Service miniature horse for PTSD? Do you work with horses for emotional support or can you provide insight?

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littleoc

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Hello, everyone!!

So, I was hoping you could help me by telling me what you already know about equestrians.

This post is structured like this: I talk about the reasons why someone might want a miniature horse as a service animal by listing facts I found in my research. Then I also mention drawbacks I found or could think of. Then I ask you for your insight or personal opinions.





START

I love my service dog so much, and I assume if I need to that I could get another one. In fact, I need to, because my currently service dog turns 9 years old next end-of-May/start-of-June.

[I was living in dorm rooms and a tiny house for Nestle’s surgery, but knowing that I was still linked to my mom’s hoarded house, I did not adopt any puppies to begin training despite knowing I needed to for years because I was afraid of Nestle and the new puppy having to compete for the right of space.

Also, I was worried about Nestle’s safety, and it would be worse for a puppy. (One time, Nestle ate a chair. It’s been eight years, but the remains of the chair is still in the living room!) Anyway.]

Part of my trauma involved dogs. It is causing me some complications. In my letter I’m writing in case I send the proposal to my doctor for opinions, I explain why but I think y’all won’t need a big explanation? Just in case:

She has been a huge help, and though I have always loved dogs, I have really adored Nestle. But I am having some challenges with her being a dog because dogs were involved in my trauma. Nestle wakes me up from nightmares, but – and this is a little awkward to admit – I’ve occasionally pushed her off my bed some nights that she woke me up, because I was dreaming either of being attacked by a dog while escaping a dangerous situation, or of Billie the dog who was raped in front of me daily for a year straight (2004-2005, when I was ten years old and eleven years old). It’s much more complicated than that, but no further details are required to understand this subject.

Because of the traumas, I am occasionally so protective of Nestle in public that when people follow us with cameras, I get a bit upset. And have to remember that most people don’t want to exploit my dog. I also have – again, awkward to admit – called the police before thinking people were after both of us. One woman in a grocery store commented that she liked my dog’s anus and I was a bit horrified. I would have been without the trauma, but with trauma this was deeply unsettling. At my old university, professors would let their dogs lose around my dog and they would attack Nestle, so now whenever I see another dog and Nestle is with me, my main motive has been to protect Nestle at all costs. Nestle, in turn, has behaved differently about other dogs, because she “thinks” (she’s technically right) that I’m afraid of them. However, she herself has never been aggressive to other dogs, even while they were biting her.

Because of all of the challenges, I have been attempting to resolve the traumas in therapy, but even several years after first starting EMDR, I’m having serious trouble. My dog herself can occasionally cause flashbacks, and it feels unfair to her.

For example, my dog poses a certain way when she’s ready for her leash to be removed. She’s not doing anything wrong, but I will instantly get upset and Nestle will seem unsure about how to help.

So, I am wanting to brainstorm with you guys about if a service miniature horse would work better for me, or if I should continue attempting to work with dogs until I recover from PTSD enough to be safe in public and at home without assistance.

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BACKGROUND OF LEGALITY
In the United States, dogs are typically the only service animals allowed, but as of the year 2010 there was a new, small section on the use of miniature horses as service animals.

The Department of Justice recently revised ADA regulations to recognize and allow miniature horses, that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities, to qualify and serve as service animals. Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds. [….]

Pursuant to these new regulations, entities covered by the ADA must modify existing policies to permit and accommodate miniature service horses. The ADA regulations have four assessment factors to assist entities in determining whether miniature service horses must 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 compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.
Source: Miniature Horses Offer Service, Serenity and a Potential New Business Opportunity Updated December 2, 2018.

The Department of Justice specifically mentions that where reasonable, miniature ponies must be allowed within businesses, unless it poses a significant liability, such as (for example) having the horse within a burn ward where they might compromise a sterile environment.

The Department of Justice states specifically in a sourced PDF available to the public (as mirrored above):

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.
Source: ADA Requirements: Service Animals Published in July 2010/2011.

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I was thinking of the pros and the cons. Can you help me add to them?



Pros:



As a service animal, the miniature service horse has advantages over the service dog. One of these advantages is life expectancy. Service dogs on average live to be about 12-15 years old; a miniature service horse's life expectancy ranges from 35-40 years. Another advantage the miniature service horse has relative to the service dog is size and strength. For many injured servicemen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the size and strength of the miniature service horse is far better suited than is a service dog.
Sentence bolded for emphasis.
Source: Miniature Horses Offer Service, Serenity and a Potential New Business Opportunity Updated December 2, 2018.


This is something that I thought was great. Miniature horses are expensive to adopt, yet will be around a lot longer. That stability would be helpful all on its own.

Some sources claimed that people don’t mess with a working horse nearly as much as they do a working dog:

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.
Source: Why miniature horses make such great service animals Published October 2018.

Though, it should be said that this source does not list a source for this claim. It could have mentioned police horse studies, but it failed to.

That article, by the way, “Why miniature horses make such great service animals,” lists several great reasons why miniature horses are such great service animals:

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.
Source: Why miniature horses make such great service animals Published October 2018.

That, and as an article I will discuss in more detail in a moment said, it may take significantly less time to train a horse than a dog, and so proportionately there may be more of a benefit time-wise:

The process of training a guide horse is rigorous and takes about eight months for each horse.
Source: Guide horse - Wikipedia
Broken link prevents verification of article’s source's accuracy.


Though, that article does say “rigorous,” which may mean that the process would, at first, be quite a commitment, and may take longer for those with jobs, children, school, or other obligations.

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.

Calm nature: Just think of calvary and police horses in the midst of chaos – horses can be trained to remain very, very calm.

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.

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.

Focused demeanor: Trained horses are very focused on their work and are not easily distracted.

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."

High stamina: Healthy horses are hearty and robust.

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.)
Source: Why miniature horses make such great service animals Published October 2018.

I also found that miniature horses are hypoallergenic, and only shed twice a year. They also are possible less likely to eat things off the ground, although one person stated:

There were setbacks; the first time they took a miniature horse to the grocery store, it grabbed a Snickers bar off the shelf.
Source: Guide horse - Wikipedia
Source listed for source of statement is a broken link and is not able to be authenticated as a result.


On that Wikipedia page “Guide horses,” the “Suitability” section lists:

  • Horses normally live to be 25–35 years old.[5] This is far longer than the lifespan of a dog (8–16 years, depending upon breed).[6]
  • On average, miniature horses may live one-third longer than large horses.[7]
  • Miniature horses chosen for assistance horse training weigh approximately 55–100 pounds.[7]

However, importantly,

  • Miniature horses are, in general, not suited for assisting people who are deaf or hearing impaired. Most dog breeds have a natural “watchdog instinct” that is important for a hearing assistance animal; horses do not have this instinct.[8]
Bolded sentences for emphasis.
Source: Guide horse - Wikipedia
Latest source on article material published September 2017.


This is what got me wondering if, despite all these benefits, a highly trained service miniature horse would actually be suitable for someone with PTSD.

I looked around the forums. The only post I found that was relevant were people getting horse therapies for PTSD (does it help you a ton, @Freida?), such as this thread in Treatment & Therapy, “Equine Therapy” posted by @Nighthawk: Equine Therapy

From this, I have noticed that horses can be at least good emotional support. They are truly empathetic (and that is well supported online in peer reviewed journals) and can work well with humans with PTSD. But could they hone in enough to be used for PTSD service work? Could they learn tasks that would help?



I also found some silly posts. Check out what comes up (if you are signed in – when I wasn’t signed in I could barely see anything) when searching MyPTSD for “miniature horse”: Search results for query: miniature horse

In other words, it seems people talk about service horses, but no one here has one for PTSD. And, when I searched the Internet for what service work a miniature horse could do, I mostly found mobility impairment assistance and for guiding the blind.

Tasks my service dog does all include calming me down, bringing me out of dissociations before something dangerous happens, or helping me to escape a dangerous situation.

However, Nestle also wakes me up from nightmares. Would a mini horse want to sleep indoors?



Do you work with horses? Do you work with miniature horses?

Do you have any advice on how one might be able to get a horse to help with PTSD by the use of specific tasks? Do you know if it would be helpful? Do you think it might be worth a try, once I have a yard?

Thank you so much for any insight!
 
Hi littleoc,

That's an interesting idea. :)

For me, a big "con" would be that it would probably create a lot of fuss.

People are more or less used to having people turn up places with a service dog.

But going into a store, or any other public space like that with a minature horse would be a pretty huge sensation.

There would probably be huge discussions.

And all sorts of people would come up to you to pet the horse.

I think you'd be the centre of attention for miles around.

For my PTSD, that would be totally counter-productive. It would totally freak me out.

I'm not sure if my thoughts on this are correct - it might be my PTSD concerns talking, so probably good to get other's feedback on that aspect of it too.

:hug:
 

MyWillow

MyPTSD Pro
I do equine T with my psychologist - working with them keeps me grounded. Less triggering if we are talking as well. Has really helped after a flashback. But it is by no means an easy hour. I’m often mentally exhausted afterwards.

I love horses - and have been around them a lot - but I see more cons than pros, sorry:

Horses are expensive to feed and maintain, hoof care and vet costs can be exorbitant regardless the size.

I would not keep a horse indoors. They need to be outdoors. Yes horses are stabled but grazing and paddock time is important.

Toilet training would be much more difficult when compared to a dog. Anything is trainable of course but it won’t be as simple.

If you think dogs can be mischievous then ponies and mini horses take the cake lol

Agree with @Sophy about a horse being extremely novel - acceptance would be more difficult and you would definitely have lots of attention.

I have 3 dogs - the eldest is retired and I train the younger 2 for competition. They also sleep on my bed and are a big source of comfort for me.
 

scout86

MyPTSD Pro
I work with horses for a living. Some of them are minis.

The articles might be a little overly optimistic about how long they live. It's not unusual for a horse to live into it's mid 20's these days, but they sometimes start to have health and mobility issues as they get older, just like dogs (or people). I'm thinking that where you live might be a factor too. If you live in town, it might be hard to find a vet who does horses. (And minis can have some issues that bigger horses don't have.) And a farrier, for that matter.

I suppose you could keep a mini in the house. I don't think it's going to sleep on the bed though. They can probably go UP stairs, but they have some problems coming down stairs. (I've seen it done. On a dare. Not without problems!)

Just like dogs, they aren't all going to have the attitude to be a service area. They're a prey animal. It's in their nature to be vigilant. It's also in their nature to be kind of reactive. I'm trying to imagine taking a mini into a grocery store........ I suppose it could have it's own little pack, so you wouldn't need a shopping cart. But, a cart and a horse in narrow aisles? Sounds complicated.

I love horses. They have a lot to offer and they are quite possibly the reason I'm alive. I'm just not sure they're portable enough to be practical. In a restaurant, they aren't going to be able lay down under the table and wait for you. Same for a movie theater. Might be hard to fit them into a lot of public transportation, even if they're technically allowed. And, I have to agree, it seems like they'd cause more of a stir than a dog. On the other hand, people who aren't used to them might stay away from them because they think horses are "dangerous". (People have all kinds of nutty ideas.)

I think a horse could calm you down and probably help with dissociation. Getting you out of a dangerous situation.... Depends on what kind of dangerous situation you're likely to get into, I guess, and what kind of help you need. Waking you up might be possible. Horses are kind of nappers. If it was in your room, it could probably be trained to wake you up. My biggest concern, I guess, would be house training, because they don't usually manage their bowl movements like dogs do, and their ability to maneuver through your world. That would depend a lot on where you live and what your life style is like.
 

Neverthesame

Not Active
Transportation could be an issue. You'd need a trailer for a horse, probably not a full size livestock trailer, but even a small trailer would make parking a pain in the arse.
I think you may have discovered the only situation in which flying an airline would be less frustrating than driving.
Interesting idea. I suppose you'll probably have to keep what you are now, balancing out the pros and cons. If you want it bad enough, I'm sure you could make it work, but it might be alot of work.
 

littleoc

Sponsor
Thank you so much, y’all!!

I know so little about horses in general, so I really appreciate your time!

@Sophy I have to say, that really discouraged me from wanting one. I have gotten used to people talking about and asking about Nestle, but I think it would drive me crazy if everyone asked... ?

@MyWillow Thank you! No need to apologize for your information! It’s exactly what I was looking for when I posted here.

And yeah, dogs are definitely mischievous! So I imagine someone as smart as a horse would be even better at it :P

@scout86 That was very helpful, thanks! Yeah, my current dog is 55lbs, and likes to walk a little farther from me than two feet, so if a horse did that it would be more problematic ?

Maybe it would be good, when I have better resources and an actual income, to have a mini horse (or regular horse) for an ESA or pet? Or just go to a place with horses, ahaha.

I have seen riot control horses before, but I doubt I could train a horse to be THAT calm myself. Unless I hired someone to do it. I hear horses also let go of their bowels if they sense they might have to run?

@Nighthawk Oof, every two hours. I’ve heard that. I saw a WikiHow article that claimed you could train them to hold it longer, but not more than four/five hours — I didn’t reference that because I sensed horseshit but it’s good to have that pretty much confirmed! :P

But it is good to know that it can be done. It could be helpful, maybe, but I’m not sure?

@Neverthesame Yeah, I can’t really imagine fitting a pony in a car. So, I would need some kind of trailer.... I wonder if that much travel would be harmful?

Maybe I could adopt one as an ESA while I have my next service dog all trained? That way I could experiment with the horse without putting pressure on her/him, and it would be okay if it didn’t work out well?
 

Friday

Moderator
I love horses. I am very much of the opinion that “There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man.”

I would never get a mini.

For a whole lot of reasons, mostly personal.

One of the reasons that ISN’T mine? (My cousin is a large animal vet, and I’m utterly shameless). That anyone considering getting a miniature horse -for any reason, much less as a working horse- should be aware of?

...Cost effective is a laugh. Equine vet bills are easily 10x higher than canine vet bills, and that’s lowball. The stables I worked at -for the most part- budgeted $5k per horse, per year, in veterinary expense (not including insurance payments). Just for basic care. $1500 here, $800 there, adds up fairly quickly. Meanwhile the occasional 10k colic surgery, or broken bone, kills your vet budget for years unless you’ve got a surplus from preceding years. The racing barns doubled or tripled that, but these were high value working horses with the best care, not “something has gone wrong, and a few weeks later getting it looked at if it doesn’t get better on its own” hobby pony. Not dissimilar to hunting dogs & guide dogs, whose health is more important than a lawn ornament, because they’re being depended on. Aaaaaand -practically speaking- they also cost in the 10s of thousands (the dogs, horses are more) and are exquisitely trained, vs a few hundred dollars adoption fee and minimal training. A person is far more apt to spend 10k on a 20k animal, rather than putting them down and spending 20k on a new animal. Because math, if not sentiment.

Does that mean owning a horse means paying thousands in vet bills every Year? Pfft. Of course not. Lots of horses only see a few hundred dollars a year, at most, especially if you’re doing your own worming & shots & other basic care. And if you’re trading up every few years, that’s one of the common benefits, young and healthy. But if you plan on keeping a horse long term? You will see those whalloping big bills, sooner or later. Illness and injury happens.

And then you have breed specific problems. Minis are considered “special needs” horses by most in the equine world, because there’s almost always something going wrong with them. Similar to the health problems common in dwarfism of any species. Those 10k colic surgeries I mentioned, above? Plan on several. A lot of the super common congenital Mini stuff can be avoided by very careful acquisition, of a slightly older horse (to avoid the dental bills, and know how their bones are going to be fully formed, because they already are fully formed), rather than a yearling or 2yo. That presents a training problem, because young horses learn best, but it’s not impossible... unless you’re dealing with a bonehead. In which case they’d be unsuitable for work, anyway. But minis do fecoliths like it’s a fashion trend, or something.

Here’s some more info on common health problems to be aware of
12 Miniature Horse Health Risks – The Horse

Again, not saying anyone shouldn’t do it, just because vet care is going to be expensive. Just that the expense is something people who haven’t walked for 8 hours in waist deep snow with a colicky horse at 3am (UPHILL! both ways! ;) No, seriously, horses can’t throw up, if something makes them sick there’s only 1 exit route, and if you don’t keep them moving, their intestines can shred or torsion. That it usually happens during the worst weather when you really need to sleep? Is just Murphy’s Law.) begging every cold Star not to let this turn into a $1500 or $10,000 bill due tomorrow? Don’t tend to think about.
 
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MyWillow

MyPTSD Pro
And for the sheer amount of energy, time and cost I would personally prefer to invest that in other supportive modalities - equine therapy (so I’m challenging my beliefs, processing, learning and growing), TS yoga, regular therapy (my psydoc is not cheap), exercise, massage, healthy eating etc. I budget for a cleaner so it’s one less thing I need to worry about. Looking after yourself is not easy or always cheap.
 

Sideways

Sponsor
People see dogs every day of the week, and still, seeing my dog routinely makes people go nahnah. The amount of attention that a miniature horse would attract? Forget about it! And not all of that would be good attention - people still fight with me about my right to take my dog into their store, so I can only imagine the constant, relentless fight you’d face convincing people “my horse has a right to be here”.

So I don’t buy the “bigger animal means I feel safer” argument. Nope. A miniature horse is going to be a people-magnet. Everywhere. A rottweiler on the other hand!? Not so much!

Practically speaking, a horse can’t just jump in the car with you and go wherever. A horse can’t fit under a cafe table, bus seat or desk. A horse can’t sleep on your bed if nightmares are one of your things. A horse can’t jump in a taxi or ambulance. A horse can’t go into a change room or public toilet (anywhere). A horse is going to have a hard time negotiating stairs or travelators. A horse is going to have a hard time negotiating narrow aisles at the grocery store.

All places my dog is most important to me.

I can drop my dog’s poop in the garbage. Not so with the amount of poop horses produce (and sorry, getting rid of it fast and hygienically IS important to me!).

The cost difference is huge. Big dogs cost more than little dogs. Horses are in a league of their own. And it’s not just “can I afford the horse”, it’s can afford the horse and the housing I would require to give the horse a decent home.

Practically speaking I can’t see how it would work unless you live on acreage (or similar) and plan to not need the horse at work, study, or socially. And if that’s the case? Look into riding classes (super fun), equine therapy (super effective), or if your budget is tight? Volunteer with a riding for the disabled type charity (which is how I get quality time with horses - volunteering with them is the only type of ‘keeping a horse’ that I can afford).

You’re looking at about 10 years service from a dog. Knowing ptsd? You have excellent reason to assume that what you need a dog for? Will change and reduce over that time:)
 

littleoc

Sponsor
Thank you, all, again! Super great, very helpful information!! Way better than the journalists I found!

Someone should publish this information y’all gave, lol. I guess this website counts as publishing, though!

Again, not saying anyone shouldn’t do it, just because vet care is going to be expensive.
And that’s something I hadn’t considered yet! I knew there would be vet bills. But I’m not horse-educated so I couldn’t have imagined it would be so much.

And knowing that mini horses have so many problems? That makes me very uncertain!

I’d rather try a service goat :P (lol, I know zero goats who would cooperate for that. Peanut the goat would have just goat-frowned at me.)

And for the sheer amount of energy, time and cost I would personally prefer to invest that in other supportive modalities -
Oh, gosh, that’s an excellent point.

I thought these ideas were a better, cheaper idea, too:
Look into riding classes (super fun), equine therapy (super effective), or if your budget is tight? Volunteer with a riding for the disabled type charity (which is how I get quality time with horses - volunteering with them is the only type of ‘keeping a horse’ that I can afford).

Looking after yourself is not easy or always cheap.
Nope — sort of along what @Friday was saying, I already spend a lot on keeping my dog healthy. Her knee surgery was very expensive and hard for both of us, and it would have been so much more if a horse had had that problem. That would be a ton of money.

And not all of that would be good attention - people still fight with me about my right to take my dog into their store, so I can only imagine the constant, relentless fight you’d face convincing people “my horse has a right to be here”.
Ugh, yeah, I feel you. At least most people stopped trying to pet my dog! And I’m frequently feeling chatty. (Unless they’re one of those people chatting up the dog and pretending I don’t exist ?) But still. It’s tiring and gets old. With a horse, I bet I’d get chased places.

And I’ve gotten a couple places ask me about my dog’s rights who’s only the 55lbs I mentioned earlier — a 70-100 lb horse probably wouldn’t go over so well.

A rottweiler on the other hand!? Not so much!
(Ooh, life hack!)

Practically speaking, a horse can’t just jump in the car with you and go wherever. A horse can’t fit under a cafe table, bus seat or desk. A horse can’t sleep on your bed if nightmares are one of your things. A horse can’t jump in a taxi or ambulance. A horse can’t go into a change room or public toilet (anywhere). A horse is going to have a hard time negotiating stairs or travelators. A horse is going to have a hard time negotiating narrow aisles at the grocery store.
I imagined a mini horse trying to figure out a narrow escalator and laughed a little. Those are great points.

I’m not sure how blind people or people with mobilty challenges manage when they have mini horses. Maybe if I could find one who does, I could ask how this works for them?

In one place without handicap stalls for public toilets, I’ve had to have an employee guard the men’s bathroom so I could use an open stall (American bathrooms are specifically horrible for men for some reason, but it’s getting better. My brothers tell me stall doors are normal now! Lol), and if I’d had a small 80 pound animal, it wouldn’t have worked out so well... unless he wanted to wait outside...? Better hope he’s on a long leash?


(and sorry, getting rid of it fast and hygienically IS important to me!).
(I agree. One time I stepped in dog poo while cleaning my dog’s poo up and I felt I accidentally got someone else’s karma)

Will change and reduce over that time:)
I sure hope so! That would be awesome! But that’s the goal, so hopefully it’ll work out some time :)





Thank you all again for brainstorming and giving feedback!!! I’m very glad I asked
 
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