A pair of miniature horses drew a big crowd Tuesday on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.

Peanut and Spanky - just 28 and 31 inches tall, respectively - visited the Kirby Student Center as part of UMD’s Pet Away Worry and Stress (PAWS) program, to give students a brief break from preparations for exams.

“It’s just a way for students to kind of de-stress. ... You know they miss their animals so much when they are in school,” said Pat Castellano, humane educator with Animal Allies Humane Society. “Last month we had a few tears from students who really missed theirs. And it was nice for them to be able to sit down with an animal and cuddle for a little bit.”

The miniature horses belong to Gary and Polly Knoll Niemi of Superior, and are trained as therapy horses. They’re ambassadors for the Windchill Legacy, a nonprofit group aimed at ending abuse and neglect of horses.

Students who stopped to see the horses said it was a nice, brief distraction from the intensity of preparing for and taking exams.

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

“Finals week is still finals week, but having a little distraction always helps,” said junior Nicole Voit.

Spanky and Peanut were joined Tuesday by a dog, Diesel - who at 33 inches tall was taller than either horse.

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