A miniature horse, trained as the UK’s first guide horse for the visually impaired, has paid a visit to Blackburn Market.
Eight-month old Digby is currently training in guide work as an alternative for those who are allergic to dogs.
His owner Katy Smith from Northallerton, Yorkshire, is schooling the American miniature horse to be able to complete the same tasks as a guide dog, as well as being able to carry shopping and complete household tasks, such as emptying a washing machine.
Katy, 58, said: “Digby is a character. Since he was two-days old, I knew there was something different about him.
“He is loyal like a dog, and he wants to be helpful, but loves attention. He is always by my side and has learnt so much.”
Katy owns eight miniature horses through her business, KL Pony Therapy, which are to provide comfort to people with poor mobility, or those who suffer from depression, anxiety or learning difficulties.
“I’m passionate about helping people in new ways. Training Digby offers more choice to people who need help living independently, but there are still plenty of hurdles.” Katy continued.
“Guide dogs are accepted in most public spaces, and we need to change legislation so that all guide animals have the same treatment.”
Guide horses are proving successful in America. The Guide Horse Foundation has argued that horses are more appropriate for guiding work because they live longer than dogs.
American miniature horses such as Digby have an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years compared to the 10 to 14 years life expectancy of a Labrador.
Pictured: Digby and Katy’s co-worker, Kate Masteci, 22.