Friday, February 9, 2018

Another pair of eyes

As you probably know I have a stupid dog, a very sensible cat and another cat with a personality disorder.

                                                            Thick as mince. But colour co ordinated.

They are all useless.
                                      Mrs Brambles has extreme personality you can see.

They lie around the house, eating, sleeping, getting in the way, producing smells and noises from various orifices and generally failing to be adequate.

 But they are never boring.
                                                    Pi, the sensible cat.

 Mathilda is a rescue Staffie. A survey published a few weeks ago showed that Staffie’s are now the fourth most popular breed in Britain. Unfortunately they are still the breed most likely found in rescue homes but the message is getting through. They are lovers not fighters, kissers not biters. Especially if there is a treat in the offing.
                                                  Pi is 18, seen it all, done it all, impressed by nothing.

The most popular dog was, as it always is, a Labrador.  Personally I am not that fussed on them. They sit about a lot; they do as they are told. Where’s the challenge in that.  Big, soppy, fat and they smell when they are wet.  People think that they are used as guide dogs for the visually impaired because they are so bright. Not so. They are used as guide dogs as they are programmable.  The last thing you want in a guide dog is the capacity of true intelligence, the capacity for independent thought and reasoning.  Imagine  having a border collie as a guide dog, going to work on the bus on a hot summer day and while waiting on the bus the dog thinks ‘Why am I going to sit in an office all day, let’s cross the road and get the bus to the beach!’

Actually writing that I’ve realised that I can’t remember what the sun looks like but you get the drift.

But to be honest I know a guide dog (black lab) who refuses to walk past a certain cake shop until he gets a scone. And today in the news there is a Golden Retriever who drives a tractor on the farm. I guess with Brexit with need to replace the migrant farm workers with something.

And yesterday in GB, the first guide horse is in training for a 22 year old man, sight impaired, and is phobic about dogs.  The horse is an American small horse. Or a small American horse?  BBC journalist Mohammed Salim Patel is getting the eight month Digby, all of 24 inches at the withers, to help him with daily tasks. Digby will be in training for two years, including time when both human and equine are being trained together.
                                                Some heavy horses doing their stuff.

Mohammed does admit that it will take him ages to do anything. How long will it take to go round Asda when every second person wants to pat your horse?
I first heard of guide horses for the blind a few years ago and recall that the big drawback was they would not be accepted socially. A dog will lie under the table in the pub, a horse is a little more obvious. But could be used as an extra table I suppose. Research has now shown that the reverse is true. When seeing a horse in harness people will think working horse whereas a Labrador is a dog and therefore due hugs and cuddles.

 Seemingly there are fourteen American small horses in training in the USA, and given that they live for 40- 50 years, they are much better value for money than a dog.  A guide horse has also been the first horse to fly in the passenger cabin of an air craft.

They do have many advantages. Dogs are predators and are geared neurologically to hunt in their DNA. We have turned them into guardians and Shepard’s but mostly, they chase things and eat them. Including tennis balls.  Horses are prey, they are neurologically programmed to keep safe and be wary.  They are not easily distracted by people petting them when there is something unpleasant on the horizon.

A survey in the states has shown that 27% of visually impaired people would prefer a Guide Horse

But, knowing horses as I do, they like to eat.  Their diet is full of roughage and poor in quality so they like to graze for hours, then sleep to digest. A fit dog will eat for 2.5 seconds once a day and that does it fine. Do working guide ponies get to graze? Or is it like owning an electric car, you incorporate the ‘charging up’ into your lifestyle.

The advantages of guide horses are obvious, especially if the candidate has been a horsey person in the past or are allergic to dogs. And it does mean that the grief of losing a beloved guide dog is spared, due to the pony living that much longer.  The ponies are also strong enough to provide physical support, helping their person up from a chair or out of bed, something even the best strained guide dog would struggle with. They also live outdoors when not working which appeals to some people.

If you think how desensitized police horses are, then it all makes sense.  Their excellent all round vision means they are alert to danger, and their good memories means they teach themselves about what has been a threat before and is best avoided.

And yes, they can be house trained. Which reminds me of the old joke about give me a home where the buffalo roam, and I’ll show you a house with a filthy carpet.

                                                A guide donkey???  Heee Halways calls me that!

We used to get our milk delivered by a horse and cart. The horse, a Clydesdale called Major used to do the round himself, in and out the traffic , doing a three point turn himself as we lived in a Cul De Sac. The milkman ran up and down the gardens to leave the milk on the doorstep and left Major to his own devices.  He made the national news when he retired, probably due to diabetes because of all the sugar cubes the kids used to give him.

Caro Ramsay 09 02 18


  1. What a nice essay. Yes, a guide horse would be lovely, but not so much in a big city. There would be a problem of them fitting into elevators, doing stairs and living in an apartment.

    Also, can they be housebroken? Cleaning up after a horse could be a full-time job.

    There has been an issue over here about various animals being support or guide animals on planes. I saw a photo of a mini-horse/guide horse on a plane. I don't know how this can work, especially on the space and clean-up issues.

    And dogs and food. I have known dogs who could eat 24/7, even to the point of getting sick. And then they'd do it again the next day, if possible.

    I'd be very happy if someone in my building had a guide horse.

  2. While currently dogless I have 10 cats and five horses. Long ago I had a Norwegian Fjord horse named Sylvi. I usually rode her, but also used her in harness. I attached a sled to her to clean manure from a paddock one day. There were several stops to load, two gates, several turns, and one stop to unload. After three times with my guidance she knew exactly what to do and when. I miss that old girl.

  3. I'm visualizing taking the guide horse for a walk in the park with a 55-gal plastic bag over my spare hand, prepared to "pick up after" the horse the way folks (are supposed to) do after their dogs.

    This also brings to mind the headline I just read this morning about the woman who flushed her "emotional support" hamster down the loo because the airline wouldn't allow her to take it on the plane.

    Random neuronal firings this morning...

    1. Hi Everett, The hamster flush lady made the news over here as well...mostly calling for her to be prosecuted for animal cruelty. Emotional support ma bahookie!

  4. Let me see if I got this discourse straight. "A horse is a horse of course of course," unless it's a dog...but whoa be the hamster.

  5. It sounds like you've pretty well got it, Jeff (it IS contagious...) However, if you played disc golf, like me, you'd not only be a babe magnet (straight line alert), but you would also have written, "Let me see if I got this dischorse straight."

  6. I want my guide horse to be. Clydesdale to take me around in a beautiful buggy and always know the way.

    1. Annamarie, they are gentle giants. Most of our police horses are Clydesdale xs - so intelligent and steady, they are scared of nothing.

  7. Horses can be trained. Ponies, on the other hand, are devious and cunning ...

  8. I was wondering why equines so small are still horses. Why are they not called American small ponies? I think I have mentioned before about Mavis the attack donkey who looks after a friend's farm. strangers beware...

  9. I see that the horses are well house trained or, if they are out of their normal routine, they can wear nappies!