seeing eye …

horses? That’s right. Miniature horses are the newest trend in guide animals.


Photo by DanDee Shots via Wikimedia Commons

Guide horses have an average lifespan of 30 years, making them a good alternative to dogs in some cases. Although they necessarily live outside the house, they have superb eyesight and traffic instincts that make them good companions for sight-challenged rural folks.

The idea hatched in 1998, when Janet and Don Burleson of Kittrell, North Carolina, were riding horses in New York City and Janet noticed how traffic-savvy the horses were. At home, they had a miniature horse, Twinkie, who followed them around like a dog and even rode in their minivan. She thought to train Twinkie, and has since developed a rigorous, eight-month training program that results in the little helpers being able to go into shopping centers and grocery stores … virtually, everything a guide dog can do. They’re even taught to respond to 23 voice commands.

What’s next … miniature Jerseys?? Come on Etta Jane, I know you can do it!


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Look at your girl!! Maybe she could be trained . Possibly nobody has ever tried. I knew about the guide pony option and I think it is fantastic . Ponies are so smart anyway , why not give them a job? Those booties in her front hooves, are they the special ones made for guide ponies to wear in cities to protect their feet?

  2. CJ Armstrong says:

    We have some new neighbors who are raising miniature horses. Two of the mares just recently had babies . . . CA-UTE! And it appears that a third one is in the “maternity ward”. I’m not sure but there may be 4 mares. Those babies are so teeny tiny!!!

  3. CJ Armstrong says:

    P.S. Don’t know if they have a special purpose in mind for their horses.

  4. Robin Ayers says:

    I wonder if they work as well as a dog since they are prey animals and more prone to flight from fear than a predator animal like a dog? There is nothing I love more than the smell of a horse so if I were in need I can imagine this would be the choice for me!

  5. I volunteered for some time for Lighthouse for the Blind in NYC ( and had a blind boyfriend in college years before that) and most of most of my people I read for didn’t use any guide animals. They felt the animals weren’t up to the crazy traffic and life in the city. This was some years ago and I bet the new assistance animals are WAY better trained now. Horses are super great and smart but they do “go” when they feel like it, so maybe that is built into their training? That they are more “potty trained” ? Just a thought.

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