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  Guide Horse Foundation         

The Guide Horse Foundation
Guide Horse Foundation

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


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Helping Hooves
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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The History of Tiny Ponies

The earliest history of miniature horses was in the 1650 AD records of the Palace at Versailles where King Louis XIV (The Sun King) kept a vast Zoo, replete with unusual animals, including tiny horses.

Because miniature horses were bred exclusively for size, dwarf traits became common in the breed, especially in the United States.   When compared to a full-sized horse, miniaturized horses have huge heads, short necks and other conformational flaws attributable to breeding dwarfism traits.  Many believe that the deliberate introduction of dwarf horses (e.g. Bond Tiny Tim) into miniature horse bloodlines makes almost all miniature horses exhibit some dwarf characteristics.  That’s why they are so small.

In the 20th Century, the history changed as small ponies were brought to America where several major breeders established programs:

Falabella – This is an Argentinean breed developed by selective breeding for small size.

Midget Pony – This breed was popularized in the 1960s by the McCoy stud, where smaller ponies were created by selective breeding, using Shetland Pony stock.

 Miniature Horse - The term “Miniature Horse” was created in the 1970s because some breeders of midget ponies felt that a more deceptive name would make them more salable and desirable.  Coining the term "miniature horse” is said to have been a marketing ploy by breeders, and the ancestors of many Miniature Horses were from the same midget ponies of the McCoy stud.  The early Miniature horse breeders in America bred extensively with genetic dwarf horses such as the popular stud Bond Tiny Tim, a 19-inch tall dwarf horse that sired hundreds of offspring.  This indigenous dwarfism has led to widespread birth defects and the creation of hundreds of tiny horses with serious health problems.  The Guide Horse Foundation rescues many of these horses.

Pygmy Horse – Because of the constant infighting among the Miniature Horse breeders about what constitutes a “correct” miniature horse, some organization have used other names for the tiny ponies.  The Guide Horse Foundation uses the term Pygmy Horse to appease show breeders who resented less-than-show quality horses being labeled as “Miniature Horses” when used a Guide Horses.

Today you can have a miniature horse in multiple registries.  A small horse can be a registered Paint Horse, a registered Pony, and also a registered Miniature Horse.



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Training Miniature Horses as Guide Animals for the Blind

Janet Burleson

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Copyright © 1998 - 2017 by the Guide Horse Foundation

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.