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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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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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A Guide for All Seasons
by Jim Beasley - Enabled Online

The idea struck Janet Burleson as she was taking a leisurely horse ride through New York City’s Central Park; why not use small horses as guides for persons with seeing disabilities? It may sound a bit unusual, but the idea has become a reality at the Guide Horse Foundation in Kittrell, N.C.

The foundation selects and trains miniature Guide Horses to be used in much the same manner as dogs. They respond well to the training, learning the difficult job of being a Guide Horse, navigating city streets, safely dodging traffic, and recognizing traffic lights. And thanks to financial support the foundation receives from donors, the Guide Horses are provided free of charge to those in need.

Cuddles learns to cross the street

According to Burleson, the verification came in the form of a miniature horse named Twinkie. Twinkie was the first miniature horse trained to prove that it was possible. However, these are still horses, and certain precautions must be taken. For instance, they must wear special sneakers to keep them from damaging floors or their feet.

Dan Shaw of Ellsworth, Maine, will be the first person to actually use one of the trained Guide Horses. In May 2001, Shaw will travel to the foundation’s facility in North Carolina to undergo three weeks of training with his miniature horse, Cuddles. Shaw first heard of the facility on Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and his horse is sponsored by author Patricia Cornwell.

Shaw says he can see distinct advantages to using a Guide Horse, as opposed to a dog. "They live 35 to 40 years, whereas a dog lives only 8 to 12," he said. "You get close to a dog and then you have to get a new one. Cuddles will be part of the family and she'll grow old with me. She has 350 degree vision. She sees everything but her tail and she sees well in the dark. It only takes a couple of soup cans of oats a day to feed her."

But there are also drawbacks. "I guess the biggest concern is just people accepting her. But the more publicity cuddles and I get, the easier it will be for people to accept guide horses."

For more information on Guide Horses, visit or or you can email trainer Janet Burleson at

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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.