- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2005

A horse is a horse, of course — unless it thinks it’s a dog and sleeps with the Fishes.

The Fish family of Ellicott City, Md., has a 90-pound miniature horse who lives in their home and believes she’s an Irish setter. Or maybe a golden retriever.

“She has no clue she’s a horse,” said owner Linda Fish, who is raising Olivia, an 8-month-old, 2 1/2-foot-tall horse, alongside two dogs, Rebel and Ace, and a cat named Teager.

“As soon as she comes in the house, she’ll head for the dog food [and] fight the dogs for it,” Ms. Fish said. “If you’re eating something, she’s right in your face begging. She’s like a dog.”

Olivia also likes toast and cookies and recently complained when she had to share a trailer ride with another horse.

“She’s much more social with people and dogs,” said Ms. Fish, 58. “She’s not a horse person.”

The miniature horse is the prod- uct of nearly 400 years of selective breeding. European royalty often kept them as pets because of their eager, gentle nature, according to the American Miniature Horse Association.

Actor Charles Dutton, of “Roc” fame, gave the horse to Ms. Fish and daughter Carey four months ago to show his neighborly appreciation for them managing his farm while he was away on business, Ms. Fish said.

Ms. Fish dresses Olivia, brushes her long brown mane, loads her into the family car and takes her to entertainment gigs at the Caritas House senior assisted-living facility in Baltimore, where Ms. Fish is a nursing director.

“They just love her,” she said. “They’ll call her over and pet her. She’s not afraid of the wheelchairs or the walkers. She’ll go right over to the folks and stand there.”

Children love her, too.

“They come running over to her because she’s their size,” Ms. Fish said. “They’re eyeball to eyeball with her.”

Dressed as a cowgirl in boots, a plaid shirt, jeans with a cutout for her tail, and a cowgirl hat cocked to one side, Olivia recently defeated 20 dogs to take first place in a PetSmart’s Halloween costume contest, Ms. Fish said.

“It was really funny because the dogs coming in would want to sniff each other [and] the dogs would get to her and totally freak,” she said.

Generally obedient and relaxed while indoors, Olivia enjoys napping on a bed atop a horse-print comforter or rug beside the fireplace. Outside, she’ll romp and gallop around the family’s 15-acre farm and nap in her horse house — a larger version of a dog house.

Like Ms. Fish’s dogs, Olivia is housebroken and will scratch at the door when she needs to go out. But her appetite for mischief calls for constant supervision.

“She’s like a 2-year-old,” Ms. Fish said. “There’s absolutely no difference. I cannot trust her in the house [alone]. She gets into the trash worse than the dogs. And you cannot leave any kind of papers laying around because she’ll pull them off the table.”

Fortunately, Olivia hasn’t been too naughty this year.

A little red stocking bearing her name is already hung by the stairs with care and filled with horse treats, new pink slippers and socks in anticipation of her first Christmas.

Asked whether Olivia knows that she’s a Fish, her owner laughed.

“No, I don’t think she’s figured that out yet,” Ms. Fish said. “She’ll learn that later.”

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