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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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task is one for a horse who is keen or savvy

GRAEME SMITH March 18 2004
The Herald UK

TONTO is not your average horse. He wears trainers in the house, loves to go shopping, and even enjoys the occasional film.

Like the Lone Ranger's loyal Indian companion of the same name, Tonto is a trusted friend who devotes his life to helping his partner.

Tonto's partner is Shari Bernstiel, a American mother of five who is virtually blind because of a degenerative condition, and Tonto has become her eyes. The two-ft-tall gelding is a guide horse, a new breed of human helper.

They are ideal for blind horse-lovers, those allergic to dogs, and those who prefer an animal with a long lifespan.

Five years ago, Janet Burleson, a retired professional horse trainer in North Carolina, carried out a feasibility study with pygmy horses as assistance animals.

Its success resulted in an overwhelming number of requests from blind horse- lovers. Since then, many horses have been trained.

They are calm in chaotic conditions, have exceptional memories and, because their eyes are in the side of their head, they have near 360- degree vision – and they cut the grass.

They can use stairs and escalators, go on buses, taxis, and subways, and one has even travelled in the passenger cabin of an aircraft.

The horses are all less than 26 inches to the withers (shoulders) and undergo rigorous training to ensure they do not react to environmental distractions, guide their handler past obstacles, and recognise all potential dangers.  The horses are trained to respond to 23 voice commands but also to ignore any command which would be unsafe.

Guide horses have now been introduced to England and will inevitably be in Scotland soon.

For potential handlers, there is the question of sourcing the trainers which may seem odd but are vital to prevent the horse slipping on vinyl or wooden floors.
They can be sent by mail order from several manufacturers in the US.

For those who fear the odour of horse will keep their friends away, the Guide Horse Foundation says they can be kept virtually odour free with frequent grooming and periodic bathing.

However, it warns: "Due to the danger from falling, it is not recommended the horse use a shower or bath unless it is wearing rubber shoes or the surface has a non-slip coating."

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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.