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WDYT 3: Guide Horses.

Here is a quick What Do You Think. Discuss your opinion on the matter after reading both pieces.

  • Long Lifespan - Miniature Horse can live to be more than 50 years old, with the average lifespan being 30-40 years. According to guide dog trainers, guide dogs have a useful life between 8-12 years.
  • Cost Effective - Training a guide dog can cost up to $60,000, according to the Guide Dog Users national advocacy group. According to Lighthouse International, there are more than 1.3 million legally blind people in the USA, yet only 7,000 guide animal users. Hence, a Guide Horse could be more cost-effective and ensure that more blind people receive a guide animal.
  • Better acceptance - Many guide dog users report problems getting access to public places because their dog is perceived as a pet.  Most people do not associate a horse as a pet, and Guide Horse users report that they are immediately recognized as a working service animal.   
  • Calm Nature - Trained horses are extremely calm in chaotic situations. Cavalry horses have proven that horses can remain calm even in the extreme heat of battle. Police horses are an excellent example of well trained horses that deal with stressful situations. Guide Horses undergo the same systematic desensitization training that is given to riot-control horses.
  • Great Memory - Horses possess phenomenal memories. A horse will naturally remember a dangerous situation decades after the occurrence.
  • Excellent Vision - Because horses have eyes on the sides of their heads, they have a very wide range of vision, with a range of nearly 350 degrees. Horses are the only guide animals capable of independent eye movement and they can track potential danger with each eye.  Horses can see clearly in almost total darkness.
  • Focused Demeanor - Trained horses are very focused on their work and are not easily distracted. Horses are not addicted to human attention and normally do not get excited when petted or groomed.
  • Safety Conscious - Naturally safety oriented, horses are constantly on the lookout for danger. All horses have a natural propensity to guide their master along the safest most efficient route, and demonstrate excellent judgment in obstacle avoidance training.
  • High Stamina - Hearty and robust, a properly conditioned Guide Horse can easily travel many miles in a single outing.
  • Good Manners - Guide Horses are very clean and can be housebroken. Horses do not get fleas and only shed twice per year. Horses are not addicted to human affection and will stand quietly when on duty.
--from the Guide Horse Foundation website.


*Article translated and published with permission of Mr. Wolfgang Seitle*

Finally, I would like to list the significant and considerable disadvantages of using a guide horse as compared to using a guide dog:

A horse, even a miniature horse, is a herd animal and should always live with at least one other horse. Moreover, they should live in a pasture or paddock - not in a living room.

* A horse, even a miniature horse, is a flight animal. Resequin showed that very distinctly. Because she personally has a strong and distinct flight instinct, it is impossible to allow her be used as a guide horse (that is if you have a certain feeling of responsibility for vision impaired people)! When a miniature horse gets in a situation where it wants to flee, it becomes very strong (because of adrenalin). Even a very large and very strong person will most likely not have enough strength to hold it back if it really wants to run away.

A horse, even a miniature horse, has significant problems with climbing stairs. In my opinion, horses are not anatomically able to climb stairs. To demand that a horse should climb stairs like human beings or dogs, borders on cruelty towards that animal.

A horse, even a miniature horse, requires a special means of transport (such as a truck, a van or a trailer). They can not be taken along in a car like a dog.

* Please notice that miniature horses aren’t allowed to use public transport in Germany. Not only are miniature horses not permitted, but also their size and their anatomical structure would not allow them to fit on public transport. There are no problems however with a guide dog.

* The same is true for permission to enter into restaurants and other businesses that produce or sell food. Horses are not permitted.

* The excrement of a miniature horse is about 10 - 20 times as much in size and quantity as that of a Labrador Retriever or German Shepherd dog. Think of how you dispose of this excrement if you are in a public place or even at your home.

* In my opinion, the only advantage that a miniature horse has over a dog is that horses are expected to have a longer lifespan. In my mind this advantage weighs only a very little compared to the considerable disadvantages listed above.
--from GuideHorseNo.com



Very interesting. Thank you for posting both views. It sounds like they both have valid points. It is hard to decide what would be best. It does seems easier to have a dog with you rather than a horse. But the lifespan, the calm and work mind of a horse seems a plus. Maybe for some kind of handicaps a dog might be better and for others, a horse would fit better. So why not have both? And the point about climbing the stairs doesn't really work, because there are ramps (or elevators) for wheelchairs about everywhere now in public places, so the horse doesn't have to use the stairs.


Guide Horses?

Both articles seem to raise valid points. I think that no matter what the advantages of a horse's lifespan and personality, there is the practical limitation of incorporating a horse into the confines of home, transportation, restaurant, etc, that makes widespread use of guide horses unlikely at best. Still, a horse could be a very helpful "buddy" to a blind or disabled person, and could serve as a guide in outdoor situations.