Pinocchio said “Let your conscious guide horse be your guide”. But what about letting a guide horse be your guide? Almost everyone has heard of a seeing-eye dog. But what about a seeing-eye horse? (Well, now that’s a horse of a different color!)
The Guide Horse Foundation
The Guide Horse Foundation was founded in 1999. It was seen as an experimental program to access the abilities of miniature horses as assistance animals. There is a critical shortage of guide animals for the blind and guide horses are an appropriate assistance animal for thousands of visually impaired people in the USA.
Guide horses are not for everyone, but there is a strong demand for Guide Horses. They’re a great alternative to a seeing eye dog among blind horse lovers, those who are allergic to dogs, and those who want a guide animal with a longer lifespan.
A Guiding Light
In early experiments, Guide Horses have shown great promise as a mobility option. People who have tried Guide Horses report they perform exceptionally well at keeping their person safe. These friendly horses provide an experimental alternative mobility option for blind people. People who have tried Guide Horses report that the horses demonstrate excellent judgment and are not easily distracted by crowds and people.
A seeing-eye horse is an alternative option for blind people who do not wish to or cannot use a guide dog. There are several perceived advantages to using a horse rather than a dog. For instance, Miniature horses, with an average lifespan of thirty years, live much longer than dog. Also for those allergic to or frightened of dogs, a horse could make a good alternative. However, one of the pitfalls is that while a dog can adapt to many different home situations, a horse must live outdoors. As a result a guide horse will require shelter and room to move about when not on duty. Guide horse users may also find difficulty in transporting a miniature guide horse on public transportation.
Advantages of a Guide Horse
A guide horse still a pretty good idea, and certainly a safe, cost-effective and reliable mobility alternative for visually impaired people. The Guide Horse Foundation is committed to delivering Guide Horses at no cost to the blind, relying on un-paid volunteers and charitable donations to pay all travel and housing expenses.
It’s worth noting that The Guide Horse Foundation is always seeking legally-blind volunteers to participate in our experiments. They’d probably also appreciate some non-blind volunteers as well, so if you’e looking for a good cause, this may be one you’ve not thought or (or even knew existed). To learn more about volunteering, visit their website, or fill out the application directly here: Guide Horse Candidate Application.