Friends, we have some sad news to share. After many years serving hundreds of special needs children at TherAplay, Tiger, our dear friend and therapy horse, has passed away.
Tiger has been such a big part of our family, our therapy team, and our lives, it was only fitting that we prepare a special tribute to celebrate the life and legacy of this very special pony.
There was a lot of color to our black-and-white-spotted pony. Not only did Tiger take his lifelong friend KC, who later joined the TherAplay barn staff, all the way to the national finals, it’s been said that he taught half of Carmel how to ride.
As Tiger’s mom Linda Kimball explains, “It was rare that we took Tiger anywhere that he wasn’t recognized. People would tell me they learned to ride on him or he was entertainment at their birthday party. … He was a great pony who lived a colorful life.” As an equine member of the Kimball family and best friend of Linda’s daughter Kate, that colorful life included eventing, pony club, mounted games, and every kind of fun ponies can have with their kiddos.
Thanks to the Kimball family’s generosity, Tiger joined the equine staff at TherAplay and continued the work he loved: helping children.
Tiger loved visiting and working with our kiddos just as much as they did – and the kiddos knew it. Even the shyest youngsters were eager to meet and ride our special spotted pony.
At the therapists’ direction, our kiddos frequently pressed Tiger’s “go spot” to walk and his “stop spot” when it was time to end. There were also many games of Connect the Spots played on his neck and back during on-horse treatment time which, in addition improving hand-eye coordination, generated many smiles and giggles from Tiger’s tiny passengers.
Like all of the horses in the TherAplay program, Tiger’s contribution through hippotherapy helped our special needs kiddos increase their balance and trunk strength; build overall postural control and endurance; improve weight bearing and motor planning; and facilitate the neurophysiologic systems that support functional daily living skills.
Put more plainly, some tremendous gains have been made thanks to sessions with Tiger (who occasionally shared his kiddos with his fellow therapy horses) and our pediatric occupational and physical therapists. Here are just a few examples from some of the kiddos Tiger worked with.
It’s true. Our favorite Tiger has left a remarkable legacy for the special needs kiddos – and their families – he served.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper tribute without featuring some of Tiger’s most memorable moments.
One of our staff members was especially moved by Tiger and had been wondering how to celebrate his life. When she glanced outside to her garden, she suddenly knew how. There, blooming with abandon, was a cluster of beautiful tiger lilies.
Those flowers – Tiger’s lilies – were planted by the TherAplay staff in the sensory garden where, like Tiger’s legacy, they will bloom and grow for years to come, a reminder of a small pony with a big heart.
Several members of Tiger’s extended TherAplay family have asked how they can celebrate his life, so we are sharing some ideas below: