Home News The Thelwell Pony turns 70!

The Thelwell Pony turns 70!


Learn all about how the Thelwell Pony came to life

Norman Thelwell, the creator of the ‘Thelwell Pony’, loved drawing and painting from a young age – in particular, countryside-based cartoons. But when he drew his first pony cartoon for a British magazine in 1953, he had no idea of the impact it was about to have.

Where it all began

In his autobiography, reflecting on this time, Norman said: “One day, I drew a pony, and it was like striking a sensitive nerve. The response was instantaneous. People telephoned the editor and asked for more. Suddenly, I had fan mail! So, the editor told me to do a two-page spread on ponies and I was appalled. I thought I’d already squeeze the subject dry. I looked at the white drawing block and wondered what on earth to do. In the end, I dreamt up some more horsey ideas and people went into raptures!”

And that’s exactly how the Thelwell Pony was born. Norman’s inspiration for his pony illustrations came from his home in Staffordshire where he lived next to a field containing two small, fat and hairy ponies that were, as he recalled, “owned by two little girls about three feet high”.

As he discovered his calling for funny equestrian cartoons, Normal Thelwell developed a cartoon strip about a particular pony-mad young lady (named after his daughter, Penelope) and her cheeky pony, Kipper.

A cause for celebration

Today [3 May 2023] marks the 100th anniversary of Norman’s birth and, throughout the year, his children, David and Penny, are celebrating the occasion – as well as the Thelwell Pony turning 70 – with exhibitions and republications of his books!

Penelope Rides Again is one of Norman’s most popular books and it was republished at the end of 2022. It follows the story of Thelwell’s pint-sized equestrian getting back in the saddle (or, more frequently, out of it) as she braves both showgrounds and countryside with the unruly Kipper.

Entertainment for all

For years to come, the Thelwell stories will continue to teach readers to pick themselves up after a fall, no matter how hard, and be able to laugh about it. We can all relate to the illustrations of headstrong Shetlands taking an unplanned wander or jumping the route least expected, which shows that the rider’s unconditional love for their pony can never be outgrown or forgotten.

Discover more at thelwell.org.uk

Image © The Thelwell Estate 2023


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