is a very dangerous phrase.) Norman
Thelwell’s comedy continues to
remind us to throw out expectations
and take things lightly. Fergus (and his
herd of friends) and Thelwell’s pony
characters all reserve the right to
remain fundamentally equine. They
also reserve the right to question
human ‘authority’—especially when
it contradicts things fundamentally
What a legacy—to have helped generations of equestrians laugh, always
with gentle humor combined with
a great deal of insight and spot-on
expression. And what an inspiration,
that today demand continues for
Thelwell’s books and merchandise,
enough so that David now manages a
Facebook page devoted to the brand.
“I try to vary the content and put
up other subjects that were cov-
ered in my father’s thousands of
cartoons,” he says, “but it is always the
horsey ones that get a big reaction
and many lovely comments.”
Norman Thelwell’s influence is felt
in other ways, too. David is an artist
in his own right, having been gently
encouraged as a child, provided pens
and paint. He steers clear of eques-
trian subjects, though, and is moti-
vated instead by his lifetime love of
birds and nature.
And then, of course, there is Jean
Abernethy and Fergus the Horse.
“Sixty years from now,” she says, “I
would like someone somewhere, after
sitting out a disconcerting (monster-
in-the-grass) spook, to laugh and say:
‘My horse had a Fergus moment!’”
Surely many of us will still be
horse crazy and (therefore) in need of
money ... and a laugh. Chances seem
pretty good she’ll get her wish.
The special edition of Pony
Cavalcade celebrating the 60th
anniversary of Angels on Horseback
by Norman Thelwell is available now
from Trafalgar Square Books (www.
you guessed it—“a fat, hairy pony with a small child clinging to
its back and three red-faced ladies” urging it forward.
“The word ‘Thelwell’ has been transformed from an adjec-
tive into a noun,” agrees United States Eventing Association
Hall of Fame inductee Denny Emerson. “We used to say, ‘Look
at that Thelwell pony.’ Now, when we see a furball pony face, or a little kid flop-
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the original publication of Thelwell’s
first book, Angels on Horseback, and its comic depictions of pony breeds, the trials
of horse shopping, the challenges of show jumping, and the curiosities of hunting
remain entertaining to the nth degree. In addition, there is something inherently
comforting in knowing that, while we live in a world that is startlingly different
than the one Thelwell inhabited, and while surely the rural lifestyle he celebrated
in his artwork is threatened in many places, some things—no matter what else
changes—remain the same through time. Our infatuation with the horse contin-
ues to play out in its various odd and often hilarious ways. And although we’ve
learned quite a lot in the last 60 years, we can still immediately identify with the
same kinds of mistakes and general silliness that takes place when two different
species try so hard to communicate with each other.
“I think the humor is timeless,” says David Thelwell. “What applied to riding 50
years ago has barely changed, and the underlying human behavior hasn’t changed.”
Artist Jean Abernethy says something similar when asked about Thelwell’s
place in the world today, especially in light of the immense reach of contempo-
rary equine cartoon characters, like Fergus the Horse.
“Ponies still behave like ponies. And we still behave like humans,” she says.
“That is, we have expectations of what equines ‘should’ do for us. (‘You should’ © T H
Thelwell in his