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A miniature horse is in training to become Britain’s first guide horse for the partially sighted.
Katy Smith knew when Digby was born eight weeks ago he had all the qualities to make the perfect guide horse.
“He came out with a knowing attitude and didn’t seem like a baby,” said Mrs Smith. “He’s got a tremendous personality and great confidence.”
Ms Smith set up K L Pony Therapy five years ago after breaking her back in a riding accident.
Unable to continue working as a activities co-ordinator in a care home, she bought her first American miniature horse, Mr P, from a breeder in Devon.
She now has eight of the tiny horses in training, taking them all over the country to nursing and dementia homes, schools and challenging behaviour units.
The smallest, Wish, is just 27.5inches tall, the largest is Glory, Digby’s dam, at 31 inches.
The facilities at Northallerton Equestrian Centre where the horses are kept are perfect for therapy training.
Digby is taken into the centre’s Tiffany’s café for socialisation and is getting used to traffic as there are always big lorries arriving for competitions at the centre.
And although he is not in any intense training due to his age, and is always with his dam, he is used to being led and wearing a harness.
“Digby will hopefully be as good as a guide dog because he’s loyal, trusting and very kind,” said Ms Smith.
The little horse is getting used to being fussed over by the media, having appeared on local and national television and in newspapers.
Next Tuesday, he will have his first trip to London as he is due to appear on Good Morning Britain.
Once weaned the youngster will be buddied up with Wish and Blondie, two of the more experienced therapy horses, to give him the skills needed to help a partially sighted person.
A guide dog take 20 months to fully train, but it is expected that it will take 2.5 years to train a horse.
Once the training is completed Ms Smith hopes Digby will live with a partially sighted person who lives locally to her North Yorkshire home.
“If it works out with Digby I’m planning to breed from Poppy to get another therapy guide horse,” Ms Smith told H&H.
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content: horse & hound