The Guide Horse Foundation was founded in 1999 to assess the need and usefulness of miniature horses. Guide horses have shown that they are friendly, less likely to become distracted and perform well in crowds of people. They are in demand by blind individuals who may be afraid of dogs, are allergic to dogs or want an animal that has a longer lifespan. Miniature horses may live well into their twenties before retiring.
Ideal candidates for miniature horse guide handlers are those who are mature individuals, those who are very active or are individuals who may need a strong animal to pull them or assist them in standing. They are able to walk for miles and can stand for long periods of time quietly.
Miniature horses can be trained to do most of the same things that a guide dog can do. They may live inside of a home, or be kept outdoors, depending upon the needs of the handler. Many handlers have reported that they are readily accepted in public places because the horses are not viewed as pets, as dogs often are.
Handlers who are paired with a miniature horse go through an intensive three-week training session where they learn how to work well together. The horses have been trained, prior to being paired with a handler, to do things many military Calvary horses learn. The horses have been trained to lead their handler, even if injured, away from danger, how to board public vehicles, such as subways and how to guide their handler's hands to things, such as pushing a button for the crosswalk on a busy street. Miniature horses also are potty trained, just like guide dogs. Only those pairs who have learned everything they need to work together safely are allowed to graduate from the program.
Trainers of these miniature horses have years of experience, and the Guide Horse Foundation only uses trainers who have spent 10 or more years working with horses. Since a guide horse is responsible for the safety of the handler, it is very important that they are trained extensively for the work that they will be required to do. These service animals have proven that they are up to the task and are able to remember the situations they have trained for, even into their retirement years.
The guide horse application process, according to the Guide Horse Foundation, is as follows:
- Initial Application - The initial application is available at the bottom of the page. This application can be printed, filled-in and mailed to the Guide Horse Foundation.
- Secondary Application - Upon review of the initial application, successful candidates will be asked to provide detailed references from their Physicians and mobility trainer.
- On-site Interview - Upon review of the Secondary application - successful candidates will arrange to meet in-person with a representative of the Guide Horse Foundation. This on-site visit is done at the sole expense of the Guide Horse Foundation.
- Final acceptance - As resources become available, successful candidates will be notified and arrangements will be made for the training of the horses and the student.
There is no cost for handlers to receive a guide horse. Once a horse is ready for retirement, the handler may elect to keep the animal, or it may be returned to the Guide Horse Foundation for retirement. Guide animals may not be sold under any circumstances. The cost for caring for the horse, however, is the responsibility of the handler.
Guide Horse Foundation
- P. O. Box 511
- Kittrell, NC, USA 27544
Phone: (252) 433-4755