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Patricia Cornwell with Trip, one of the horses she donated to the guide Horse Foundation

Patricia Cornwell with Trip

Don and Janet Burleson - Copyright 2000 by Lisa Carpenter

Copyright © 2000 by Lisa Carpenter

Dan with Cuddles - Copyright (c) 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald
Copyright © 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald

Cuddles in Harness - Copyright (c) 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald

Copyright © 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald

Don and Janet with Trip and Ras

Copyright © 2000 by Lisa Carpenter

Cuddles on the first flight of a horse on a commercial flight

Copyright © 2001 by Erik Lesser
The worlds first horse to fly in the passenger cabin

Cuddles guiding Dan Shaw

Copyright © 2001 by Erik Lesser

Cuddles at Lunch

Copyright © 2001 by Erik Lesser


Copyright © 2001 by Wiley Miller

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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.

Phone for blind candidates: 252-433-4755 We are always seeking legally-blind volunteers to participate in our experiment and you can find a Guide Horse Candidate Application here, or just call for details.

 


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 Horse 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.


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Guide Horse trainee meets Police horse in Times Square, NY

Visiting New York City

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  Helping Hooves
Training Miniature Horses as Guide Animals for the Blind

Janet Burleson

Contains over 100 all-color photo's!

Retail Price $27.95 / £20.75 

- Help the Guide Horse Foundation give free Guides
- Author royalties benefit the Guide Horse Foundation

Only $19.95

 
 

Copyright © 1998 - 2005 by the Guide Horse Foundation Inc. 

Guide Horse ® Guidehorse ®  and Helping Hooves ® are registered trademarks.

 

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. Even though the press often calls our horses "seeing eye horses", 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. Seeing-Eye® is a registered trademark of the Seeing-Eye, Inc.

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