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Miniature horses aren't just cute — they can be used as service animals. Meet the mini horse guide.

What do you do when a guide dog is not an option? Meet the guide mini horse.

Miniature horses aren't just cute — they can be used as service animals. Meet the mini horse guide.

Meet the guide mini horse.

Shari Bernstiel walks with her guide horse. Image by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images.


Guide dogs — sometimes referred to as Seeing Eye dogs — have been assisting disabled people for at least 100 years, with references to them dating back perhaps centuries.

The first U.S. school for guide dog training, named The Seeing Eye, opened its doors in 1929 and has been in business since. (The colloquial use of the term “Seeing Eye dogs" is actually a reference to the school's trademark and brand.)

But not all people like dogs, and this includes some people who are visually impaired and those with other disabilities that call for a service animal. So what other options are out there?

A mini horse.

Dan Shaw walks through a mall in Maine with his guide horse named Cuddles. Note the sneakers. Image by Michael Andersen.

The guide mini horse acts much like its sibling service animal, the guide dog.

Much like the guide dogs, guide mini horses act as trusted aides for those in need, helping them navigate through the world. And both take about a year to 18 months to train.

But there are some major differences.

Image by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images.

The Guide Horse Foundation in North Carolina notes that guide horses are useful for about 30 years compared to around a dozen for dogs, making them arguably more cost effective over their useful lifespan.

Guide horses are useful for about 30 years compared to around a dozen for dogs.

But there are downsides. The miniature horses need to live outside and require a lot more space than a guide dog, which can live in a small apartment without much difficulty. They also have the need to relieve themselves more often than dogs, making themselves much more cumbersome.

And while mini horses can be incredibly cute, this has its downside because a guide animal isn't supposed to be petted by others while on duty.

Guide dogs are great, but for some people they're simply not an option.

The most likely scenario is due to an allergy to dog dander, but there are other reasons. Take, for example, the situation of Mona Ramouni, a young Muslim woman in Michigan, reported by Today in the fall of 2010.

Mona in school, accompanied by her guide horse Cali. Image by Mira Oberman/AFP/Getty Images.

Born blind, Mona was an excellent candidate for a guide dog — except that she came from a devout Muslim family. Dogs are considered unclean under Muslim law and cannot be kept as pets — but horses can.

Mona received Cali, a guide mini horse, and has since been able to navigate the world without help from friends and family — unless one counts Cali as a friend.

While guide horses may be a second choice after dogs, the demand for them has been, per the Guide Horse Foundation, “overwhelming."

As of this writing, the foundation has stopped taking applications for horses.

Image by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images.

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

This article originally appeared on 01.09.18


Why should a superintendent get a raise while teachers in the same district struggling to make ends meet see their paychecks flatline — year after year after year?

Teacher Deyshia Hargrave begged the question. Minutes later, she was handcuffed and placed in the backseat of a cop car.

The scene was captured below by YouTube user Chris Rosa, who attended a board meeting for Vermilion Parish Schools in Louisiana.

You can watch Hargrave begin speaking about 33 seconds in. The situation starts becoming contentious around 6:35 minutes. Hargrave is arrested at 8:35, and then walked outside in handcuffs and placed in the back of police vehicle. (Story continues below.)



"We work very hard with very little to maintain the salaries that we have," Hargrave, who teaches middle school language arts, said during a public comment portion of the meeting, stating that she's seen classroom sizes balloon during her time at the school with no increased compensation. "We're meeting those goals, while someone in that position of leadership [the superintendent] is getting raise? It's a sad, sad day to be a teacher in Vermilion Parish."

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