Miniature Service Horses

We interrupt our puppy raising posts to bring you a post about our newest adventure!  We are training a Miniature Horse to be a Service Animal.

According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, only two animals can be service animals:  Dogs and Miniature Horses.  Here is an excerpt from the ADA about Miniature Horses as Service Animals: In addition to the provisions about service dogs, the Department’s revised ADA regulations have a new, separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. (Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.) Entities covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable. The regulations set out four assessment factors to assist entities in determining whether miniature horses can be accommodated in their facility. The assessment factors are (1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control; (3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight; and (4) whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.

Further, Alabama State Law states:  “Service Animal… (is a term) limited to a dog or miniature horse.”  Under Alabama State Law, Service Animals in training are given the same access privileges as a fully trained animal if they are potty trained, under the control of the handler, and if the trainer meets any of the following requirements:

a) An owner with a disability who is actually involved in the training process

b) An individual who is competent and qualified to train a service animal has at least one year’s experience training animals, and who is actually involved in the training process

c) An individual having a photo identification stating that he/she is an employee, volunteer, agent, or graduate of a school for seeing eye, hearing, service, or guide dogs or an organization generally recognized by agencies involved in the rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities as reputable and competent to provide dogs with training, and who is actually involved in the training process


Bourbon arrives in Alabama to begin his formal training as a service animal


Bourbon was very carefully selected for the right size, temperament, health, and qualifications to be a Service Animal in training.  It takes around 2 years to train a miniature horse to be a service animal.

There are pros and cons to having a service animal that is a miniature horse instead of a dog.  Some of the important things to consider:

  •  Miniature Horses are less “portable” than dogs.  While they can be trained to ride in cars, public transport, and even airplanes, they are not nearly as flexible in spaces as canines
  • Miniature Horses take specialized care that is often less intuitive to the average individual than the care of a dog
  • Miniature Horse take longer to train
  • Miniature horses require messier and more involved feeding requirements
  • Miniature Horses have a much longer active working life.  While we hope that dogs can work 8 years, miniature horses can work 15 years or more
  • Miniature Horses will garner much more attention and access issues in public than a dog.  This can be stressful on the handler
  • Miniature Horses, while still having strict restrictions on how much weight they can safely support, can provide better mobility aid than a dog due to their size and sturdiness
  • Miniature horses can be very efficiently potty trained, but even a fully potty trained miniature horse will typically need to relieve themselves every hour or two

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but are some important things to consider when evaluating whether this might be the right tool for you.

We look forward to sharing this journey with you and we are very happy to welcome Bourbon into the family.

Published by abigailwitthauer

Lover of animal behavior, impassioned for social justice, demander of service dog reform. Please bring wine and cheese.

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