The horses -- which range from 24 inches to 34 inches tall and weigh 70 to 100 pounds -- are already considered limited-use service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it's a rare occasion to see a disabled person walking with the assistance of an animal other than a dog. Critics say the mandate is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and indeed, a California man filed suit in March claiming a restaurant denied him -- and his mini-steed -- service.
"I like horses. My daughter likes horses. But even in the Wild West, they put them outside," said Angelo Amador, vice president of the National Restaurant Association.
According to the Guide Horse Foundation, miniature horses can be useful for people with severe allergies or phobias to dogs, or people who want an animal likely to live longer than a dog. The horses are strong enough to provide support when handlers need to lean on them, and they are not easily distracted by crowds.