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Why the long face? Mini horses ease stress as students gallop towards finals

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Many universities throughout the country bring in dogs to help students relieve stress during finals, but at the University of Minnesota Duluth they got to pet two miniature therapy horses.

Spanky and Peanut – just 31 and 28 inches tall – were on the university's campus Tuesday as part of the Pet Away Worry and Stress (PAWS) program, UMD says. And they drew a big crowd.

“I didn’t see that coming. That is awesome,” junior Brent Johnson, surprised to find horses on campus, told the Duluth News Tribune. “I kind of wanted to ride, to be honest — but they are still fun to play with, too.”

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Spanky and Peanut are registered with Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program and ambassadors for The Windchill Legacy, a nonprofit based in Superior, Wisconsin, that aims to end the abuse and neglect of horses. With Windchill Legacy, the two mini horses typically visit schools and assisted living centers.

The horses were also joined by their taller friend Diesel, a dog who stands 33 inches tall, the Duluth News Tribune says. As well as some dogs and cats from Animal Allies, according to The Windchill Legacy's Facebook page.

Animals and pets are known stress relievers and even petting an animal for just a little while can be beneficial to your well-being, animal expert Arden Moore told Today.

Research dating back to the early 1980s supports this idea. Pets have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve recovery from heart disease and other diseases, as well as improve people's psychological well-being and self-esteem, according to Harvard University.

Now back to the mini horses:

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