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Horse in a face mask another COVID normal?

Mark Knight, November 5, 2020 6:30PM Kids News

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Melbourne Cup 2020 winner Twilight Payment. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraMelbourne Cup 2020 winner Twilight Payment. Picture: Getty Images


Reading level: green

When we combine the Melbourne Cup — the race that stops a nation — with the coronavirus pandemic — the virus that stopped the world — what do we get?

In this year like no other we have the race that stops spectators and horse owners from attending the race that stops a nation that is half-stopped by COVID.

Sounds crazy, but that is 2020.

Despite the coronavirus causing disruption to major events all around the world, the Melbourne Cup was going ahead. It takes a lot to stop a horse race in Australia, and the COVID-19 pandemic was not going to get in the way of the running of the 159-year-old event for gallopers* over 2 miles (3200m)!

The bad news was that unfortunately it would have to be run without the usual 100,000 spectators, or even the horse owners. No champagne marquees* or beers on the lawns or fashions on the field. No punters* placing bets or helicopters flying in celebrities. The only thing out at Flemington on Cup Day would be the famous roses.

Some say the Melbourne Cup is more about socialising and fashion than horse racing and to hold it without people attending was unbelievable. But this is a year for unbelievable things.

I was thinking about a cartoon this Melbourne Cup that was like no other beforehand. There were many ways to approach this topic. I decided to concentrate on the horses themselves and how COVID and COVID protocols* might affect the real stars of the event, the horses.

After lots of complicated sketching and not really being happy with what I was coming up with, I was looking at pictures of some of the thoroughbreds* in the race and was noting all the different head gear some of the horses wear. Some wear blinkers, others ear hoods, some have large sheepskin rolls on their noses or down the side straps of the bridle. The different bridles, some crossing over the nose and others with nose bands. Then there’s all types of horse bits they have in their mouths!

I compared that to how we humans have been complaining lately about wearing masks to protect us from the virus. Imagine if we had to wear half the gear these horses are tacked up with! We would be up in arms*!

And that’s when I did a quick little sketch of a Melbourne Cup horse with a face mask on, and bingo that was it. That summed up our year!

media_cameraMark Knight’s cartoon. Right click to open in new tab and view full size.

The expression on that pony wearing its blue paper face mask as it heads out onto the track for the Melbourne Cup in front of empty grandstands says it all about this year like no other. We have had to make many changes to how we go about our daily lives in order to be able to get on with things and a racehorse in a face mask is just another example of that new COVID normal!


  • gallopers: race horses that gallop, as opposed to trotters
  • marquees: temporary shelters for parties
  • protocols: rules or guidelines
  • thoroughbreds: horses of the thoroughbred breed
  • up in arms: protesting vigorously


Protect yourselves, we’re living in strange times

Aussie Vow and Declare wins 2019 Melbourne Cup

An Aussie Cup win, I’ll drink to that!


  1. How far do the horses run for the Melbourne Cup?
  2. What is the name of the cartoonist? What names does he sign on his cartoons?
  3. What vehicle is mentioned that celebrates fly in on in normal years?
  4. Describe some things racehorses usually wear on their face instead of a mask.
  5. What colour is the horse’s face mask?


1. Caption it!
Cartoonist Mark Knight has not used a caption on this cartoon, letting the imagery speak for itself.

Read Mark’s explanation of what the cartoon means again and write two, three or four short sentences, just to make sure you understand what the cartoon is saying.

Using your sentences to help you, write a caption for the cartoon or some thought bubbles or quotes from the person or animal in the cartoon that will make Mark’s meaning clearer for children or people who haven’t been reading the news this week.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Look through the most recent stories on Kids News and choose one to draw a cartoon about.

Use Mark’s three-step process to get started:

What is my subject?

What do I want to say about this issue?

How do I say it? Do I use visual metaphors (an image that the viewer is meant to understand as a symbol for something else), multiple panels or symbolism (when one idea, feeling or emotion is represented by something else such as a: picture, character, colour or object)?

Time: allow at least 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

Read with Kung Fu Punctuation
Pair up with the article between you and stand up to make it easy to demonstrate your Kung Fu Punctuation.

Practice reading one sentence at a time. Now read it again, while acting out the punctuation as you read.

Read and act 3 sentences before swapping with your partner.

Have 2 turns each.

Now as a challenge ask your partner to read a sentence out loud while you try and act out the punctuation. Can you keep up?

Swap over?

Try acting out 2 sentences.

Are you laughing yet?

Have fun acting out your punctuation.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Describe your idea for a cartoon about this year’s Melbourne Cup.
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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