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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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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

New DOT ruling may effect Guide Horse airline travel rights

For the latest in miniature horse headlines visit:

There is a new proposed ruling relating to the rights to Guide Horses by commercial air carriers. Titled “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel; Proposed Rule” you can see the proposal here: 

Included in this massive 33-page document are several issues that relate to traveling with Guide Horses, including Guide Horses being singled-out for special safety evaluation as “unusual animals” and Guide Horse users being charged for any extra space they may consume in the cabin.

Comments on this proposed amendment are due by February 2, 2005 and may be submitted at this link: 

Written comments should be sent to:

   Docket Clerk, Department of Transportation,
   400 7th Street, SW.,
  Room PL-401, Washington, DC 20590

  [Docket No. OST–2004–19482]
  Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel; Proposed Rule

Guide horse user concern:

> Evidently the airlines are thinking of charging for an extra seat if the
> animal takes up more space than just the space that is in front of the one
> disabled passenger's seat.

DOT Regulation - Unusual Animals

Other unusual animals such as miniature horses, pigs and monkeys should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Factors to consider are the animal’s size, weight, state and foreign country restrictions, and whether or not the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or cause a fundamental alteration (significant disruption) in the cabin service. If none of these factors apply, the animal may accompany the passenger in the cabin.

GHF Position:

Miniature horses have become a reliable and safe alternative to guide dogs and Guide horses have proven to be reliable travelers on commercial aircraft, even on coast-to-coast commercial flights. Because a Guide Horse can be the same size as a large guide dog, Guide Horse users should be subjected to the same rules as guide dogs and not be placed into the category of “unusual animals”.

Guide Horses are sometimes smaller than service dogs and are trained to the same standards as guide dogs. The “case by case” evaluation restriction imposes a direct threat to Guide Horse user’s ability to travel freely and would constitute a direct violation of their civil rights.

The species of the guide animal should not be an issue, and all guide animals should be subject to equal and identical standards.

Guide horse user concern:

> Another issue is whether the FAA can decide on a case by case basis
> whether a certain service animal may fly on a particular airplane, or whether
> there should be some standard guidelines or limitations on height or weight of
> the service animal.

DOT Document:

[This document] uses the concept of ‘‘direct threat’’ as the standard for when a carrier may conclude that there is a safety basis for excluding a passenger from a flight. The use of this concept is consistent with current law and practice under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA, and it includes the point that if mitigating measures short of exclusion are available to deal with the direct threat to safety of others, then exclusion is not appropriate.

If the pilot-in-command makes a decision to restrict the animal from the cabin or the flight for safety reasons, the CRO cannot countermand the pilot’s decision.

If a CRO makes the final decision not to accept an animal as a service animal, then the CRO must provide a written statement to the passenger within 10 days explaining the reason(s) for that determination.

GHF Position:

All service animals should be subjected to safety requirements, but Guide Horses should not be singled-out because they are unusual. The “direct threat” standard should be applied equally to al species of service animals.

Guide horse user concern:

> Evidently the airlines are thinking of charging for an extra seat if the
> animal takes up more space than just the space that is in front of the one
> disabled passenger's seat.

> The issue of the airlines charging for a second or even a third seat if the service animal
> does not fit under the seat in front of the passenger with a disability or
> in the space in front of the passenger's seat in the bulkhead row.

> This would mean that every guide horse user would have to pay for at least two seats
> on each plane flight we took. I know that I would not be able to afford to travel by
> plane under those conditions.

DOT Document:

If a service animal cannot be accommodated at the seat location of the qualified individual with a disability whom the animal is accompanying, the carrier shall offer the passenger the opportunity to move with the animal to a seat location in the same class of service, if present on the aircraft, where the animal can be accommodated, as an alternative to requiring that the animal travel in the cargo hold (see § 382.117(c)).

Carriers shall not impose charges for providing facilities, equipment, or services that are required by this part to be provided to qualified individuals with a disability (see § 382.31).

Part 382 does not require carriers to make modifications that would constitute an undue burden or would fundamentally alter their programs (382.7(c)). Therefore, the following are not required in providing accommodations for users of service animals and are examples of what might realistically be viewed as creating an undue burden:
  • Asking another passenger to give up the space in front of his or her seat to accommodate a service animal;
  • Denying transportation to any individual on a flight in order to provide an accommodation to a passenger with a service animal;
  • Furnishing more than one seat per ticket; and
  • Providing a seat in a class of service other than the one the passenger has purchased.

GHF Position:

No commercial air carrier should be required to forgo revenue to accommodate a Guide Horse, a morbidly obese person, or any other disabled person who requires extra cabin space. It’s not fair to the carrier.

However, the airliners have been very helpful in working with Guide Horse users to locate un-full flights where the Guide Horse may travel without requiring the user to purchase an extra seat.

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Helping Hooves

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

Janet Burleson
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.




  • 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.