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Q. When is a Guide Dog not a Dog? A. When it’s a Horse!

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What is a Guide Horse?
A Guide horse is the same as a Guide Dog except it is a horse!

Who is the Ideal Guide Horse Owner?

The following types of people have expressed high interest in having a Guide Horse:
  • Horse lovers – Blind people who have grown up with horses and understand equine behaviour and care are ideal candidates.
  • Allergenic people – Many people who are severely allergic to traditional guide animals and find horses a non-allergenic alternative for mobility.
  • Mature Individuals – Many people report difficulty dealing with the grief of losing their animals, and horses tend to live far longer than traditional guides. 
  • Physically Disabled folks – Because of their docile nature, Guide Horses are easier to handle for individuals with physical disabilities. They are also strong enough to provide support, helping the handler to rise from their chair. 
  • Dog Phobia – Individuals who fear dogs are often comfortable working with a tiny horse.
  • Outdoor Animal– Many individuals prefer a guide animal that does not have to live in the house when off duty.

Why use a horse?

There are many compelling reasons to use horses as guide animals. Horses are natural guide animals and have been guiding humans for centuries. In nature, horses have been shown to possess a natural guide instinct. When another horse goes blind in a herd, a sighted horse accepts responsibility for the welfare of the blind horse and guides it with the herd. With humans, many blind people ride horses in equestrian competitions. Some blind people ride alone on trails for many miles, completely relying on the horse to guide them safely to their destination. Through history, Cavalry horses have been known to guide their injured rider to safety. The Guide Horse Foundation finds several characteristics of horses that make them suitable to guide the blind:
  • Calm Nature – Trained horses are extremely calm in chaotic situations. Cavalry horses have proven that horses can remain calm even in the extreme heat of battle. Police horses are an excellent example of well trained horses that deal with stressful situations. Guide Horses undergo the same systematic desensitization training that is given to riot-control horses.
  • Great Memory – Horses possess phenomenal memories. A horse will naturally remember a dangerous situation decades after the occurrence. 
  • Excellent Vision – Because horses have eyes on the sides of their heads, they have a very wide range of vision, with a range of nearly 350 degrees. They also have outstanding night vision and can see clearly in almost total darkness.
  • Focus – Trained horses are very focused on their work and are not easily distracted. Horses are not addicted to human attention and normally do not get excited when petted or groomed.
  • Safety – Naturally safety oriented, horses are constantly on the lookout for danger. All horses have a natural propensity to guide their master along the safest most efficient route, and demonstrate excellent judgment in obstacle avoidance training.
  • Stamina – Hearty and robust, a properly conditioned Guide Horse can easily travel many miles in a single outing.
  • Manners – Guide Horses are very clean and can be housebroken. Horses do not get fleas and only shed twice per year. Horses are not addicted to human affection and will stand quietly when on duty.
The Guide Horse Foundation relies on volunteers to donate, train and deliver trained Guide Horses free-of-charge to visually impaired individuals.

Panda: A Clicker Trained Assistance Horse

Helping Hooves Guide Horses for the Blind
Janet is the pioneering horse trainer
that developed the Guide Horse Program 

Helping Hooves – Janet Burleson

As a lifelong horse training enthusiast, Janet Burleson has experimented with hundreds of horse behaviour challenges. 

With four decades of horse teaching experience, read how she trained Twinkie, the prototype first experimental Guide horse for the blind and Cuddles the first Guide horse to enter full time service as a guide animal for Dan Shaw

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