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GRAND RAPIDS, MI — My Little Pony really does fly – in first class on American Airlines, no less.
A miniature horse named Freckle Butt Fred was spotted on Feb. 7 on an AA flight from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Dallas, Texas, and onward to Ontario, California, with his human, Ronica Froese.
Specially trained as Froese’s emotional support animal, the adorable 115-pound equine was prepped prior to the big trip with exercises that helped him acclimate to loud noises. He even underwent potty training to avoid any mishaps at the airport and onboard.
While in first class, Fred held his own against other well-dressed passengers by donning a teal hood worthy of any superhero, which prevented his hair from irritating anyone’s allergies. And like any true fashionista, he also wore special shoes for horses.
To ensure Fred’s comfort and those around him, Froese purchased two tickets in bulkhead seating and made sure each flight was no longer than three hours. During takeoff and landing, she positioned Fred on a yoga mat on the floor, providing enough traction and stability.
Froese, who lives with an “invisible autoimmune disease” and owns the equine assisted therapy company Little Horses Big Smiles in Fremont, Michigan, told PEOPLE that the journey went off without a hitch.
“Fred was the definition of a perfect service animal in flight,” she said. “He is so bonded with me, he is willing to do anything I ask of him.”
Froese also noted that the entire cabin crew and fellow passengers fell in love with Fred.
“Everyone loved him. Pilots, co-pilots, flight attendants, TSA, airport staff and all the passengers were kind. Lots of the passengers were so amazed how well he behaved,” she added.
Though Fred was well-received by everyone around him, Froese did notice a few passengers taking photos and videos with their cellphone without her permission.
“Many politely asked but others were just rude,” she said. “We aren’t a side show and would like to be treated with respect.”
Fred’s journey sheds further light on current rules and restrictions with regard to service animals on planes. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced new proposed rules that would define a service animal as a certified service dog only.
In recent years, the air industry has seen a growing list of exotic and unusual animals accompanying their humans on flights and at airports. Who could forget the emotional support peacock spotted at Newark airport, or the squirrel who got kicked off a Frontier Airlines flight in 2018? Then there was the pig that ran hog-wild in the aisles of a US Airways flight from Connecticut, and our personal favourite, the calm, cool and collected turkey that flew on Delta.
Until the rules are changed, we’re gladly adding Freckle Butt Fred to the Emotional Support Animal Hall of Fame. We’re going to need an emotional support animal of our own to deal with all our warm and fuzzy feelings!