In the lyrics of the Christmas song, Jingle Bell Rock (lyrics) is the phrase Giddyup, jingle horse, kick up your feet,” and I wondered what exactly a jingle horse was, as I’d never heard it anywhere else. It sounded to me like a mean name you’d call a reindeer, like perhaps one of the names the other reindeer called Rudolph.
I was first alerted to the term by the podcast Dynamic Banter (nsfw language) about it when the hosts joked about it briefly and even tried looking it up themselves with little success.
After asking around, and finding this article to confirm, it turns out a jingle horse is a special horse that is used to round up all of the other horses that were left to graze.
By tradition, no man could eat breakfast until the horses were fed first, so it was the task of typically a new person to the camp to ride out in the early morning to round up the horses, who each wore a little bell so you could find them easier in the darker hours of the morning. If you were the lucky new guy to round them up, you were assigned “to jingle” the horses back to camp.
There was one specific horse that was kept at camp, however, that the person tasked with jingling duty would ride out to find the others, and that horse was called the jingle horse =)