Yes, that was a miniature horse you saw walking inside Baker’s Supermarket at Twin Creek in Bellevue.
Flirty is a miniature service horse belonging to Abrea Hensley, and the two have been together since 2017.
“I don’t know what I would do without her, even if I was cured today,” Hensley said. “She’s my constant companion.”
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Miniature horses can be trained to work and perform tasks for a person with disabilities. Hensley said Flirty helps her with medical alerts and mobility assistance.
Hensley, who trained horses for 20 years, said Flirty was a show pony before her job as a service animal.
Flirty, who recently turned 7, can live for up to 35 years.
“She’ll have the working lifespan of about three service dogs,” Hensley said.
Training Flirty has been easy, Hensley said, because Flirty was used to being out in public.
“One of the hardest things with training any service animal is getting them used to public situations,” Hensley said.
Because of the show pony experience, Hensley said Flirty has the attitude of “been everywhere and done everything.”
Before working with Flirty, Hensley said she wasn’t able to complete shopping trips and would have a panic attack and either have to abandon her cart or leave without everything that was on her shopping list.
As a working animal, Flirty’s job is to be aware of any medical alerts of her handler, so it is important to limit distractions when the two are together. For that reason, Flirty will block people from getting too close to Hensley by creating a physical barrier.
Hensley said children are better about asking to pet Flirty. When she does not let them pet the horse, she gives them a card with information about the horse so kids don’t feel turned down.
Adults, on the other hand, are more likely to pet Flirty without permission.
Hensley said her service animal is housetrained and will not cause a mess in public spaces.
“She won’t go in a store — she actually hates pooping in public,” Hensley said.
“She would rather wait until we get home.”