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Home > Horses > Miniature Horses as Emotional Support Animals: Animal-Assisted Therapy Explained

Miniature Horses as Emotional Support Animals: Animal-Assisted Therapy Explained

miniature-horse_Mark Edwards_Pixabay

Emotional support animals (ESAs) have enjoyed increased notoriety in recent years, with many people using animals like dogs and cats for something that’s called animal-assisted therapy1.

ESAs can legitimately help people suffering from mental health issues, as they provide a natural alternative to harsh drugs that can be addictive and harmful to one’s health. It’s common to see people out and about with the cats and dogs that they use as ESAs.

The latest animals to make waves in the world of ESAs are adorable miniature horses. While it may seem odd to use a mini horse for emotional support, they make a wonderful therapy animal. If your interest is piqued, continue reading to learn more about using miniature horses as ESAs.

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Animal-Assisted Therapy Explained

miniature horse_Alexia Khruscheva_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Alexia Khruscheva, Shutterstock

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) entails the use of animals to help people cope with and recover from mental health conditions. The basis of this therapy is that the animal in question provides comfort and emotional support to their owners. The animal may also be able to alert others if the owner needs help or even perform simple actions to assist. In a nutshell, the goal of AAT is to alleviate or help people cope with the symptoms of various mental and/or emotional conditions whenever possible.

It’s no secret that humans form a strong bond with animals. It’s what enables us to interact with and relate to certain types of critters. For someone suffering from something like depression or anxiety, bonding and interacting with a friendly, non-judgemental animal can produce a calming effect. This bonding can also help the affected person:

  • Feel more worthwhile and less lonely
  • Feel more social
  • Boost their mood
  • Gain more confidence and motivation for interacting with others and carrying out activities

The animals used in AAT are called emotional support animals, and they’re often dogs, cats, birds, pot-bellied pigs, and horses.

Who Benefits From AAT?

Many people can benefit from AAT, including those who suffer from:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Drug use disorder

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About Miniature Horses

white miniature horse_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

Horses and ponies come in all sizes and shapes, including the diminutive miniature horse. Standing at just 34–35 inches and weighing 225 to 350 pounds, miniature horses are bred to be friendly and interact well with people. This is why it’s common for these animals to be kept as family pets.

The typical miniature horse is a perfectly proportioned sized-down version of their larger full-sized equine counterpart. These little horses come in a wide array of coat colors, just like regular horses. They even have their own association, called the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA), which was developed to promote the animals and create a permanent registry for them.

Compared to full-sized horses, miniature horses are easy to keep and considerably less expensive to care for. They have wonderful personalities and enjoy spending time with their human owners.

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Why Miniature Horses Make Good Therapy Animals

miniature horse in grass_Peter is Shaw 1991_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Peter is Shaw 1991, Shutterstock

Miniature horses have affectionate personalities—plus they’re as cute as a button. Due to their small size and wonderful attributes, these friendly little horses make great therapy animals. Some people who raise these animals also take the horses to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to visit with the residents.

By nature, miniature horses are gentle, sociable, calm, and inquisitive. Their coats and manes are silky smooth and soft, making people enjoy looking at, cuddling, touching, and hugging them. It’s also not uncommon for a mini horse to nuzzle up to a person as a way of showing affection.

Until recently, miniature horses were not popular ESAs. This had nothing to do with them being unsuitable. It was mostly because many people didn’t know that they could use this animal as an ESA! But with their charming personalities, gentle and sociable nature, and manageable size and exercise requirements, mini horses are now among of the most popular ESAs.

The Type of Person Best Suited for a Miniature Horse ESA

A miniature horse ESA can be a good fit for someone who:

  • Can take a miniature horse outdoors for exercise every day
  • Is willing to put in the time and effort to train a mini horse
  • Has a home and yard with enough space for a miniature horse
  • Has the desire to form a strong emotional bond with a mini horse


Final Thoughts

Miniature horse ESAs are now allowed to travel on public transport in many places in the U.S.A. Many airlines are even accepting these ESAs in the cabin with their owners, as long as the horses are clean and well-behaved and the owner has notified the airline prior to travel.

Don’t be surprised when you see someone with a miniature horse out in public. The chances are that the cute little animal is providing their owner with non-judgmental, unconditional love and support.

Featured Image Credit: Mark Edwards, Pixabay

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