FACES Little Hooves, Big Heart

Lucky the 12-year-old miniature horse spends an ideal afternoon with one of four house dogs. (Taya Buehler-Reagan)

Lucky the 12-year-old miniature horse spends an ideal afternoon with one of four house dogs. (Photos by Taya Buehler-Reagan)

Lucky the miniature service horse lives up to his name as Mission Viejo City Council epically fails when fighting for custody

Miniature horses are not allowed in Mission Viejo. Lucky for mini horse Lucky, his extreme lack in size justifies his residency. Claudia Bradford, Lucky’s caretaker, knew she wanted a trained mini horse for children’s charity work. Her first horse was slightly larger, but too temperamental for her intent. After several months of looking, Bradford found Lucky at two years of age.

Bradford’s brother built Lucky’s stable in her backyard, as well as a trailer made to his specifications.

Lucky is treated with as much love as any other Bradford house pet. He is frequently groomed, spoiled with treats like graham crackers and tortilla chips (aside from his usual diet of rabbit pellets) and exercised daily through the neighborhood park, and Tar Farms stable, where her son is a horse trainer.

Lucky reluctantly poses with Bradford and yorky pup friend.

“I have a golf cart I use to hook him up to and he will run next to me,” Bradford says.

Despite the fact that Bradford has a pet horse roaming in her backyard, according to Bradford, Lucky is easier to care for than her other four dogs.

“They don’t have the wear and tear of a large horse, because large horses tend to go lame and have leg issues,” says Bradford. “They are just like pets, like dogs, very low maintenance really.”

Lucky appears to enjoy the days that he does his charity work, getting pampered and groomed beforehand. The outgoing mini horse is calm and collective for the elderly and the children that he visits.

The majority of Lucky’s charity work takes place at Esperanza Special Education School in Mission Viejo. The ages of students range from 12-22, and the arrival of Lucky has them jumping for joy. But Lucky is a trained professional so he knows exactly how to respond to the excited gestures of the students.

“When he sees kids he just freezes for them,” Bradford says. “It’s like they know; animals just have a sense. And he is just incredibly reliable in that way.”

The city of Mission Viejo found out about Lucky after two years and was determined to take him away. The letter itself was traumatic, but it was the painful words in bold that struck a chord with Bradford.

“Please contact the city with your timetable for removing the miniature horse from your property,” the letter read.

Bradford had been prepared for this moment since the day she got Lucky. She wrote back with her specified date for a trial in defending her case, and went in full-force.

She spent four months preparing three binders, each more than 20 pages. She compiled letters and documents, gained neighbors petition signatures, and gathered photos of Lucky’s contributions of the community.

The city had no choice but to allow Lucky to stay, so long as Bradford purchased a special permit for assist animals.

“I named him Lucky because I was so lucky to be able to keep him,” Bradford says. “I knew from the beginning that I would be caught, but I knew if I fought hard I could keep him.”

Lucky remains in his luxury stable in Bradford’s backyard, with the other animals to keep him company. He still works at Esperanza School on Thursdays, joins parades, birthday parties, and other special events upon request.