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Miniature horse flies first class on an American Airlines flight
Posted on 24/02/2020

TransportUnited States of America

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Fred - the miniature service horse - flew first class from Michigan to California and back again earlier this month.

Miniature horse gets the full first class treatment

Miniature horse gets the full first class treatment
Helen Hotson/123RF

Passengers boarding an American Airlines flight earlier this month were shocked at who they would be flying with: a miniature service horse called Freckle Butt Fred (or Fred for short).

Measuring just 26 inches in height and weighing 115 pounds, Fred stood calmly in the leg space of his first-class seat as he and his owner Rosa Froese traveled from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Dallas, Texas, before hopping on their connecting flight to reach Ontario, California.

"I bought two first class seats for us because it was our first time flying, so Fred would have the most room and so we wouldn't bother any other passengers," Froese told Insider, with both seats costing more than $2,000 (approximately 1,550).

Specifically trained as an equine service and therapy animal, Fred wore a teal hood for the duration of both flights so that flight attendants and other passengers would not be affected if they were allergic to horses.

"Fred was the definition of a perfect service animal in flight," Froese told CNN. "Everyone loved him. Pilots, co-pilots, flight attendants, TSA, airport staff and all the passengers were kind. Lots of passengers were so amazed how well he behaved."

But Fred's first flight was only a success after months of training. Froese knew that takeoff would be the most tricky, so she prepared Fred in the months beforehand by loading him into the back of her Ford truck and practicing mock takeoffs. Loud airplane noises were played through the truck's speakers to emulate the plane's journey down the runway.

Froese also worried that security might be a problem too and so took Fred to their local courthouse to practice going through a metal detector.

Service animals on flights

Service animals on flights
cylonphoto/123RF

Some may be wondering, why a horse? Froese is living with Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which causes inflammation of the digestive tract.

"When I'm in a severe flair, the way I describe it is Freddy Krueger taking his nails and ripping them through my intestines," Froese explains.

"When I'm really sick, I struggle to walk, I struggle to fix things up, I can't bend over. Fred is fully directed retrieval trained... So if I drop something, Fred will pick it up and hand it to me. If I need him to go grab me something, I can point at an object. He can go get my shoes for me," she added.

Although responses aboard the aircraft were overwhelmingly positive, Froese still received some judgmental looks from passengers.

"I have an invisible autoimmune disease," Froese said. "Not all disabilities can be seen and we all deserve the same respect as the blind whose disability can be seen."

But Fred's first flight might also be his last. Last month, the Department of Transportation in the US unveiled a proposal that would restrict the types of service animals that passengers would be allowed to bring aboard planes, limiting them only to trained service dogs.