Guide horses can live three times longer than dogs
Shetland ponies are being trained to help people who are
blind or partially sighted.
The ponies, which are only slightly bigger than dogs, could
have a longer working life than labradors and may also have a
And a centre in England is already half way through
a training schedule for a 27-inches-tall pony named Rosie.
Janine Martin says Rosie is completely house
trained and may make a better guide for a blind person than
the traditional dog.
Ms Martin said: "Horses have a fantastic long term memory
and will remember commands for decades afterwards."
Cheaper to train
The guide pony concept was pioneered in America in 1999
where ponies have been trained to climb escalators and
accompany owners on airplanes.
Dan Vale, of the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB),
said: "If it was proven that this was a good way of helping
blind or partially sighted people get around, we would welcome
"But we would want a lot of investment and research first."
RNIB says it costs £35,000 to breed, train and support a
guide dog, while it only costs £10,000 to train a pony.
Ms Martin said: "It does take longer to train a horse, but
the guide horse can live between 20 and 30 years."
She said the first person to benefit will be 12-year-old
Josh Brown, who is helping to train Rosie.
Cuddles, the first guide pony in America, has negotiated
the New York subway and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Guide Horses UK wants to introduce more guide ponies and is
raising money by sponsorship or donations.