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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


Cowboy opts for guide horse
 
Here we see an article about David Holder, a Oklahoma Cowboy who is training his own guide horse:
 

ALTUS - In 1993 David Holder lost sight in his right eye. Six years later
his left eye went dark.

For most people such an experience would have been traumatic.

But because the 52-year old Holder was told he would be totally blind before
he reached the age of 16, he knew exactly what to do - Get a horse.

Holder decided that instead of the usual Seeing Eye dog, he wanted a guide
horse instead.

"It's been done in other places," Holder said. "There is a place down in
North Carolina that's training them. I went down there four years ago and
worked with some of the horses down there. When I knew I was losing my sight
I went to looking at these deals before then. I found out what I could about
them."

Even though Holder first used a guide dog after he went blind, a year ago he
took possession of an American miniature horse to take over the guide
duties.

"The registered name on him is Rx3 Thunderbolt," Holder said. "We just call
him Bo. He is 2 years old. I have been training this horse myself. It has
been a challenge at times but that's part of it."

When Holder first saw Bo, the horse was 10 days old and was able to walk
under his guide dog. The horse has now grown to a mature 28 inches tall,
which Holder says is on the verge of being too big.

However, for Holder the benefits of using Bo greatly outweigh any
negatives - including complaints made at Altus City Council meetings from
some residents who have grown accustomed to seeing a guide dog but object to
a guide horse.

"One of the things about a horse is the longer life of them," Holder said.
"Where a dog is only useful up to about 7 to 8 years, a horse is useful up
to about 30 years. The horse is less expensive to feed. They're cheaper to
maintain than the dog is. About half the cost of a dog. So that's another
big factor."

Another drawback to service canines is the fear many have of dogs.

"I have had several times going into stores where kids have been bit or
attacked by dogs and they are afraid of the dog. The horse, they are not.
They are more acceptable to people."

Yet, that does not mean Holder and Bo do not have their issues out in
public.

"The problem around here is that people are not quite used to the idea of
it," Holder said. "Everybody wants to pet them. And just like with any
assistance animal you're not supposed to pet them or run up to them and grab
them. I have that problem a lot. Sometimes they get a surprise because he
grabs back."

The concept of the guide horse has become popular over the last five years.
There are several training camps across the country that cater to teaching
the miniature horse its guide duties.

But these days demand is outgrowing supply.

"There is a big demand for the horses," Holder said. "The last time I talked
to them down in North Carolina, they had applications for 2,000 people
wanting guide horses. And they are only turning out two a year. It takes a
little bit longer to train the horse."

According to the Guide Horse Foundation website, horses are natural guide
animals and Holder agrees.

"I have worked with horses all my life," Holder said. "Been raised around
them. I cowboyed and everything. I was used to being around horses and being
with them. They do things instinctively that a dog does not do. If there is
a hole in the ground, a dog will run up and see what's in it. A horse won't.
He will move away from anything that looks dangerous."

Despite Holder's dependence on Bo, he has not taken the horse into any of
the stores or restaurants in Altus. He said he needs more specialized
equipment before he can do that. That includes special shoes and a harness.

Bo will become a common guest at Altus stores and other public places when
Holder gets those implements. According to Americans with Disabilities Act,
privately owned businesses that serve the public are prohibited from
discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these
businesses to allow service animals to accompany their owners inside.

Holder has no doubt that he and Bo will become a regular fixture around town
soon.

"If you are blind, the animal becomes part of you," Holder said. "You
respond to the animal and the animal responds to you. It works out real well
for me."
 

Get the Book!

 

Helping Hooves

The Guide Horse Foundation Training Program to Train  Miniature Horses  as Guide Animals for the Blind

Janet Burleson
ISBN
Retail Price $34.95

Order this book now and get 30% off the retail price!

Only $19.95

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Read the compelling story of the first miniature horse trained to work as a guide horse. Learn the exciting methods used to prepare the tiny horses to perform these amazing services.

 

All author royalties are being donated to help support the Guide Horse Foundation.

 

Quotes:

 

  • Janet Burleson is one of the world's pioneering horse trainers – Practical Horseman Magazine
     

  • Seeing is believing – USA Today
     

  • Janet and Don Burleson are  . . . Angels – People Magazine
     

  • How wonderful that Janet and Don Burleson have initiated this valuable experimental program teaming miniature horses with blind people – Newsweek
     

  • Miniature ponies are leading the way for the blind – ABC News
     

  • Guide Horses  . . . are as small and disciplined as Guide Dogs – TIME Magazine
     

  • Extraordinary ABC 20/20
     

  • It is often the little things that win our hearts and minds – ABC News
     

  • The Burleson’s are . . . using horse sense to Guide Boston Globe
     

  • Twinkie proved that miniature horses could fill the role, and fill it well – VetCentric Magazine
     

  • An Intriguing Program - Discovery Channel

 

 

 

 

 

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Guide Horse ® is a registered trademark of the Guide Horse Foundation Inc.

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. 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.