Most often miniature therapy horses live in similar accommodations as their full-size counterparts—in the barn. Stables that partner with Miniature Horses for therapeutic work have turnout, housing and general care based on their geography and the horse’s individual needs.
Good fencing with appropriate stalls or turnout shelters fulfill the most basic needs for any horse, including therapy minis. Given their small size and propensity to easily maintain weight, their diets might dictate needing a dry lot to avoid obesity.
Because of their size and jobs, some minis therapy animals follow their handlers into houses and buildings. When used as a certified assistance animal, this is a necessity depending on the patient’s needs. Horses used as service animals are trained to perform medical alerts and responses as well as mobility assistance, and they can only do that at a person’s side.
These animals can help handlers with disabilities to accomplish all kinds of tasks otherwise difficult or impossible. For example, Abrea Hensley can now go grocery shopping, go to the movies, or visit friends thanks to the help of her certified service mini named Flirty.
Flirty has a paddock in the backyard and a shelter. During the warmer months, she spends a lot of time out there as Hensley only needs her when going out in public or if she is having a flare.
“She’s able to have a lot of time to just be a horse,” Hensley said. “If it is going to rain, or during the winter, she stays in the house. My bedroom is set up for her, so she has a good-sized stall area, complete with a litter box, hay net and water. I have stall mats down on the ground for her comfort.”
Flirty travels in Hensley’s car to accompany her on outings, which has even included a flight to visit out-of-state family. Beforehand, the pair did some specialized training to prepare for the flight.
“We rode a city bus to simulate turbulence,” said Hensley. “We also spent time driving with quick acceleration and deceleration to simulate take-off and landing. We of course had to visit the vet for a health certificate, and I also wanted to discuss how to minimize any colic risks so she could travel comfortably.”
Editor’s note: Anyone interested in working with mini therapy horses should volunteer at reputable facilities to “learn the ropes” and get training for themselves and their horses before embarking on the mission of providing therapy services. If you need a therapy horse yourself, make sure to work with your veterinarian to ensure the horse’s physical and mental needs are met.