If Tumbleweed had retired after her show career in the Small Pony Hunters
, she would still be considered an accomplished show horse and patient teacher. Trained by the legendary Emerson Burr
and owned by a family with two daughters, she was successful on the 'A' circuit and taught the sisters to ride and show. But Tumbles, as she was nicknamed, was not one to rest on her laurels. After the sisters outgrew her, they couldn't bear to sell her to a stranger. Instead, she entered the lesson program at the Fairfield County Hunt Club
in Connecticut, where she had been based during her show career.
Tumbles thrived as a school horse, helping many young students gain experience and confidence in the saddle. Burr, feeling that Tumbles' talent for teaching children and generous nature would make her perfectly suited to a career as a therapy horse, suggested that she be donated to the nearby Corgi Hollow chapter of the Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Program
. Her owners agreed, and so Tumbles moved to Corgi Hollow to begin the final "“ and most influential "“ part of her career.
Her versatility, sense of responsibility, and enthusiasm for her job made Tumbles instantly successful in her new role. She easily adjusted to each different child who rode her, staying at a steady walk for beginner riders and picking up the pace for those who were more advanced. The Pegasus instructors knew they could trust Tumbles to take care of any rider, even those who were dealing with great physical challenges. Her riders, too, appreciated her kind nature and formed close connections with her.
Tumbles' extensive background made the multi-talented pony a star in several aspects of the Pegasus program. She participated in beginner-level assisted lessons, advanced independent rides, driving, Hippotherapy
, and work on the ground. To stay fit while working as a therapy horse, she showed in the short stirrup divisions with the daughter of Betsy Medinger, founder and owner of Corgi Hollow. Tumbles also took part in driving
competitions throughout Connecticut and Vermont, earning several championships.
Even surgery for a strangulating tumor couldn't stop Tumbles. Once she recovered, she jumped back into work and even took on a new role as a public ambassador. She began visiting the community library for book readings with local children after Medinger wrote "Tumbles Goes to the Hospital," a chronicle of her experience with the surgery. The book helped children relate their own or their friends' health challenges to those Tumbles faced and overcame. Medinger wrote the book for Tumbles' riders, especially one who was fighting cancer and was in the hospital at the same time as Tumbles.
When she earned the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship
International Horse of the Year award in 2002, Medinger reflected on the qualities that made her such a successful therapy horse. "Tumbleweed's all-knowing and gentle attitude has carried over to her work in Pegasus," said Medinger. "She has consistently been the choice pony for our physical therapist to use for our most disabled students. Her tolerance for developmental positioning, extra-tight abductors, extraneous movements and accidental kicks is unfailing. She can be counted on to stand quietly and safely while blind students safely explore her body. Because of her good nature, Tumble has become a fixture in the Pegasus
annual horse show costume parade. She has delighted audiences as a French Chef's table, Unicorn, Mexican Burro, Eeyore, Blue's Clues, and a wedding cake."
Between her lesson students at the Fairfield County Hunt Club, her therapeutic riding students at the Corgi Hollow Pegasus branch, and the many others who knew her and learned from her, Tumbles served thousands of children over her thirty-year life span. The lively, dependable pony who enjoyed and excelled in everything she did left a long-lasting mark on the hearts and minds of those who knew her.