By Andrea Romano
September 03, 2019
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Most of the time, a horse is the last animal you might expect to see on a commercial flight.

However, miniature horses are an increasingly popular alternative service animal for people who have disabilities, but for whatever reason, cannot own a dog or other common animal. Even airports across the U.S. have tried out employing miniature horses to help flyers ease their travel stress.

Abrea Hensley, in particular, travels around with her miniature mare, Flirty, in order to do everyday errands and tasks, as well as going on long-distance trips.

Hensley took the 27-inch horse on its first flight ever last week, according to Business Insider, and it looks like the little horse is already a seasoned air traveler.

Hensley and Flirty boarded their first flight from Omaha, Nebraska to Chicago, Illinois on American Airlines. The two returned to Nebraska on Saturday. The Department of Transportation announced in August that miniature horses are valid support animals who are allowed to fly on commercial flights, according to Fox News.

“I have to say how impressed I am with how Flirty did on this trip. She took it all in stride like a pro,” Hensley wrote on her Instagram account that is dedicated to the service animal. “Once we achieved cruising altitude, she stood quietly and even took a nap.”

Hensley wrote that Flirty only had a little bit of trouble keeping her balance in flight. Hensley wrote that she learned quite a bit after this first trip, including the best ways to situate Flirty so they’re both comfortable and out of the way of other passengers, the best time to arrive in order to board efficiently, and that she has a much closer bond with her horse than she thought.

“She trusts me a lot and followed me up and down the ramps, and stepped up into the plane without hesitating at all,” Hensley wrote.

She added that she will be sticking mostly to car travel after this trip since Hensley’s home airport is very small and she worried about Flirty bumping into people and things.

Luckily, the American Airlines staff were happy to accommodate Hensley and Flirty. The plane crew even stopped to take a picture with the adorable horse.

One passenger on one of the flights seemed very amused to be sharing a plane with a horse as well.

According to KMTV-3, Hensley suffers from a range of disabilities which are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), including depression, severe anxiety, and PTSD. She is allergic to dogs, so she uses Flirty to help her anxiety, to remember to take her medication, and to keep her balance in large crowds. The ADA also has a separate provision that recognizes miniature horses as a service animal.

Hensley told KMTV-3 that she has only had run-ins with people who didn’t understand her situation a few times, including some where she was kicked out of stores.

Policies surrounding service animals, emotional support animals, and pets can vary from airline to airline, so it’s recommended to check your airline’s website before you book to make sure your furry (or hooved) companion can go with you.