“Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
While Juliet claimed that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” I concur with Treebeard that “real names tell you the story of the things they belong to,” and one grows into one’s name. Words have power. They are transformative. Anyone who has been exposed to verbal abuse and constant negativity can attest to this. The inverse is also true, which means that what you consistently speak over people matters. This is why I believe that choosing meaningful names for your children is so important. I must admit to being perplexed by some of the odd names celebrities have chosen for their babies. I mean who wants to grow up into a Bear Blu, Harper Seven, Pilot Inspektor, or Jermajesty!
When we chose to breed Comanche Ladyhawke, an Appaloosa mare at our barn, to Nimipoo Grandslam, an Appaloosa/Thoroughbred cross, we had no idea of the scale of the commitment we were undertaking. Breeding your own foal is a romantic notion. You have a nice-looking mare. You think what fun it would be to have a baby to raise. You find out that stud fees aren't as expensive as you imagined. And so, you think, “Why not?”
Why not, indeed! I have learned a couple of things in our foray into the world of horse breeding and the first of these is this - it will turn out to be far more costly than you imagined. A foal is a long-term investment. From pregnancy to backing will take at least 3 to 4 years. Aside from the stud fee, you will also have to pay to board your mare at the stud barn for a couple of months while she is bred (once bred she cannot be moved until the embryo has taken). Next come the vet bills for both mom and baby, and babies are notoriously good at injuring themselves! Your mare will need at least two ultrasounds, one on day 28 (to confirm the heartbeat) and one on day 42 (to ensure that she is not carrying twins), and a postpartum checkup (assuming nothing goes wrong). Finally add in the extra feed costs - alfalfa, high quality mare and foal grain, and supplements (for the mare during pregnancy and lactation, and for the foal through his first year of growth) - and you will likely never see a return on your investment!
Having considered all of the above, it remains true that there is magic in watching a new life full of unknown potential come into the world. I discovered our little miracle at 5am as he unsteadily tried to find his feet. The day before I had had a feeling that the time was drawing near and had prepped mom for the birth, laying a deep bed of straw in her loose box to ensure that the little guy had a comfortable place to land. His only nod to his registered Appaloosa parents were faint speckles on his legs and split colored hooves, but to us, he was absolutely perfect in every way.
Like children, animal babies grow into their names. The Nez Pierce tribe (or Nimipoo as they call themselves) developed the Appaloosa breed. We chose to honor our colt’s heritage by registering him as Nimipoo Nighthawke.
However, his barn name, the name we hope he will grow up into, is Merlin. The Merlin falcon is a small compact brown bird with a speckled underbelly. Its small size belies its incredible tenacity, and it is counted amongst the fastest and most exceptional acrobatic aerial fighters to rule the sky. It is this power, courage, and athleticism that we hope will mark our beautiful boy and make him soar.