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The Guide Horse Foundation
Guide Horse Foundation

A non-profit charity dedicated to providing free guides for visually impaired individuals.


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Training Guide Horses for the Blind

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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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March 17, 2004, 6:53PM

Plenty of horse sense makes pony a proven leader

Not bad for a horse wandering about in baby shoes.

The greatest advantage to using horses over dogs is longevity. Horses can live up to three times as long, longer, Don Burleson says. Horses also have eyes on the sides of their heads that allow them to see nearly 360 degrees.

But "not every horse has what it takes," notes Janet Burleson, a retired professional horse trainer.

Each needs to be "100 percent proficient," her husband adds.

Especially when it comes to "intelligent disobedience." A horse must be smart enough to prevent its owner from entering an elevator if the cage is nowhere in sight or crossing the street if a car is heading toward them despite a walk signal to proceed.

It takes 400 to 600 hours to teach a horse to lead the blind and visually impaired. The Burlesons say that's less time than it takes to train dogs, which require puppy socialization skills.

The first horse they trained was named Twinkie. During trips to a flea market in Raleigh, the couple began noticing that Don Burleson's personal pet would steer them clear of hazards such as electrical cords.

They kept Twinkie but placed the next horse in Maine. The nonprofit foundation provides the animals at no charge to the blind and visually impaired, and operates on donations.

Eighty people are on the waiting list, but the trainers are in no rush to match them with horses.

"We still consider it experimental," Janet Burleson says."We haven't encouraged a great many people to try it."

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Training Miniature Horses as Guide Animals for the Blind

Janet Burleson

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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.