When the Department of Transportation released its 28-page proposal to limit the types of animals allowed on planes, it highlighted three species that would be allowed. The first two were obvious choices: cats and dogs. The third? Miniature horses.

The document often includes miniature horses as a “commonly recognized service animal.” This, surprisingly, is true. While service horses continue to be a rare sight on planes, especially when compared to cats and dogs, they are a popular choice of service animal. But why?

Why Miniature Horses are Used as Service Animals

As it turns out, horses can perform the tasks often required of service dogs – often to a better and more effective end. For example, guide horses are a popular choice among blind people. They are fast learners and have mild personalities. Plus, horses, unlike dogs, have nearly 360-degree vision, and they may be able to offer balance support to people who may also need help with a physical disability. This makes them a very attractive choice.

Longer lifespans also make horses a popular service animal pick. Service dogs may be able to serve for between 8 and 10 years, but miniature horses can live for up to 40 years. This minimizes the number of hours trainers need to spend on individual horses while providing a person with disabilities a near life-long companion.

Service horses are also great for travel. They are small enough to be transported in a hatch-back car, and they can be trained to defecate into a plastic bag. That said, airlines continue to squeeze as many people as possible into airplanes, dramatically reducing the amount of space between rows of seats. This poses a challenge to passengers traveling with service horses. In some cases, these passengers may be required to upgrade to business class to provide room for their animals.

Looking Forward: Will We Still See Miniature Horses on Planes?

Many people with disabilities who use service horses hope that the Department of Transportation regulations streamline their travel experiences. People typically call the airline to let them know they will be traveling with a horse, but often, airlines respond that there is no room for the furry friend. Horse users hope the proposed rules would discourage this behavior, as horses would be recognized as an official service animal option.

A growing number of emotional support animals have emerged in recent years, including rabbits, peacocks, and monkeys. But horses have been popular for decades, and they will likely remain popular for decades to come.