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How to Travel With a Mini-Horse on American Airlines

How to Travel With a Mini-Horse on American Airlines
Taylor Rains

Earlier this month, American Airlines welcomed an unusual passenger on some of its aircraft – Fred, the miniature service horse. Michigan resident Ronica Froese was concerned about how the airline would treat her and Fred considering the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) new proposition to ban any non-dog service animal, but she says the roundtrip journey was totally smooth.

No Long Faces on This AA Flight

Fred is part of Froese’s animal-assisted therapy nonprofit, Little Horses Big Smiles Inc. He was prepped for months prior to the flights, and his owner even ponied up the money for two first-class seats on the plane to ensure Fred had a comfortable journey. The pair trekked from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Ontario, California on two separate legs with a layover in Dallas-Fort Worth. Fred navigated check-in, security, and boarding like a champ, and the passengers and crew were all ecstatic to have the mini horse on the flight.

Froese took as much precaution as possible before boarding Fred onto the aircraft. She made sure to dress him in a full-body outfit to help those that have horse allergies. She said in a post on social media, “The full-body leisurewear sleazy is to be respectful of people who are on the plane that are allergic to horses. It’s a respect and thoughtful decision I made per the suggestion of my fellow service horse handler Jessica Wellman. Good thing he had it on the one Flight attendant in first class on our first flight was allergic to horses. She thanked me so much for having him bathed and covered.”

Although the duo received a few funny looks from other travelers, she says the trip was a breeze. In another post, she said, “Our trip was the ABSOLUTE best trip I could have imagined. Fred amazing, Gerald R Ford International Airport employees amazing, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport employees amazing, American Airlines employees on both flights Amazing, and most of all the 99% of the general public we have met SO KIND. I’m so proud of this little horse. We make an amazing team. He was destined for this job.”

Facebook Mini Service Horse

Facebook, Fred-Mini Service Horse

DOT Proposal

There is a blurred line between service animals and emotional support animals that has become a subject of debate. In this case, Fred’s behavior on the flight was phenomenal. He never galloped out of line and is a testament to all the neigh-sayers of what an excellent service animal should act like.

The issue that has come up recently regarding emotional support animals (ESA) is that many travelers are obtaining forged documents claiming their pet as an ESA, and those pets have included rabbits, parrots, lizards, hedgehogs, and all sorts of interesting animals. On most airlines, this allows the animal to fly for free, but there have been cases of these untrained pets leaving messes on aircraft and even biting other passengers and cabin crewmembers. Because of this, the DOT has proposed a new rule that would classify any emotional support animal that offers companionship as pets and those that provide support for mobility as service animals. Furthermore, the proposal would allow airlines to ban any non-dog service animal, meaning Fred would not make the cut.

Froese believes there is a problem with people who abuse the system, but thinks only allowing service dogs would keep qualified, trained animals, such as mini horses, from doing their jobs. She explained her stance on the matter, “It is out of control, it’s a very abused process, there are a lot of untrained service animals on the plane that are not trained. It’s definitely an abused system, but the sad part is what the DOT is looking at doing, they are looking at excluding me as a handler from taking my horse on the plane.”

View Comments (12)


  1. mjack99

    February 19, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    My daughter is highly allergic to dogs, cats, and horses and it would be a very bad situation to find ourselves sitting next to one. I beleive the airlines have a responsibility to inform passengers if an animal is on board whatever type.

  2. tkelvin69

    February 19, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    Fred is probably better than most seat mates.

    There are so many types of allergies and varying degree of severity it would be impossible for the airlines to inform all passengers of potential allergens. The responsibility rests with the passenger to call and ask.

  3. Bouncer


    February 20, 2020 at 12:26 am

    HE HAS LITTLE SNEAKERS ON!!! …Who was the person that said “Hmm.. you know what’s an opening area of business? “Sneakers for horses!”” And someone else said “yes, I will fund this.”.


  4. fotographer

    February 20, 2020 at 3:40 am

    what ever.. use a horse trailer next time.. this has got to stop..
    never saw this lets say 20 years ago

  5. Snuggs

    February 20, 2020 at 5:27 am

    @mjack99 I get it. AA told my wife she could move back to coach as another F pax had a cat.

    Yet, I would rather see this fella on a flight than a yipper dog of >5lbs… or ANY cat

  6. Boggie Dog

    February 20, 2020 at 10:26 am

    What service does this animal provide? Perhaps I missed that point in the article.

  7. drphun

    February 21, 2020 at 8:49 am

    I am much more sympathetic since the owner purchased a seat for the animal.

  8. DCAFly

    February 21, 2020 at 9:18 am

    Bye bye Lil’ Sebastian…

  9. rylan

    February 21, 2020 at 9:19 am

    They paid for a separate first class seat so I don’t have a problem with that.

    The issue is when pax bring on their emotional support whatevers with their cheap economy- seat and expect special treatment and extra space.

  10. Afterall

    February 23, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    Fred is as cute as all get out, but erasing the line between mobility help from a service animal and emotional support from a broader menagerie has become ridiculous. There is a simple, reliable tool for keeping travelers and their emotional support animals together. It’s called a car.

  11. MRM

    February 26, 2020 at 4:35 am

    I also wonder: what “service” does it provide? It’s not a seeing-eye animal, so a horse? I just fail to see the need for a horse to be on a plane.

  12. Brian-AAFlyer

    March 16, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Actually, the ADA recognises two types of animals as service animals, Dogs and Minature horses.
    The reason for this is lifespans, a horse can perform the same duties as a service dog, but will live as much as 5 times longer, meaning the retraining and overall costs are much lower in the long run.
    Check the ADA regs, you’ll find a addendum that adds the miniature horse, meaning they can’t be rejected on a flight if they are an ADA service animal and must be acommodated if possible (like buying 2 first class seats)

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