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.