Message From the Guide Horse Foundation Concerning the use of Full Size Horses Indoors: The Guide Horse Foundation is against the use of riding size horses indoors because of the risk of injury to the horses, the blind handler and the general public. While our research has indicated that Miniature horses make suitable guide animals, large guide animals of any species can create a hazard for the public when used in an inappropriate setting for an animal of that size.
The Guide Horse Foundation Mission: Our mission is to provide 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 for the blind handler's on-site training. The Guide Horse Program: The Guide Horse Foundation was founded in 1999 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. In early experiments, Guide Horses have shown great promise as a mobility option, and people who have tried Guide Horses report that the Guide Horses 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. Guide horses are not for everyone, but there is a strong demand for Guide Horses among blind horse lovers, those who are allergic to dogs, and those who want a guide animal with a longer lifespan. An international Poll by the Discovery Channel showed that 27% of respondents would prefer a Guide Horse if they required a guide animal.
Who is the Ideal Guide Horse Owner? The Guide Horse Foundation has had exceptional interest from the following types of people: Horse lovers - Blind people who have grown up with horses and understand equine behavior 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 mini horse as a blind guide? There are many compelling reasons to use miniature 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: Long Lifespan - Miniature Horses can live to be more than 50 years old, with the average lifespan being 30-40 years.
According to guide dog trainers, guide dogs have a useful life between 8-12 years. Cost Effective - Training a guide dog can cost up to $60,000, according to the Guide Dog Users national advocacy group. According to Lighthouse International, there are more than 1.3 million legally blind people in the USA, yet only 7,000 guide animal users. Hence, a Guide Horse could be more cost-effective and ensure that more blind people receive a guide animal.
Better acceptance - Many guide dog users report problems getting access to public places because their dog is perceived as a pet. Most people do not associate a horse as a pet, and Guide Horse users report that they are immediately recognized as a working service animal. 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.
Horses are the only guide animals capable of independent eye movement and they can track potential danger with each eye. Horses can see clearly in almost total darkness. Focused Demeanor - 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 Conscious - 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. High Stamina - Hearty and robust, a properly conditioned Guide Horse can easily travel many miles in a single outing. Good 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. Who can train a Guide Horse? Training any guide animal requires many years of full-time training experience. Because the blind people entrust their lives to their horses, only professional horse trainers with at least ten years of full-time riding and horse training experience should attempt guide training. Janet Burleson, the first person in the world to train a Guide Horse, is a retired professional horse trainer with more than 30 years of full-time horse training experience.
During her professional career, Janet trained thousands of horses including national top ten champion performance horses. Noted as one of the world's pioneering horse trainers by Practical Horseman Magazine, Janet Burleson is considered a leading authority on horse training techniques. While the Guide Horse Foundation publishes details of the Guide Horse Training Program, we strongly discourage any attempts at Guide animal training by those who are not qualified.
The book "Helping Hooves" is now available for those who would like to learn more about training Guide Horses. We also have a new newsletter. The Guide Horse Foundation relies on volunteers to donate, train and deliver trained Guide Horses free-of-charge to visually impaired individuals. Visit our cooperative efforts, sponsors or mini sales pages. The Guide Horse Foundation has the utmost respect for The Seeing Eye® and their seventy-two years of outstanding work with assistance animals for the blind.
Please note that The Guide Horse Foundation is not affiliated with or sanctioned by the Seeing-Eye® or any of the Guide Dog training organizations. oracle training Visiting New York City Got a Question? Click Here for Answers! Click here to buy the book! Click here to see miniature horse photosSee Also: Animal Medical Center Of Bel Air
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The Miniature Horse as a Service Animalby Donnalee Ammons You may consider the miniature horse as a service animal no more than a quirky novelty, but let’s get a complete picture of why and how the miniature horse can be a perfect service animal. In the United States, miniature horses were first used in the coal mines of West Virginia. These sturdy little animals could pull two or three times their body weight through the deepest, narrowest tunnels of the coal mines.
They took up minimal space and were easy to house and care for. In addition their temperament was docile and compliant. The first miniatures were stocky little animals eager to please their handlers. Today’s miniature horse retains the same kind manner that made its forbearers such an asset to the early miners. Through selective breeding the miniature horse has become a more refined version of the animals so prized in the mines for a willing work ethic.
Miniature horses continue to be “user friendly” equines. Years ago “dwarf” minis were more prevalent than today. Conscientious breeders have selectively bred to try to eradicate the dwarf gene. While extremely small, the dwarf brings numerous physical and health concerns and should not be considered for the role of a service animal. In the early 90’s the Bossier Parish School System in Louisiana used miniature horses in it’s adapted physical education program.
Children of all disabilities worked with the horses learning the skills necessary to groom, handle and show in competitive activities. While this was a therapeutic and skill building activity and the horses were well trained to respond to a variety of issues, the little horses were not trained service animals. Miniature horses have proved very adaptable to interacting with the severely disabled, individuals in nursing facilities and the elderly.
This promoted social interaction and often stimulated memory and conversation but once again the horse did not meet the definition of a service animal. It was not trained to take affirmative action to specific stimulus. In over twenty years of being both a breeder of miniature horses and a special educator I have seen numerous instances of a miniature horse seeming to instinctively know what action to take in specific circumstances with the disabled, I truthfully cannot state that the animal would consistently respond in the same manner each time the triggering stimuli occurred.
A service animal must consistently respond to the target stimulus or target condition that the individual presents. More than one service need may be presented by the same individual. We have all heard or read about animals who courageously saved the family or a family member from fire or drowning but what we don’t know is would the animal provide this service every time the situation arose. Probably the question most frequently asked is, “Can the miniature horse be house broken?”.
Based on observation and experience with miniatures in the show ring, nursing homes and schools my response is yes applying a rule of reasonableness. Will the horse go all day without needing to relieve itself? Probably not, but the horse can be trained to shavings or a specific location. In taking horses to a state residential center for severely disabled adults it was possible to determine when the horse was in need of toileting.
June bug, a 26 yr old mare, would fidget and shuffle telegraphing her need. A quick trip to the horse trailer solved the problem and Junie was ready to continue interacting. At a recent institute on legal issues and the disabled, a presenter on service animals explained that failure to be house broken met the legal grounds for removing a service animal from the school setting. This talented presenter shared that if the dog lifted his leg on the teacher’s desk and marked his territory you could be reasonably sure he wasn’t house broken.
I was pleased to be able to comment that in my years with miniature horses I had never seen one lift his leg on anything. We all enjoyed the touch of humor in the exchange. The size of a full grown miniature horses can vary from 26” to 38”. There are instances of smaller animals but these would probably not be functional in the service setting. There are two main registering organizations. The American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) which limits height to 34” and the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) which also has a division for horses over 34” up to 38”.
Knowing the client and the service need(s) will determine the desirable size of the service horse. One must also keep in mind that the functioning life span of the service horse can easily be 20 years. The possible physical changes of the handler should be considered when selecting an animal or the advantage of the longer life span of the miniature horse over a dog may be lost. We will be adding information on the miniature horse in the role of a service animal as we explore needs and solutions.
If you have questions or comments please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com We have just joined Facebook also. The website www.guidehorse.org discusses the use of the miniature horse as a guide animal for the blind. There are multiple sites in response to keying in service miniature horses however in most instances the use described meets a definition of “therapy” horse rather than “service horse”.
Donnalee Ammons has worked with persons with disabilities in both the school and community environments for 51 years. She has bred, trained and shown miniature horses for 25 years. We regret we no longer train service animals due to health reason but will be happy to assist you with information