuel-Blackstock is only half joking when she suggests Brian’s putative name change might be partly the reason why he couldn’t cut it with the police. That and having to stay in the TVP stables surrounded by tower blocks. “He’s a country boy. I can’t see him being a Hercules in Milton Keynes. Deep down it might have disturbed him emotionally. He is Brian. Through and through.”
But despite what she, Barnes and most of the horse world think about changing names, it is an almost universal practice in police forces.
There may have been a drastic reduction in mounted policing, but there are still 12 police forces that keep horses. And, according to Daily Telegraph research, of the 252 animals in operation, just the eight kept by South Wales have kept their names, which might explain why its stable contains Max, Charlie and George…(CONTINUED)