Partially Sighted Man With Fear Of Dogs Given Guide Horse
A partially-sighted man who has a fear of dogs is to be given the UK's first ever 'guide horse' instead.
Twenty-three-year-old Mohammed Patel has been introduced to the miniature horse, named Digby, which is being trained to help him.
Digby - an American Miniature who stands just two-feet high - has been paired with Mr Patel because of his fear of dogs.
The horse is currently living in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, with his trainer Katy Smith who is getting him ready to assist Mohammed. The horse will eventually move in with Mr Patel in Blackburn, where he will be able to remove washing from the machine, mop the kitchen and help answer the door.
Mohammed said: "I have a condition where I lost my vision and I have come across lots of people who have guide dogs.
"But I have a big phobia of dogs that I was not able to work out and it was good when I heard about horses being trained.
"I have always loved horses but it is good to see the benefits to people who are visually impaired. It will be a couple of years before he will be coming to live with me as he has training to do. He needs to get used to being out and about Blackburn.
"I also think I will have to give myself an extra hour to try to get around my daily routine as people will all want to come and see it and touch it."
Trainer Katy, who runs K L Pony Therapy, is currently training eight tiny horses. She said: "They take as long, or a bit longer to train than guide dogs.
"Somebody may need two or three guide dogs during their life, but horses have a longer life span.
"They can be trained up to do many of the same takes like help answer doors and get the washing out, as a guide dog would. To a certain extent you can also train them up to be house-trained."
Using horses as guide animals is already in progess in the US, after an experimental programme in the early 2000s, and Katy believes the America Miniatures are particularly well-suited to the role.
"The miniatures pick things up quite quickly," she said. "I have eight of them and they each have a different personality.
"They have a great therapeutic value, they can tell when a person is really unwell. When someone is approaching end of life they seem to know.
BLIND MAN ATTACHES CAMERA TO HIS DOG
"They seem to know that a person's breathing has changed and become shallower and they will breathe in sync with them. It's quite humbling to watch.
"You hear of cats and dogs having that empathy, but people tend not to look at horses as being in tune with people in that way."
Featured Image Credit: SWNS