Dogs have been used to assist blind and low-vision persons for more than a century. They must undergo intensive training; their masters' lives depend on them. So too, the miniature horse, whose guide training began as an experiment in 1999, and has grown since thanks to blind persons throughout the world who, for one reason or another, have not been able to use guide dogs.
Man led by guide horse: image via buzzle.com
The Guide Horse Foundation trains rescue miniature horses to assist low-visioned and blind persons in daily living tasks like walking safely, finding, and retrieving objects, and warning against hazards. They are trained according to the same standards as seeing eye dogs, and cost about as much, around $60,000, to train.
But there are reasons why miniature horses are preferable to some persons with low vision. One is that, even though the trained horse may be just as costly as a trained dog, horses have a longer life span and are, in that sense, more cost effective. A dog may work for 12 years, while a miniature horse could work for 20 or 25 years. The emotional cost of parting with an older dog every 12 years can be devastating, too. Consider how any one of us feels when we lose a pet; if we also relied on him to negotiate us through part of our daily routines, imagine how great his loss would be....
For those who fear dogs or who are allergic to them, miniature horses make more suitable guides. They have no dander and they don't shed. They can be house trained, just like dogs, and are clean in the house, but they do prefer the outdoors when they are 'off duty.' And for blind persons who can not have a dog for religious reasons, horses are perfect alternatives.
The woman in the image below, Mona Ramouni, saved for three years in her job as a braille copy reader to buy her mini-horse guide, and you won't find anyone happier. Now, she is at university studying psychology, which was her dream. (source
Guide horse, Cali, acceptable in a Muslim household: ©AFP, Getty images, via dailymail.co.uk
Horses also have excellent vision; being binary, they can see what's surrounding them with each eye and have a 350° range of vision, plus they can see in almost complete darkness. Horses are known for having great memories, making it more likely that they will avoid any dangers they previously confronted. They also have very calm demeanors and are not easily distracted.
But no, miniature guide horses are not for riding.
sources: Guide Horse Foundation, Humanyms, Buzzle, Daily Mail, via Now I Know. Thanks to Creature Features for the tip!
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