BBC journalist Mohammed Salim Patel has become the first person in the UK to receive a guide horse. 8 month old Digby is an American miniature horse and can apparently do all the things a guide dog can. Not sure how he fares at chasing cats or playing fetch but I’m sure he’ll learn.
Yay or neigh?
In the U.S. guide horses are already used by a number of people and are even suggested to be an improvement on guide dogs, in part due to their longevity, with a life span of around 30 years. A guide horse is a particularly good alternative to a person who is allergic to dogs.
Mohammed Salim Patel, who has a severe phobia of dogs, is delighted with Digby who is kitted out with so-called “thunderpants” to avoid messy incidents.
One point which may go against guide horses is their naturally strong fight-or-flight instinct which can make them more unpredictable than dogs.
What could possibly go wrong?
A potentially serious drawback to owning a guide horse is access to public buildings and transport. You often hear depressing tales of guide dog owners being turned away from stores or restaurants on account of the “no animals” rule. It’s frustratingly common for staff to not understand the rules around guide animals and turn customers away causing upset and reputational damage. So you have to wonder how easy Patel will find it trying to access facilities that are biased against even common domestic animals let alone large outdoor ones.
Digby is still in training for now but will be joining Patel in a year or two when he’s up to scratch. What do you think? Do guide horses have a future?