Mayo Clinic welcomes first therapy mini horse

Mayo Clinic's four-legged therapy animals have traditionally been dogs of all shapes and sizes... until now.

Meet Munchkin – Mayo's first-ever therapy horse.

Equipped with his official vest, ID badge, and booties to make sure he doesn't slip on the shiny floors, this mini-horse is ready to bring happiness and relaxation to the hospital's halls.

Munchkin is smaller than your average mini horse because he has dwarfism, making it easier for him to move throughout the building. 

"He always has his eye on that person who needs a little extra attention... he just can sense that," Munchkin's owner and volunteer Amanda Peters told FOX 9.

Of course, health and safety were top of mind before welcoming Munchkin to the hospital.

"We did review protocol with infection prevention and control, and we had a physician partner involved in that just evaluating the potential for zoonotic disease," said Animal Therapy Activity Coordinator Whitney Romine.

Munchkin is "potty trained," and gets multiple baths before and after his visits. Visitors are required to use hand sanitizer before and after touching him.

Romine says adding a horse to their roster provides an alternative for those who might be allergic or fearful of dogs.

"If you look at the literature on animal specific intervention, horses are the next common after dogs to be incorporated into treatment activities," said Romine.