Blind Man With a Fear of Dogs Gets a Guide Horse Instead
A horse is a horse, of course, of course. But not just any horse is a seeing-eye horse.
For the visually impaired, getting a seeing-eye dog can exponentially improve their quality of life not only by helping them be more mobile, but also by offering a little extra companionship. But what if the person is allergic or has a severe phobia of dogs?
BBC journalist Mohammed Salim Patel, who is visually impaired, is one of the many people in the world who lives with this phobia. “Having an assistance animal is something I gave up on,” Patel told the BBC.
But now, because of a miniature horse named Digby, Patel has a lot more options. “I can go where I want, when I want,” Patel said.
Digby, an eight-month-old American miniature horse, is only two feet tall. An while he’s already been through a lot of training, he still has a long way to go. It will be a few years before he can live full-time with Patel.
Digby regularly goes out with Patel in his hometown of Blackburn, where plenty of people stop when they see him on the street. It’s not easy being the U.K.’s famous first guide horse.
While Digby may be the first of his kind across the pond, miniature guide horses have been gaining popularity in the United States. In 2010, a woman from California, Mona Ramouni, made some headlines with her own horse, Cali.
There’s even a foundation for guide horses to help the visually impaired in the U.S. Like dogs, horses are good at learning, bonding, and having empathy for people.
Digby’s trainer, Katy Smith, who has eight horses currently in training, told the Daily Mail, “They have a great therapeutic value, they can tell when a person is really unwell. When someone is approaching end of life they seem to know.”