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.

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.

Most Shared
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular