By Julia Williams
Most of us are familiar with seeing eye dogs. These extraordinary working canines have long been used to help the blind regain their mobility and independence. But a seeing eye horse? Why yes…of course!
In 2009 there were just a handful of miniature horses being used as Guide Horses for the blind. Although the number of Guide Horses used today is still small, the demand is growing as more people begin to see the advantages of a miniature horse versus the traditional seeing eye dog. There’s even a nonprofit organization that was created specifically to provide a safe, cost-effective and reliable mobility option for visually impaired people. Founded in 1999, the Guide Horse Foundation relies on volunteers to donate, train and deliver trained Guide Horses free of charge to visually impaired individuals.
Why Use a Miniature Horse as a Blind Guide?
Guide Horses are not for everyone, but are particularly appealing to blind people who are allergic to dogs, as well as blind horse lovers, people who have Cynophobia (fear of dogs) and those who want a guide animal with a longer lifespan. Guide Horses are also a good option for individuals with physical disabilities because of their docile nature, and because they are strong enough to provide support and help the handler get up from their chair.
Guide Horses have shown promise as a viable mobility option, and people who have them say that the miniature horses have performed very well and have done a remarkable job of keeping them safe. Guide horses are also said to demonstrate excellent judgment, and are not easily distracted by crowds and people.
By Suzanne Alicie
Mr. Graham Waspe and his guide dog Edward moved through the world side by side for six wonderful years before the dog developed a rare form of glaucoma and lost his sight. Edward received the best veterinary care available, but due to the pressure of his condition and the pain caused, it was decided that the best course of action was to remove Edward’s eyes. Waspe and his wife Sandra were devastated by the loss of Edward as a guide dog, but made sure to help him adjust to his loss.
Waspe said “If it was a person or a child, you could at least explain to them what was going to happen. In the case of an animal, of course, you can’t, so we found that side of it very traumatic.” In November 2010, Waspe got another guide dog, a yellow lab named Opal. Amazingly, the new dog is also a “guide dog” of sorts for Edward, and they all visit schools and community groups in their area to teach people about guide dogs, their training and the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity. Edward was well known throughout the area, but it seems as if Opal is also establishing herself as a remarkable dog that completes this picture.
By Julia Williams
When I first learned of Randy Pierce and his extraordinary Seeing Eye dog known as “the Mighty Quinn,” I was reminded of the old proverb which states, “Faith can move mountains.” In this case, Randy relies on Quinn not to move mountains, but to guide him up them, one precarious, craggy step at a time. Moreover, Randy’s faith in Quinn’s ability to lead him up one of the “Four Thousand Footers” of the White Mountains in New Hampshire led to another lofty goal – the pair would attempt to climb all 48 of those rugged 4000 foot peaks in just five years time!
Climbing the White Mountains Four Thousand Footers is a tall order even for hikers who can see the loose rocks, low-hanging branches, tree roots and other obstacles on the trail. Randy not only depends on the Mighty Quinn to guide him safely around these dangers, but has complete confidence in the dog’s ability to do so. Then again, Quinn, a five-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, is definitely not your average trail guide!