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12 ‘Horse-a-scopes’ for Neddy. By JJ The Hoarse (cough!) Whisperer

Now for a little bit of horsey humour... Have a free laugh in the claustro covid corral, by reading these 12 horoscopes for horses, from Gemini to Taurus... Just scroll down... Horsing around, YOUR STARS!

Text by JJ the Hoarse Whisperer. With terrific horse-a-scope cartoons by Shan Shnookal:

                                                                 Gemini image

                                                                                          The Twins

Riding is like real estate - the three most important things about it are position, position and position. This month the stars are positioned in Gemini. Foals born under the sign of the Twins should be named after famous twins - Castor and Pollux, Romulus and Remus, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but we draw the line at a big boofy head of cabbage and Beethoven.

After the recent meteorite showers and the moon now creating strange interference patterns with Melbourne’s TV transmitters on Mount Dandenong, owners of Gemini horses should take the TV out of the stable or risk double vision for Neddy. Also beware of anything to do with pairs, such as two lane highways, hack class pairs at shows, two-up, and double whiskies. As a precaution, keep horses away from pears, though apples are OK.

Gemini horses, who are very fastidious, will find this a great time to shampoo and blow-dry the mane, fluff up the false tail, nugget the toenails, and have a quick clip and shave (especially the mares).

The Gemini life chart indicates your optimistic nature may cause you to bite off more than you can chew, but just be sure it’s not your rider, and a carrot is much tastier.

Love and luck are likely, in some form. Watch out for things happening in twos:  two of the same, two-bob each way on your mates, two’s company (but three’s a herd), and investments too good to be true.



Cancerians show great elegance, but also rare sensitivity bordering on what appears to be occult abilities. Consider that famous German gelding, Clever Hans, who gave answers to simple arithmetic problems by pawing the ground. Hans was thought to be an Equine Einstein. The truth is, Hans was able to read the body language of his audience. If he was asked to add 5 and 7, he would stop pawing at 12, when he observed the audience visibly relax. It was a cue for him. Did this make him less clever? No. It meant he was observant and sensitive: a supreme Cancerian. If your Cancerian Neddy is able to decipher “Horse Code”, don’t jump to conclusions. It might be a message on the NET (Neddy Ethereal Trunkline). It’s not psychic, but simply the hi-tech modern world. (Clever Hans had to make do with pointing to letters on a Ouija board, but modern horses can surf.) Neddy might be telling you the message is to reserve his next winter’s hay early, and increase his rations now, because of the continuing drought, not to mention Jupiter trine to the hayshed.

Some say Cancerians are shy creatures of habit, and there is truth in this. A crab is a shy creature, hiding under the same rock year after year; or scuttling out of sight beneath the breaking surf. But, like all of us, when given the chance to shine, Cancerians also enjoy the limelight. They can be entertaining and witty, and love to don a tuxedo for cocktail parties.

But unfortunately, many Cancerian horses have the idea that “Dressage” means the horse dressing up in formal gear and sipping martinis. The harsh truth they will have to accept, is that, for the moment (with the Sun in Uranus), Dressage continues to mean it is the rider who wears the top hat and tails!



                                                                                      The Lion

This month, big-hearted Leos may be struck by a generous insight. Consider what your rider does for you, and what she demands in return. Putting that Leo pride aside for a moment, a couple of hours a week wandering in circles is not too big a price to pay for a place to live, all you can eat, and your dental, medical and pharmaceutical bills paid. Also new shoes, haircuts, trips around the country, and the latest fashions in tailbags. Only the most meanest-spirited Neddy would contemplate getting out of an important competition by pulling a shoe in the dam, or nobbling their rider. (Bucking them off is an obvious way to do it, but a more subtle method is to take out their kneecap on a tree or fence post. Tip: if you do it with your ears pricked and your body soft, they’ll think it was an accident, and you won’t be blamed!)

But generous Leos may even feel a slight tinge of shame at stubbornly refusing to do a nice walk-trot transition, or trot over cavaletti, considering the coddling and care lavished upon Leos. And those particularly Pharlap-hearted examiners of their own conscience should not begrudge — and might even enjoy — that harmonious blend of wills when you’re not quite sure whether what you’re doing is what you want to do, or what your rider wants. In other words, idealism might be combined this month with a very strong sense of ‘what side your oatcake is buttered on’. With the sun high in mid-heaven, now is the time for you and your rider to form a beautiful partnership. For what is dressage, but a dance set to the music of hoof-beats?



                                                                                           The Maiden

With their nose for detail, and love of routine and order, Virgos excel at dressage. They particularly enjoy the beauty preparations for a big competition, and like to impress the judge with a fine French fragrance. Their attention to detail also makes them good at arithmetic, and they can often be heard mumbling their 10-times tables, particularly at this time of year. Why do they do this? Is it too much meditating under the full moon, or a difficult T-square between Pluto, Mars and the feed shed? No, it’s simply a matter of estimating energy efficiency. The spring grass is starting to come through, but most horses are still being fed hay, and the Virgo horse is calculating the variables thus: Is it worthwhile using energy to walk around the paddock seeking juicy green morsels? Does the kilojoule intake from grass exceed the expenditure required to acquire it? Or is it more energy-efficient to conserve metabolism, and stand around the gate all day, waiting for a handout?

The computations are quite complex. The steepness of the paddock must be taken into account, as must the length and nutritive value of the pasture, the wind-chill factor at the gate, and the tastiness of what’s on offer in the bucket. With their love of minutiae, Virgos are well equipped to make these complex calculations.

Also, although Virgos don’t show emotions easily, it’s not because they don’t feel them, but because the emotions may be hidden by an immaculate turnout, and buried beneath old hurts and grievances. Be assured, she will be pissed off for months if you don’t give her a bucket of oats after all those mumbled calculations!


                                                                 LIBRA September 24 -October 23 

                                                                 Libra pic

                                                                                      The Scales

Libra is the sign of the scales, or balances. The connotations are many: the scales of justice, fairness and weighing things up. Consider this: does a handful of carrots weigh more than a handful of apples? Either way, horse and rider should always be fair to each other. Remember, your Libra Neddy is something of a bush lawyer, and will soon weigh up all your unwritten contract with him. The rider should decide whether the horse is ready for a particular-sized jump, and the horse will consider whether the rider deserves to be thrown off at said jump. In other words, balance is of supreme importance for both parties. It’s not simply a matter of staying on. Consider Caligula, the mad Roman emperor who tried to make his favorite horse, Incitatus, the Consul of his empire. Was that balanced? Some equestrians might see the wisdom of filling Parliament House in Canberra with horses. Perhaps it would mean better decisions, greener pastures for all, not to mention environmentally-friendlier manure and much less of it!

This month, Libran riders born on even days of the month will continue on their usual spirit-level steady way, but those born on odd days are advised to sew a patch of Velcro onto their saddle, and another onto their jodhpurs, just to be sure. They should also avoid measuring sticks and weigh-bridges, though a visit to the local Magistrate’s Court could prove beneficial, particularly if Neddy has been reading the fine print. Otherwise, there is always carrot and stick, a fine balance indeed!


                                                                              SCORPIO October 24 - November

                                                    Scorpio windsucker 1

                                                                                              The Scorpion

Let’s face it, Scorpio, always the ‘dark horse’ of the Zodiac, has often been given a bad trot. Those born under this sign have huge appetites, and like strong flavours, not to mention intense and ‘edgy’ experiences, which can get them into lots of trouble. That horse you notice trying to bite the rail down to a toothpick, or sucking wind at the fence post… You know, the one with its eyes rolled back to the whites and legs slightly buckled, is almost certain to be a Scorpio. And, like scorpions, have quite a sting in their tails, er, back-kicking hooves.

But wind sucking and crib biting are just minor vices - just the beginning - for your average Scorpio equine. They will cleverly leave their oats out in the rain, then guzzle down the fermented brew. They also have a reputation for being oddly superstitious and relying on lucky charms (you’re wearing four horseshoes already - that should be enough!) They have a poisonous temper, but are prepared to wait years for the just the right moment (as you are heading towards that water jump or sunken coffin) to take their revenge for some old and forgotten wrong. (Forgotten by you, the rider, that is.) Dark, secretive, slightly paranoid, vengeful… Well, hay, no-one’s perfect!

In fact, Scorpios can sometimes be the kindest, most wonderful, funny, moderate and totally open spreaders of sweetness and light that you are ever likely to meet. Well, except in the breeding season, or when they have something to hide, or something they want. But, if you can curb their self-destructive appetites, they can do much good in the world and often have a strong sense of public service. So harness all that wild energy. The stars this month show that Scorpios should consider committee work, particularly at clubs and pubs. Great satisfaction and happiness will be achieved if you volunteer to wash spuds, or – better still – grate some apples, or grate a carrot or two (hundred).


                                                                         SAGITTARIUS November 23 - December 21

                                                                         Sagittarius 1

                                                                                          The Archer (Centaur)

“I shot an arrow in the air, where it lands I know not where.” This little rhyme could easily be the motto of Sagittarius, The Archer, who is always aiming high, always insisting that the poles in the jumping grid should be put up just one more notch. Who knows, indeed, where this might lead? Perhaps to the ultimate fields of glory at Badminton or the Olympics…? After all, aspiration is a wonderful thing, and one must at least dare to dream in order to win. But there is another side to the Sagittarius character that needs both careful watching and judicious management. ‘Look before you leap’ is another tried and tested saying, but unfortunately not one your typical Sagittarian is likely to heed, particularly those born with Uranus in Mid-Heaven.

Sagittarian Neddies, therefore, are strongly advised to make sure their landing will always be safe and secure. The alternative is to find yourself up to the withers in mud, (and your rider grounding you for a month). Daring, surprising and unconventional, this sign is also know for its love of quirky innovation. Don’t be surprised if you see the light in the shed on late at night, and go out to find Neddy tinkering there with balsa-wood wings and propellers. They simply like to experiment and try new approaches to old problems, to be modern and keep up with the times – or set new trends. There is simply no limits to the heights Sagittarians can reach. Just be sure to pack a parachute. Happy landings!


                                                                          CAPRICORN December 22 - January 20


                                                                                              The Goat

With December’s cosmic energy lighting up the Christmas tree, not to mention a few office parties and grog-blossom noses, this is a jolly good time to wax Capri-corny, by humming a few bars of ‘Neigh-el’ and wishing readers of this horse-a-scope a very Merry Christmas. And goodbye – so we must all hope! – to that claustrophobic corona corral. Yes, Capricorn has finally swung around, and we are all nibbling the mistletoe and quaffing champers again, at the end of a year we hope has been full of apples and rosettes for all Steady Neddies and their riders. Because Capricorn is nothing if not reliable – the epitome of the honest type, usually with big, kind eyes; so, hey – who are you calling a goat! A steady-as-she-goes-pot-hunter, without frills or tinsel, pretty well sums up the Capricorn temperament. But, riders, please…! Don’t take your honest Capricorn equine for granted, or assume this Neddy is a practical plodder without style or excitement. As Capricorn well knows, with that big heart and the faithfulness of a four-footed angel, this Neddy can hit the high notes with the best of them. So Cheers to all, and Seasons Greetings! May the Zodiac put rocket fuel in your stirrup cup as you rise ever higher in the saddle!



                                                                               The Water-Bearer

Now we are all enjoying the long, golden days of summer, it is time to prepare for the competition year ahead. Aquarius is a water sign, and you should be ready for those spooky water obstacles. Start with puddles then work your way up to plastic toddler pools. Some lucky Neddies will even be ridden along endless, white sand beaches, or taken for a bareback swim in the surf.

After tip-toe-ing into the shallow end, at last you are ready for cross-country events. But don’t neglect your rider. In the glorious Australian summer, there is ample time to teach her the finer points of water negotiation (swimming) by stopping dead at water jumps, out of a flat gallop! It’s a pretty sight – as your rider catapults gracefully through the air. You can help her impress the judges, by making a big splash on her first day for the season. So have a go, and get your feet wet!

And for a spot of good luck, you can also try some feng shui (pronounced “feng shoe-ey”) by balance a bowl of gold fish in your saddle, or leaving a spare horseshoe under your bucket to ensure it is regularly filled with yummies.

Finally, when the Moon rises over the cowshed, beware of floats with the licence prefix HRH, people with plummy voices wearing red coats they call ‘pink’, and any one with buck teeth bigger than yours!


                                                                                                  The Fish

Neddies born in the sign of Pisces are sensitive, idealistic and intuitive. Of course, any horse is sensitive enough to feel a tiny fly land on its skin, and eject it by just twitching. But you Pisceans are very skilled at this. You can also eject your rider, with just as little bother, when in one of your ‘sensitive’ moods.

And what seems like intuition may really be your amazing ‘wrap-around’ vision, which allows you to see for almost 360 degrees, far in advance of any human’s narrow focus. You can easily clock your rider sneaking up with a halter, without so much as lifting your head up from the paddock – always leaving plenty of time to bug off.

And, don’t believe otherwise – you are not being too ‘sensitive’ when you snort and run at wheelie bins, falling leaves, flapping plastic bags or darting Jack Russells. As every Pisces Neddy knows – they really could be sabre-tooth tigers in disguise!

Travel is strongly indicated this summer, and you idealistic Pisces horses will appreciate the justice of being a passenger, after untold generations of ancestors have pulled logs, chariots, wagons, ploughs, carts, and other disagreeably laborious objects. Those prescient Pisces might foresee a time when the human-horse relationship will be reversed completely, so encourage your rider to try on the saddle.

Speaking of chariots. Would Ben Hur have won that famous chariot race if all his horses had pulled in opposite directions? Pisces are often said to be indecisive, and in two minds about everything. This might be true, so there’s a lot to say for staying single-minded. Now that the new moon is in Pisces, if you need to make a snap decision on the cross-country course – to take the hard or the easy option over a fence, for example – well, just flip a coin and hope your rider hangs on!

Another approach is to practice unloading your burden at jumps, ditches, and scraping under low branches, but do this tactfully, or you may see plenty of little stars that are not in your chart, once your rider gets back on her feet.

Finally, this is a very good time for raffles and lotteries, while those who enjoy a bet can do well with tips “straight from the horse’s mouth” — so get on the mobile to your friends!


                                                                             ARIES March 21 – April 20

                                                       Aries 1

                                                                                              The Ram

Throughout history, Aries equines have been misunderstood. You have an unjust reputation for being the most aggressive sign in the Zodiac. But Aries horses know they still have their sensitive side; in fact, both sides, as well as front and rear. If you are touched anywhere, you’ll kick. Hitler’s horse, Stormtrooper, was an Aries. Stalin rode, though not often, as it wasn’t advisable, an Aries palomino called Slingshot. Donald Trump had a vicious little pony called Thumper, but that’s another story.

With Neptune trine Saturn, it is a good time to have your shoes checked. Bovver boots in 10-guage iron, with projecting spikes, are favoured for those particularly touchy Aries mounts who wish to make an impression on their owners. With Sun in the Midheaven, however, some free spirits might like to kick off their shoes entirely, jump the fence, and spend winter in Queensland. We hear the feed is good there. Speaking of ‘shoes off’, some Aries might like to experiment, and consult a ‘barefoot guru’. It may seem a bit New Age, but you don’t want to have navicular or arthritis in 10 year’s time. But the downside might be a certain touchiness when working on scoria menages, not to mention difficulty in kicking the stable door down in a fit of Arian spleen.

But horses are not the only creatures with aggression. Some riders can dish out plenty. Take the ‘Great Dressage Debate’. The vote from the top down seems to be that treating a horse tough will make him ‘The Happiest Athlete’. This can work for a minority of masochistic Aries horses. But perhaps a session in the stocks, being pelted with rotten apples, would make the judges better performers, while training riders on saddles of nails would help them get the point. The serious moral of all this: always treat your horses kindly, and they will be nicer to you!


                                                                          TAURUS April 21 - May 21


                                                                                             The Bull

We all like to shape the world in our own image. It feeds our ego to think we are at the centre of things, in a world made for us, even when experience might reveal the vanity of this illusion. Many Taureans, therefore, find it galling to be saddled with the sign of the bull, in fact a lot of bull. Precisely! Why should the noble equine be compared to dumb, cud-chewing hamburgers on stumpy legs? Taureans, after all, can point to their family tree hanging on the back of the shed, where the spectacular and illustrious lineage of the equine species stretches back to little Eohippus, ‘the Dawn Horse’. The bull is a very distant twig of this proud tree. Your human may not appreciate it, but we horses have long been accustomed to sharing the land with other animals. The big question is, who has right of way at the waterhole, and access to the best grass? Horses do, of course, particularly over cows – and over humans too, although that is presently under dispute in the High-Horse Court.

Incidentally, some horses believe they did not evolve, but were created by God in a flash of burning Lucerne. God, naturally, has four legs and a tail and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! But, if you can’t convince with logic or evidence, simply threaten. This long preamble, introduces my advice for this month: don’t indulge in long-winded explanations when instructing younger members of your herd in timeless horse lore. A single “neigh”, or flattened ear, should be enough. Remember, a kick in time saves nine!


Jan, 2020. Read On 3, edited by Pete Spence, in the innovative tradition of the Australian little magazine, containing lively work pushing the envelope for boldness and daring. It contains five new poems of my own. Again, from the always indomitable Donnithorne Street Press.


P O E M S  F A R  A N D  W I D E

cockieI am delighted to announce that Australian literary publisher Puncher & Wattmann in September 2019 published my collection of poems, Poems Far and Wide:

See cover below:

Far and Wide cover

Poems Far and Wide is now available through all good bookshops. The national distributor is New South Books:

The terrific launch speech by Alex Skovron has been posted on Rochford Street Review:

And there is a review by Martin Duwell on his Australian Poetry Review website:

Plus review by Jo French on page 26 of local paper, The Warrandyte Diary:

I will post links to further reviews as I learn of them.

Without being too cocky I believe this is a substantial collection, possibly my best so far, and includes many poems that have been previously published, anthologised, or have won - or shortlisted in - local and international competitions.

"This very lively collection contains a wide sweep of poems, many of them prize-winning, taking readers on a remarkable journey. Some look to the past, others to the future, but all are of their time: the reverberating now. The tone is contemporary and bold, while the poet’s sensibility tends to favour an eclectic inclusiveness. Uniformly, this wide-ranging and poetically engaging collection demands to be enjoyed."

I hope readers enjoy Poems Far and Wide.... just as much as I enjoyed putting it together. 

Some poems date back a little, while others are very recent indeed! The tone is contemporary and bold. There are are some longer dramatic and narrative poems, and others more lyrical in essence.

There are poems very close to home, some are observations of the natural world, while others take readers to far-flung destinations around the globe. Some are dramatic, or the poetic equivalent of 'character studies', with reverberating psychological resonance. There are poems of fast-paced wit and humor, and others deadly serious. There are trance-like or dream-like poems too, and experiments in language  often contrasting with hard-nosed factual observation. I hope the wide-ranging ambition of this collection will be enjoyed.

** Poems Far and Wide includes two first-prize winners, of both an international literary award and leading Australian poetry competition; plus eleven poems that have placed or been highly commended, commended or shortlisted in major awards

PWlogo 26w29h

*Puncher & Wattmann is one of Australia's leading literary publishers, so I am in excellent company. To date, they have published 150-plus titles, with more on the way. They deserve support from all serious readers.


Kelly coverA Horse's Tale. I had the pleasure of doing the structural edit, then copy-edit, for this terrific rambling read by my partner Shan Shnookal: Inspector Kelly: The Life and Lessons of a Police Trooper, published by Spikeback Books. It begins as the story of ‘Inspector Kelly’, a big grey horse bred by Victoria Police, who then went on to do many amazing things after he was retired from duty. It is a biography of great scope and delight, for all those who love horses – and animals generally – and want to better understand them. Along the way, the author recounts her own journey of learning with horses, and the vital contribution of science. She discusses welcome changes that have occurred in the more effective nurturing and management of paddock pals world-wide, and of working animals of all kinds. Her charming account is replete with fascinating snippets of Australian social history, as she examines developments in ethical horse care that have arisen in the span of 'Inspector Kelly’s' long and eventful life. Length: 330 pages, with black and white photos and Shan’s quirky cartoons to enliven the tale. Available: Or through a speciality horse book distributor: Also from Readings:


News for 2019:

Sept, 2019. Oz Burp Six, edited by Pete Spence has just appeared - full of old, new and interesting collaborations from New York and its 'school', plus a selection from Australia, including four poems of my own. From the always indomitable Donnithorne Street Press.

ashbery cover imageSept, 2019. Then May, 2020. Ashbery Mode, edited by Michael Farrell, and published by Hawai's Tinfish Press, has recently appeared in print. It is a well-edited collection of poems by Austrlian writers who raise their collective hats to the work of New York's legendary poet, John Ashbery. I am delighted to have something included. See: I have also written a review of this book, now posted on Rochford Street Review, see:

 May, 2019. "Rae of Hope for a Damaged World." It was my poignant task to deliver this speech for the Melbourne launch of Rae Desmond Jones' final collection of poems, The End of the Line, published by Rochford Press. See:

News for 2018:

suburban whistlestop cover

 Dec. 2018. Three of my poems were published in Suburban Whistlestop, the Melbourne Poets Union anthology for Poets @ Watsonia. They were: 'Suburban Whitlestop' (the book's title poem), 'Early Winter' and 'Slick'. For information on this excellent production:



FIRST PRIZE, 2018 Elyne Mitchell Short Story Competition

Mitchell writing awardsMy story, The Girl Who Wasn't There won the Open Section of the 2018 Elyne Mitchell Award, for a story up to 2,500 words. You can read online for free at: Just click on link and scroll down a little. And if you'd like to read all shortlisted entries; a well-produced booklet is available for $15 + $3 postage. (Contact the Corryong Neighbourhood Centre on 02 6076 2176 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


2nd Prize, C. J. Dennis Society Short Story Competition

My story, Rosemary's Summer Harvest won second prize in the 2018 C. J. Dennis Society Short Story Competition. 


Alan Marshall Short Story Award, shortlisted story: I was shortlisted for the Alan Marshall Short Story Award, both in 2018 and 2017See:

Foliage of Eucalyptus CoolabahEarly 2018: Two ultra short poems were included in Coolabah Short Poem Issue (No 33, 2018), curated by Australian poet Peter Bakowski and published by the University of Barcelona. 

See following link:

   Foliage of Eucalyptus Coolabah. 


 2017 and earlier:

The following is a brief sampler of recently published, performed (or short-listed) pieces, going back to around 2016. For news of larger-scale projects, go to main menu categories, above.

coffee image2017: My short story, Through a Latte Darkly, was published by Margaret River Press in the prize anthology, Joiner Bay & Other Stories, edited by Ellen van Neerven, 2017(A previous short story, That Summer at Manly, was published in the MRP 2013 prize anthology, Knitting and Other Stories, see:


RAF OMNI VOL142012 - 2017.  My short story, Her Ladyship's Pleasure, which was shortlisted in the 2015 Josephine Ulrick Literature Prize, was included in Volume 14 of the online-only magazine, Review of Australian Fiction (RAF). Unfortunatey, I have just learned that RAF is no longer being published.




cont oz poetry


My cautionary poem ‘Mr Menzies Shows Me My File’ from Growing Up with Mr Menzies is included in the recent anthology titled Contemporary Australian Poetry, edited by Martin Langford, Judith Beveridge, Judy Johnson and David Musgrave; published by Puncher & Wattmann, 2016. To purchase a copy:



pink shells

2015/16 My The Beach of Pink Shells, a scifi/fantasy short story, was shortlisted in the competition held bthe The International SciFi Film Festival, held in 2015 in Paramatta, NSW, and published on the Festival's website, here:


cubanonlampost AK2002 - 2016/7 and (fingers crossed) ongoing... I adelighted that Travelers' Tales of Old Cuba, from Treasure Island to Mafia Den, ed. John Jenkins, 2002/2010/2014/2016 is still selling very well after going into several editions, the most recent in 2016, and with probably more to come. Published by Ocean Press; see the Books (non-fiction) section of this website for more details. Available to order via all good bookshops, in Australia and internationally. Pic opposite: El Quijote de la farola (The Don Quixote of the lamp post) by Alberto Korda, 1959.

**My work goes back to the 1970s. For a much more comprehensive list, go to the Austlit website, at: or consult TROVE (Aust. Nat. Library database) at: or or


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