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  Guide Horse Foundation         

The Guide Horse Foundation
Guide Horse Foundation

A non-profit charity dedicated to providing free guides for visually impaired individuals.

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Patricia Cornwell with Trip, one of the horses she donated to the guide Horse Foundation

Patricia Cornwell with Trip

Don and Janet Burleson - Copyright 2000 by Lisa Carpenter

Copyright © 2000 by Lisa Carpenter

Dan with Cuddles - Copyright (c) 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald
Copyright © 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald

Cuddles in Harness - Copyright (c) 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald

Copyright © 2001 by Cathleen MacDonald

Don and Janet with Trip and Ras

Copyright © 2000 by Lisa Carpenter

Cuddles on the first flight of a horse on a commercial flight

Copyright © 2001 by Erik Lesser
The worlds first horse to fly in the passenger cabin

Cuddles guiding Dan Shaw

Copyright © 2001 by Erik Lesser

Cuddles at Lunch

Copyright © 2001 by Erik Lesser

Copyright © 2001 by Wiley Miller



Guide horses

Privacy Policy


Hooves that Help: Guide Horses Aid the Blind
by: Alex Lieber
Guide horses can ride in vehicles, elevators, or any conveyance that a dog can. Photo courtesy of the Guide Horse Foundation,
Guide dogs have helped the blind to lead independent lives for decades. Unfortunately, the life span of the individual dog is usually between 10 and 15 years. That means a blind person may outlive two, three, even four dogs in his or her lifetime.

Moreover, these animals are more than just guide tools – they become members of the person's family. When one dies, the heart breaks. For these and other reasons, people are becoming excited with the prospect of a new guide animal on the scene: miniature horses.

A miniature horse is a smaller type of equine, usually no taller than 34 inches at the withers, though standards vary with different miniature horse registries. In the past year or so, guide horses have gained attention through the media, but the program is still very new and somewhat experimental. However, because miniature horses can live between 25 and 35 years, their use as guide animals shows tremendous promise.

The Guide Horse Foundation, located in Kittrell, N.C., raises and trains the horses for the blind. Currently, Don and Janet Burleson, who started the foundation, has placed two horses. More are on the way.

The couple got the idea when they visited New York City in 1999. They rode two horses in the busy city streets and were impressed with the animals' calm in traffic and ability to follow commands with the city's bedlam going on around them.

They taught their own 24-inch miniature horse, Twinkie, to lead a blind person in a shopping area. The experiment worked, and training on more miniature horses began. In all, 10 horses are being trained to be donated to blind people.

Miniature horses are just that – smaller versions of horses. They are not considered ponies because they have the proportions and character of a horse. They are generally under 34 inches at the withers.

They have been bred for several hundred years for size and for calm dispositions. Like their larger cousins, miniature horses possess life spans that range between 25 and 35 years. (The oldest recorded is actually 50 years.)

There are about 150,000 miniature horses registered by various organizations in the United States. In the past, their purpose has been primarily for enjoyment.

The nonprofit foundation does not intend to compete with guide dogs; instead it offers an alternative to certain people:

  •   Horse lovers
  •   Those allergic to traditional guide animals
  •   People with a fear of dogs
  •   People who prefer a guide animal that does not have to live in the house

    According to the Guide Horse Foundation Web site, trained horses are very calm in noisy, stressful situations, one of major reasons why police use horses to help control large, unruly crowds. Horses also have very good memories and can focus well on their work. They do not crave attention as a dog does, and they remain calm when petted or groomed.

    These horses can live in a barn or even in the home because they are easy to housetrain. Horses that are accepted into the program must be no heavier than 55 pounds, the weight of a medium-sized dog, and no higher than 26 inches high at the withers.

    As with guide dogs, only miniature horses that possess the right temperament and intelligence are accepted into the program. Horses that spook easily are not accepted. Training usually takes 6 months to a year, and can begin as early as when they are 6 months old.

    The horses can ride in vehicles, elevators or any conveyance that a dog can. The American Disabilities Act ensures that people with guide horses have the same access as those with guide dogs. They are also compatible with well-socialized pets.

    For more information on guide horses, or to learn how you can make a donation, you can visit the foundation at .


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  Helping Hooves
Training Miniature Horses as Guide Animals for the Blind

Janet Burleson

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Copyright © 1998 - 2005 by the Guide Horse Foundation Inc. 

Guide Horse ® Guidehorse ®  and Helping Hooves ® are registered trademarks.


The Guide Horse Foundation has the utmost respect for The Seeing Eye® and their seventy-two years of outstanding work with assistance animals for the blind. Even though the press often calls our horses "seeing eye horses", please note that The Guide Horse Foundation is not affiliated with or sanctioned by the Seeing-Eye® or any of the Guide Dog training organizations. Seeing-Eye® is a registered trademark of the Seeing-Eye, Inc.