School-Service Horse

A young miniature horse in sneakers is helping a 4-year-old special needs child at an Anchorage public elementary school.

Zoe, a black mare, is a service animal for preschooler Zaiden Beattie at Russian Jack Elementary School. It’s the only service horse in an Alaska school _ and after multiple online searches, the only service horse Principal Elizabeth Hornbuckle could find at any school in the nation.

Zaiden is one of 300 children in the U.S. diagnosed with A-T, or ataxia-telangiectasia, a genetic disorder that progressively robs children of their ability to coordinate movement such as walking. Zaiden’s mother, Lesley Zacharias, a professional horse trainer, is teaching Zoe to help Zaiden walk steadily until the disease inevitably shackles him to a wheelchair.