Animals Wildlife Why Miniature Horses Make Such Great Service Animals By Melissa Breyer Melissa Breyer Twitter Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehuggers editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. Learn about our editorial process Updated May 10, 2020 William Thomas Cain / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species With news that Southwest is allowing mini horses on flights, here’s what to know about these petite equine wonders. There has been a lot of news about pets on airline flights lately, so when Southwest Airlines recently updated their statement about traveling with animals, it didn’t comes as much of a surprise. However, there was something in there that I wasn’t expecting. From the statement. Southwest Airlines welcomes trained dogs, cats, and miniature horses as service animals onboard our flights as long as the Customer is able to provide credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal. Southwest Airlines does not accept unusual or exotic species of animals. Am I the last person to know that there are ? (Let alone, service cats?) I mean, emotional support animals come in all shapes and sizes peacocks, squirrels, you name it but service animals are trained and actually act as guides. Horses are smart and seriously intuitive, but I didn’t know they could take the place of dogs in, among other tasks, guiding the blind. Which led me down the research rabbit hole to discover that it all makes perfect sense. Here’s why. (But first, meet Chunky Monkey, Fancy Dancer, Glitter Bug and Patty Cake.) The Guide Horse Foundation reminds us that horses are natural guide animals that having been showing humans the way for ages. And it’s natural for them to do so. They note that In the wild, horses show a natural guide instinct. “When another horse goes blind in a herd, a sighted horse accepts responsibility for the welfare of the blind horse and guides it with the herd.” They also point out the following reasons why miniature horses make a great match for the job. Pete Markham / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0 1. Long Lifespan While a guide dog can serve for maybe eight to 12 years, horse have an average lifespan of 30 to 40 years, and can live to be more than 50 years old. Since people and their service animals become so bonded, how wonderful to have each other for so long. 2. Cost Effective Only 7,000 out of the 1.3 million blind people in the US use guide dogs. Training can cost up to $60,000, according to the Guide Dog Users national advocacy group, which could prove prohibitive. “Hence, a Guide Horse could be more cost-effective and ensure that more blind people receive a guide animal,” notes the foundation. 3. Better Acceptance Guide dog users report resistance in accessing public places where dogs are not permitted because their dog is perceived as a pet. Those who use miniature horses do not seem to have this problem since the animal is more easily recognizable as a service one. 4. Calm Nature Just think of calvary and police horses in the midst of chaos horses can be trained to remain very, very calm. 5. Great Memory Horses have amazing memories. I know that’s a fact because of my childhood with horses, but the foundation add that horse will naturally remember a dangerous situation decades after it happened. 6. Excellent Vision Because of the placement of their eyes, a horse‘s range of vision is almost a remarkable 350 degrees. They are the only guide animals that can move each eye independently, meaning they can track potential danger with each eye. Plus, they can see very well in the dark. 7. Focused Demeanor Trained horses are very focused on their work and are not easily distracted. 8. Safety Conscious Horses are very alert and always looking for dangerous situations. “All horses have a natural propensity to guide their master along the safest most efficient route,” explains the foundation, “and demonstrate excellent judgment in obstacle avoidance training.” 9. High Stamina Healthy horses are hearty and robust. 10. Good Manners Guide horses can be housebroken, they do not get fleas and only shed two times per year. (Which means they are also a great choice for people who are allergic to dogs.) For more on why miniature horses are superstar service animals, watch this video of the remarkable Panda and how she helps her human. Oh and in case you’re wondering where a mini horse sits on a plane? Not in exit rows. Usually in the front, like the bulkhead area, where there is more room.
Can miniature horses be service animals?
Is this true? The miniature horse is not included in the definition of service animal, which is limited to dogs. However, the new ADA regulations contain a specific provision which covers miniature horses.
How much does a service miniature horse cost?
Miniature horses on average cost between $800 to $5,000. A horse that has been shown will cost more than one that has just been used as a companion horse. Some top show miniature horses can even go for as much as $200,000. Though their appearance may be small, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are cheap to own.
Can a miniature horse be an emotional support animal?
yes! Miniature horses in particular are intelligent, sociable, and sensitive creatures and make excellent emotional support pets. Miniature horses are already popular service animals, and are recognized as such in the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Are miniature horses always allowed as service animals in Illinois?
Miniature horses that have been trained to help disabled people will be allowed in Illinois schools and other public places under a new state law. … Pat Quinn signed a bill Tuesday designating miniature horses as a type of service animal, like seeing-eye dogs, that can accompany people with disabilities.
Although the majority of service animals are dogs, there is a small proportion that can now be miniature horses. The Americans with Disability Act (2010) revised regulations and allows miniature horses to be individually trained to work and perform tasks for a person with disabilities.
All service animals must be trained to a high level but they should also possess very good behavior and ability to be under excellent control before they are considered. Because they are at the hip height and have a strong, well-built body, service horses are an ideal size for someone who is struggling with their mobility and often loses their balance.
Miniature horses, however, do not have the social drive which means they will happily stand quietly for a long time whilst working and out in public, without making a sound.
The idea of a guide horse for a blind person certainly dates back to 1943 if not earlier, the film The Blocked Trail of that year having a dwarf horse guide a blind miner. The Burlesons though may appear to have a claim for the practical proposal of using a miniature horse as a service animal for the blind or partially sighted. In 1998, while on a horseback ride in New York City, Janet and Don Burleson of Kittrell, North Carolina, noticed how their horses were able to sense on their own when to cross the street. Janet recalled watching a blind rider compete in horse shows where “the woman gave the horse directions, and it took her around the obstacles and the other horses in the class. It was serving as her guide and that was something I’d never forgotten.” She wondered if a miniature horse could be trained as a guide animal for the blind. Janet had trained Arabian show horses for 30 years and was familiar with equine behavior. But her urban experience changed her view of the behavior exhibited by one of their pet miniature horses, “Twinkie”, on their farm back home. The animal often followed the Burlesons around like a dog, and rode in the back of their minivan. From these experiences, they began training miniature horses to be seeing eye horses.
In 1998, while on a horseback ride in New York City, Janet and Don Burleson of Kittrell, North Carolina , noticed how their horses were able to sense on their own when to cross the street. There were setbacks; the first time they took a miniature horse to the grocery store, it grabbed a Snickers bar off the shelf.
The goal was to train these small horses to meet all requirements to become a guide animal for the blind. At age 17, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa , an incurable eye disease that deteriorates vision over time. Shaw heard about the Burlesons’ experimental program, and was particularly interested when he found out that horses live thirty to forty years.
After all, in the 1920s, when Dorothy Eustis began training German shepherds to lead the blind, many people scoffed at the idea. Another user, received per horse Panda in 2003, and in 2007 the Associated Press reported the owner describing her guide as “protective, alert and house-trained — and she loves to play fetch. A guide horse, Digby , claimed to be Britain’s first, was introduced to a BBC journalist for training in February 2018.
Unfortunately the miniature horse undertook a height growth spurt to 33 inches (0.84 m) which proved too tall for its handlers office in Salford, Manchester. The horse was able to be allocated to an Office of National Statistics worker in London who believed it would not be too tall for her and would be suitable for her to take on the underground to work. However, while a dog can adapt to many different home situations, a horse must live outdoors, requiring a shelter and room to move about when not on duty.
Some individuals also are concerned that a horse‘s powerful fight-or-flight instinct may lead it to have less predictable behavior than that of a guide dog . The Burlesdons developed a training programme which began initially with the horse trained in basic lead work, in which the horse is taught to move at the speed that the handler commands and to navigate common obstacles. Miniature horses are, in general, not suited for assisting people who are deaf or hearing impaired.
Due to the overwhelming number of requests for free Guide horses we have temporarily suspended the application process.
A woman who gained national attention for bringing her miniature horse as a service animal on an airplane is now hoping the attention does not affect the Department of Transportation’s decision to let miniature horses fly.
“I have an incurable autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with four and a half years ago,” she explained to CBS News, adding that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) approved miniature horses as service animals in 2011. Ahead of her vacation to Los Angeles, Froese contacted American Airlines and was told it was fine to fly with Fred.
To address some of the debate regarding service animals in public places, the DOT clarified the guidelines in a statement issued in August 2019. What do you do on a long BORING flight after a jam packed busy California vacation take a nap and use your Mommy’s leg as a pillow. On February 5, it submitted new proposed rules that would only require airlines to accommodate trained service dogs not other species.
What Can They Do?
Service horses will be trained and work just like service dogs. Miniature horses are best known for providing a service as a guide animal where they help guide someone who is blind or has visual impairments. They also work well as an emotional support They are less common as a service animal but it has recently become law that both dogs and horses only can be working service animals. As they provide excellent assistance as guide horses, they have the ability to keep their owner safe thus providing safe support as a service animal.All service animals must be trained to a high level but they should also possess very good behavior and ability to be under excellent control before they are considered. They have to meet the needs of their individual owner, working to their individual needs and disability. Just like all service animals, service horses will respond to their user, pick up dropped items and medication and support them in public places, helping them live a more independent life.Training a miniature horse is very extensive and more intense than training a service dog because horses are often easily spooked. They need to become desensitized to these situations by working calming through distractions. This is to ensure they will not become spooked in a social situation and become unsupportive to their owner. Because of this, a lot of hours are needed to help train horses and adapt them to the house, tasks, and environment for the owner to be comfortable.
The idea of a guide horse for a blind person certainly dates back to 1943 if not earlier, the filmTheir first trainee was Twinkie. From that start, the Burlesons developed a rigorous training program for miniature horses that was similar to a guide dog’s, adding systematic desensitization training, similar to that given horses used for riot control. There were setbacks; the first time they took a miniature horse to the grocery store, it grabbed a Snickers bar off the shelf. The goal was to train these small horses to meet all requirements to become a guide animal for the blind.One of the first people to use a guide horse was Dan Shaw.In 1999 the Burlesons’s createdShaw heard about the Burlesons’ experimental program, and was particularly interested when he found out that horses live thirty to forty years. So he applied to be the first person in the world to use a guide horse. The Burlesons started training “Cuddles” for Shaw. On March 6, 2002, he flew to Raleigh, North Carolina, and met Cuddles for the first time. After some introductory work, Janet Burleson sent Shaw and Cuddles into a crowded store where the aisles were jammed with merchandise, and they successfully navigated the store. Shaw stated, “I was about to become the world’s first user of a guide horse. I knew that there would be skeptics—people who didn’t believe horses had the right temperament to be service animals. After all, in the 1920s, when Dorothy Eustis began training German shepherds to lead the blind, many people scoffed at the idea. But I knew that getting my independence back would outweigh any criticism.”Another user, received per horse
In the United States, on 15 September 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) clarified the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ruled that properly trained and suitably sized miniature Guide Horses could be recognized as service animals.
Miniature horses, with an average lifespan of thirty years, live much longer than dogs, and for those allergic to or frightened of dogs, a horse could make a good alternative. However, while a dog can adapt to many different home situations, a horse must live outdoors, requiring a shelter and room to move about when not on duty.Guide horse users may also find difficulty in transporting a miniature horse on limited-spaced public transportation, such as on buses or taxis. Some individuals also are concerned that a horse‘s powerful fight-or-flight instinct may lead it to have less predictable behavior than that of a guide dog.The Guide Horse Foundation suggest a house-trained guide horse should typically be able to control its bladder for six hours, however for transportation purposes it is suggested a practical estimate of four hours should be used.
The process of training a guide horse is rigorous and takes about eight months for each horse.