Miniature horses aren’t just for petting zoos anymore. As the Los Angeles Times reports, a Cincinnati-area airport uses tiny “therapy horses” to greet travelers and calm anxious passengers.
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Kentucky launched its therapy animal program in 2016. According to NPR, the airport originally wanted to go with dogs—but then, they discovered Seven Oaks Farm, a nearby nonprofit farm that runs a volunteer miniature horse therapy program. Test visits with the horses proved to be a hit, and the mini equines began visiting the airport twice a month.
Since the horses are trained to handle a bustling airport environment, they don’t run away or get scared. But since it would likely prove challenging to herd the equines through security lines, they typically hang out in the airport’s ticketing area instead of past the gates.
The horses’ visits are a few hours long, and passengers are allowed to pose for photos. During the 143rd Kentucky Derby on May 6 and May 7, the mini therapy horses were even decked out in festive race regalia, and provided “mobile therapeutic services to children and adults through equine-assisted activities,” according to a press release (as quoted by the Dayton Daily News).
Many passengers “thank us for being there at that time because they needed that little bit of support before they get on the plane,” Lisa Moad, who runs the therapy program, told NPR.
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is the only airport in the country to use therapy horses, according to the Los Angeles Times. That said, more than 30 airports around the country now have therapy dogs, and a few even have animals like cats and a pot-bellied pig.