American Airlines passengers were surprised by their particularly special “neighbour” on a flight to Dallas on Thursday.
Fred the mini service horse (a.k.a. Freckle Butt Fred) took his first flight that day, alongside his handler and trainer Ronica Froeser.
In a photo shared to her Twitter account, Froeser can be seen smiling on a plane seat, with Fred by her side. The mini horse wore a light-blue protective suit with a harness reading “service horse.”
That same day, she posted a video of Fred munching on some horse treats.
“This was our first trip via airplane,” Froese told PIX 11. “Fred has traveled several thousand miles in my vehicle but this was the first time in the air.”
The small horse is completely housebroken and lives in Michigan, but has spent a year training with his dedicated handler.
“I spent a year of my life training this horse extensively for what he has, and I was totally prepared for everything,” she added.
To make sure Fred was as comfortable as possible for his first in-flight trip, Froese “paid an arm and a leg” for two first-class seats.
“I wanted him to have the most room,” she said, adding that the trip went completely smoothly, aside from a couple of weird looks.
“Everyone was sweet as pie. TSA was amazing,” Froese added. “The experience was way better than I actually anticipated.”
But most importantly, Fred was perfectly well-behaved, solidifying him in his role as a service animal.
“He was an angel,” Froese told FOX 17. “Nothing bothers him.”
There’s a lot of debate surrounding the topic of service animals, and what species qualify.
In response to Froese’s tweet, one person was totally on-board with the pony, writing: “Mini horses are certified service animals. They are better than dogs in many areas.”
Not everyone was a fan, however.
In January, the US Transportation Department announced plans to limit service animals on planes to dogs.
The horse handler runs an organization called Little Horses Big Smiles, a volunteer-run non-profit that provides animal-assisted therapy and activities to various types of health facilities, schools and other event.
Two major Canadian airlines, Air Canada and WestJet, have policies surrounding service animals. Air Canada only allows dogs, while WestJet allows a range from cats to miniature horses, pigs and monkeys.
The Government of Canada states that an animal that is too big to remain in its carrier under the seat may remain in the floor area by the passenger’s feet.