The Essential Fergus - the life and times of the world’s most popular cartoon equine by Jean Abernethy

Fergus was originally created in the late 1990's he is a bay horse with four white socks, a blaze and curiously expressive Google eyes. He is famous the world over in print as well as on tee shirts and other merchandise, but it is Facebook where he has the greatest impact, amassing hi depress of thousands of followers. Now in recognition of his growing fan club Abernethy has amassed this beautifully illustrated book features her best loved cartoons and some new ones created just for the book which will be familiar to his fans plus some new ones.


This book, surely the first of many features a foreword by Australian horseman, bush poet and international entertainer, Guy McLean.  Guy and his horses have achieved national acclaim in Australia over the past 15 years and his talented horses (especially Nugget) have had their names chanted in front of 20 000 people at Royal shows such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide shows, as well as Guy’s favourite, The Brisbane Ekka, where for the last nine years Guy and his team have performed in front of well over a million people. They are currently based in Texas where he is following his dream of performing worldwide.  As McLean says of the book and its larger than life superstar, “Fergus, transcends the gap between adult based wit and childlike humour.  Each horse, like Fergus has its  own individual wit, character, attributes and show the same kind of self that he exhibits.”


Jean Abernethy has been producing equestrian related drawings, portraits and cartoons for more than 30 years. She has illustrated several books and instructional articles, technical know-how drawings and diagrams. The book begins with a thank you to Santa for bringing Jean her first pony, an early demonstration both of Jean’s wit and deep and life-long love of horses.  


Those who know Fergus will undoubtedly be keen to know more about the amazing woman who created Equus Hilarious, aka Fergus. In the early pages of the book we learn how the author became the horse woman she is today, written  in an easy to read style, Abernethy tells the readers about her first pony, brought by Santa, Dusty. Once Jean outgrew Dusty she bought, with her own savings, a very green weaning colt, as she says in the text the two youngsters taught each other.


As well as telling the reader about the horses in her life Jean lays bare her frustration with teaching herself to draw, copying every illustration in the school books she could find. At school Jeans most used exercise book was the one used for sketching - always horses. She sketched constantly, exploring and experimenting with drawing - horses of course.  In her drawings Jean stove to perfect both anatomy and a comical way of drawing.


After school she enrolled on an Equestrian related course in the Humber college in Ontario, Canada, which she loved, but still the artist in her was fighting to come out. Eventually as is its way fate took a hand and she was given a commission to do some illustrations for her tutor’s career projects. Eventually Jean gave in and shifted to an art degree at Ontario College of art.


During her time there Jean learned all about the various mediums available to artists and began to develop her skills.  While at college Jean sold equine related comics and illustrations.  The book shows some of Jeans early illustrations, even as a novice artist her skill at drawing cartoons is clearly obvious.  


In the early 90s Jean’s comics strips began to appear in some horse publications  in the United States and Canada around which time she began to draw a horse with big googly eyes which she named Fergus thinking that the U could be switched with a horse shoe for the title of the cartoon when it appeared in magazines.


It was when social media arrived that in 2012 Fergus found his way onto Facebook and was exposed to the whole world. Fans began to contact Jean saying how much Fergus reminded them of their own horses, something, Jean says could not be a higher complement.


One of the early drawings that graced the front of a teeshirt was a fledgling version of Fergus dragging a handler. Fergus is saying “You can lead a human to knowledge but you can’t make it think!”  Something very true, from a horse’s point of view and one that gives a clear demonstration of Fergus and his attitude to life.


In this first treasury, Fergus is accompanied by a whole parade of other horses and ponies, from Jean’s work who have the same wry sense of humour in regard to mankind as Fergus. There is Grace, the pony, Hugh, the Clydesdale, Ditto the foal, Dottie the Appaloosa mare, Kase the Friesian and Art the Paint horse all whose attitude to life will make reader’s smile as they see their own horse’s attitude. There is also a cast of humans who are the unwitting victims of Fergus’s keen and enthusiastic educational style.


The book is divided into sections, grouping together some of Jean and her fan’s favourite cartoons.


‘The Ridden Word,’ features a huge selection of hilarious comic strips featuring riding including many about horses spooking and not standing to be mounted, all of which, we learn from Fergus are a horse’s way of training the rider to pay attention to them. Fergus’s look of wide eyed amazement when he finds his rider on the ground yet again is priceless and one that will be familiar to many riders as they hit the deck.


‘The Flies Have It’ is a section on the bothersome life of horses plagued by flies. One particularly brilliant one shows Fergus’s rider showing him an article in a magazine about fly control, Fergus, in his wisdom tells her that the flies aren’t reading the magazine articles.


‘Horse Wisdom’  is an hilarious look at the horses’ take on life. Their view on the comings and goings of the  humans who care for them and the fences and locked doors that are meant to contain them is one that really will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time around horses.


‘Barn Smarts’ features horse related quips, including the reviewer’s personal favourite where Fergus is used as a bulletin board. The child’s mum spends so much time at the barn her daughter writes a message on Fergus as it is the only place she knows it will be seen.


‘Sweet Companions’ are words of wisdom from the horses as they chat to a whole host of barn animals and pets.


‘Wonderland’ covers what the herd gets up to when the ground is snow covered.

Jean Abernethy clearly knows her horses and their humour. This entertaining book will doubtless hit a note with many riders who try to juggle home life and horses.  The book is lively and colourful that will entertain anyone with an eye for a horse. It can be read through at a single sitting, or dipped into at will where the reader will always find something to giggle at. This book is highly recommended, although it’s the wrong time of year now, this would be a perfect stocking filler for Christmas or a wonderful birthday present for anyone who has any contact with their own Equus Hilarious. 


by Jacqui Broderick of Lavender & White Publishing

To purchase a copy please visit Quiller Publishing