Stop Horsing Around: Could Miniature Horses Be Ideal Service Animals?
Posted by GreaterGoodness
The Guide Horse Foundation reports that due to a shortage of guide dogs for blind people, miniature horses as service animals have become a viable alternative. Only about 7,000 of the 1.3 million blind people in the United States have service animals, and a critical need exists for more. Sighted horses instinctively assist blind horses in a herd, and some blind people are talented equestrians, relying on their horses to provide directional guidance. Although full-sized horses are too large to make practical guides, miniature horses are small enough to safely go indoors with their handlers.
Miniature horses can provide service for 30 to 50 years, whereas a dog’s lifespan is only 8 to 12 years. Horses are calm even in stressful situations, constantly alert for danger and strong enough to provide physical support when disabled handlers need assistance. They have keen eyesight, excellent memories and robust stamina. They are ideal for blind people who are allergic to dog dander or have a phobia of dogs. Dan Lewis for Upworthy explains that blind people who are Muslim cannot use dogs as service animals because they consider them unclean, but Muslims have no problem with horses.
On the downside, miniature horses are not practical service animals for those who live in apartments, as horses require an outdoor living space. Horses defecate more frequently than dogs, posing a sanitary problem. They also attract more attention, which can be distracting for both horse and handler. Additionally, miniature guide horses are in such great demand that they are in short supply.
Training a miniature horse as a service animal takes 1 to 1 1/2 years. If experienced horse trainers are able to meet the demand, pedestrians may see many more blind people accompanied by their miniature horse guides in public.