Will The Therapy Horse Trend Continue? [Opinion]

Over the past five years, service animals have been narrowed down to two types, and miniature horses are often associated with helping people with disabilities along with dogs. However, will full-sized therapy horses continue to be a trend?

According to Minnesota Public Radio, a horse named Buddy was employed as therapy horse, and he was also well-known in the community. After turning 30-years-old, the community retired Buddy in late 2016, and he was nominated for Horse of the Year honors for the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.

Outside of professional service animals such as therapy horses, there are many popular tales about how a horse helped a person through a difficult time in their lives.

For example, Shag-ra the horse and his story of saving Phyllis Olsen from alcoholism was first highlighted in the 1990’s on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Coverage about Shag-ra showed how he was an informal (and not professionally trained or registered) therapy horse, and this service was not only for his owner, but also a benefit to a nearby school for children living with physical disabilities.

Kaley Cuoco Ryan Sweeting split Zaza horse
Shortly after the public announcement of her split from husband Ryan Sweeting, Kaley Cuoco introduced her Instagram followers to her new horse Zaza. (Courtesy Kaley Cuoco/Instagram)

Obviously, therapy horses have a place in helping people with disabilities, and it is my opinion that they will start to be incorporated in the Americans with Disabilities Act in the future because horses are already part of the definition of a service animal.

Starting in 2011, according to USA Today, miniature horses were added to the list of animals that qualified as service animals by the federal government. According to the ADA guidelines for service animals, they clearly state that miniature horses must be a certain size, housebroken, and under control by the owner.

There is also evidence that service horses that train for people with disabilities will be an enduring trend simply based on the fact that horses live much longer than dogs.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of using dogs as service animals is the fact that it is expensive to train them, and after age 10, they are usually retired. The average lifespan of a dog is 12-years-old, but for a full size horse, the average lifespan is 25 to 30 years.

Government plans to kill 45000 horses.

Adding to this, Guide Horses states that miniature horses actually live about a third longer than a regular horse, and this means they can live to be up to 50-years-old.

Since the average cost of training a service dog is up to $42,000, according to Leader Dogs for the Blind, this means that each of their six- to 10-years of service to a person with disabilities is about $5,000 to $7,000 per year.

Nevertheless, there are a few things to consider before getting a mini horse with service animal capabilities. For example, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, a horse of any type will require certain types of maintenance that might not be expected, such as hiring someone to shoe the horse every five weeks.

Also, unlike a service dog, a service mini horse may not be highly compatible with living in a cramped apartment.

In my opinion, mini horses used as service animals may also continue to be a trend because they have a unique trait that gives them 350-degree range of vision, according to Farm Show.

Mini horses aside, will full-size horses become the next therapy animal?

While they might not be sanctioned by the ADA as a permissible service animal like a mini horse or dog, I think full-size horses that are housed in rescues would be an excellent option if the ADA did decide to expand the list of service animals to include therapy animals in the future.

Currently, there are no indications that the ADA will be changing laws in the future pertaining to the definition of service animals.

[Feature Image by Ted S. Warren/AP Images]