“Your present is in the picture,” read the homemade birthday card from my grown daughter, Elizabeth. “The pony, not the man.”
The picture was of my husband, Andrew, seated in a pony cart and driving Timbit – a small grey steed Elizabeth had bought two years previously for her riding school in Deep River, Ontario. When Elizabeth moved temporarily to the Maritimes in 1998, I helped her sell her brown pony mare, Bonnie, to a good home and her Quarter Horse mare, Baylee, to a friend of mine, but for some reason I was reluctant to advertise Timbit.
And so, at age 49, I acquired the pony I had always longed for when I was a little girl! We already had several horses on the property that I could ride, and Timbit was too small to be of much use as a mount, except for the tiniest of riders, so why had I been so reluctant to see him sold? While it might have been the look of mischief in his eyes, or the way he turned into “Fuzzy Buns” in the winter, I think the real reason is probably because Timbit is what’s known as a character – full of personality, for better or for worse.
When we first had him, the only way the veterinarian could give him his needles was to put him into a small, box-like stall we had that was open all around the top. “Like shooting ducks in a barrel,” said the happy vet, jabbing Tim successfully from above. Even today, while Tim will stand absolutely still to be petted by the residents of a nursing home or to be groomed by a passel of children, he greets veterinarians with undisguised suspicion.
Timbit was cute and clever, and while I didn’t have a lot to do with him during the first two years he was in our barn, when Elizabeth gave him to me, I got to live out my childhood dream of teaching tricks to equines. I’ve now owned Tim personally for 14 years, and I can’t count the number of laughs he’s given me during that time.
What I learned from teaching tricks to little Timbit came in extremely handy when I started liberty training our “big boys.” It never ceases to amaze me that a 1,000-pound horse will do things like lie down on command and let me climb onto his back!
With liberty training, there is always something new to try. Not long ago, I decided to see if I could get two equines to work peacefully together. It didn’t take long at all to get my palomino Aurum to take Timbit’s lead rope in his mouth and lead “his” pony around the ring (search “tricky Aurum” on YouTube to watch a video).
Tim was a natural as a trick pony, and with the help of a clicker, I soon had him doing things like laughing, fetching a tissue when I sneeze, kicking a ball, giving a kiss, jumping through hoops, blowing his own horn, standing on a pedestal, crossing his legs, bowing, and many other fun behaviors. He is billed at shows as “Tim, the Laughing Pony.”
As well as putting on demonstrations for groups that visit our barn, we also started going to seniors’ homes, charity fundraisers and summer festivals. Often, Tim participated in our dog demonstrations, running a homemade agility course as a “dog of unknown breeding.”
When my first granddaughter was born, I was particularly delighted that we had kept Timbit. Not only could Bridget be led around on Timbit’s back, she could also ride in the pony cart once my husband attached a baby seat for her (with Elizabeth jogging alongside the cart for safety). Bridget got to ride in Tim’s cart in many parades. Then, when her sister, Alison, was born and Bridget was big enough to walk alongside Tim, the baby seat on the pony cart got a new passenger.
It’s hard for me to recall all of the many good times we’ve had with Timbit throughout the years. To mention just a few, I’ve gone through his press clippings and recorded the captions under the various photos.
Timbit is now 24, and the stories I’ve shared include only a handful of the events in which he has participated since I’ve owned him. In the first two weeks of August, 2012, which is when I wrote this article, he appeared first at a birthday party, then as the Lone Ranger’s Silver in the Deep River Summerfest parade, and then as a trick performer for four separate groups of children who visited our stable.
Was Timbit the Laughing Pony a suitable birthday gift for a 49-year-old woman? I certainly think he was!
Timbit Archer, Local Celebrity
North Renfrew Times, October 22, 1997. “Andy Archer uses an old-fashioned mode of transportation on Townline Road in Deep River Saturday.”
North Renfrew Times, December 9, 1998. “These youngsters were guiding the reins of a tiny horse that was pulling their buggy. They were just ahead of the big green truck from K&T Trucking, which carried on with its tradition of escorting Santa through the parade.”
North Renfrew Times, August 25, 1999. “The young and old alike turned out for some horsing around on Friday as the Wylie Road Riders brought their equestrian show to the residents of St. Mary’s Home. Residents of the North Renfrew Long Term Care Centre were also on hand to watch the animals being put through their paces. After the show was over, young people involved with Deep River Challenged Children got a chance to ride the horses around the circuit.”
North Renfrew Times, April 26, 2000. “An hour-long session with Timbit the pony, shown here with owner Colleen Archer, is one of the many items up for grabs in the North Renfrew Family Services Silent Auction, to be held Friday at the Christian Education Centre in Deep River. Included in the session will be a photo opportunity, a led ride and a chance to see Timbit perform some of his many tricks.”
The Rider, March/April 2000. An article about Timbit titled “Not Just a One Trick Pony – Clicker Training Tricks to Equines” included five photos of Timbit performing tricks.
Pembroke Observer, May 25, 2000. “Colleen Archer of Blue Spruce Acres in Deep River and her pony Tim were busy Wednesday practicing for their performance in the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Petfest and Craft Fair. The event takes place on Saturday May 27 at the Petawawa Civic Centre between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.”
North Renfrew Times, August 1, 2001. “Timbit the pony shares a laugh with owner Colleen Archer during a show for seniors at St. Mary’s Home in Deep River last week. Timbit was one of the feature attractions at the event, which included local dog owners putting their pets through a timed obstacle race.”
North Renfrew Times, June 26, 2002. “Horses really are a woman’s best friend, as Colleen Archer found out recently when her tiny horse Tim gave her a big lick of affection. The pair were putting on a show for nursery school students at Archers’ stables.”
North Renfrew Times, August 26, 2009. “Colleen Archer’s local trick pony Timbit blows his own horn with some help from a friend at a recent birthday party. Timbit is scheduled to appear at the 150th anniversary of the Cobden Fair on Sunday, August 30.”
Horsepower, September/October, 2010. Photo of Timbit leading the Deep River Summerfest parade. Timbit (the horse of a different colour) had “a lovely pink tail and a pink mane” to go along with the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, and Toto (Cairn Terrier Robin).