new member intro and interested in guide horses

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Josh Kennedy

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My name is Josh Kennedy. I am totally blind--and my son who is sighted and 16 years old takes riding lessons, works at the lesson farm, and participates in IEA horse shows. I have spent 7 or so months with a miniature horse at that farm, and I get along with her very well. I also signed up for riding lessons at a therapeutic riding farm, but since the people at the much closer farm where my son works know me quite well, if and when I have an opportunity to take lessons there I think I will since it is much closer and people won't have to drive me nearly as far. And in spite of being kicked, getting a full kick to my left knee last week, by Jazzy the mini horse, I am still very interested in mini horses. I talk to Ann Edie, whose guide horse is Panda, Mona Ramouni, whose guide horse is Cali, and Alexandra Kurland who trained Panda, and Dolores Arste who trained Cali. And I am very much looking forward to buying my own miniature horse and either having it trained, or most likely having to train it as a guide animal on my own. I found this comprehensive resource and reports on how guide horses are trained. there are 8 reports or so.

https://www.theclickercenter.com/pg-2-basic-training-1
I discovered I get along better with horses than I do with dogs. I spent a lot of time with Jazzy, unsupervised. I had bad experiences with dogs as a child and I strongly believe that a guide horse would work great for me.
 
Welcome Josh from Minnesota! I do hope your knee is feeling better! Those little hooves can pack a punch! I’ve only read about mini horses serving as guides so have zero experience in that field.

As I longtime horse owner, however, I can vouch for the value of their company!

Forum members have a very wide range of experience, so jump in with questions or comments anytime!
 
Welcome @Josh Kennedy and I also hope your knee is recovering well!
I sure appreciate your idea of training a mini to be your service animal. They are far longer lived than dogs; however, I would imagine the process of acquiring an appropriate young horse could be more complicated. Like dogs, not all little horses are created equal and suited to such an important role.
Have you had experience in training horses? I really, sincerely appreciate the comprehensive guide from Panda's training, but having extensive first-hand experience, especially with young horses, there are a lot of questions young horses ask that need to be appropriately addressed in the moment and can escalate into dangerous behaviors if not dealt with right, right away. That being said, if you have the support of experienced trainers who are knowledgeable in training horses in hand - outside of riding, then success if yours for the taking! Please remember, your safety is paramount!

Please share your journey, we'd all enjoy celebrating your success with you.

All our best, from Jasmine the Therapy Pony, Phillippe the donkey and myself, Amanda :)
 
My name is Josh Kennedy. I am totally blind--and my son who is sighted and 16 years old takes riding lessons, works at the lesson farm, and participates in IEA horse shows. I have spent 7 or so months with a miniature horse at that farm, and I get along with her very well. I also signed up for riding lessons at a therapeutic riding farm, but since the people at the much closer farm where my son works know me quite well, if and when I have an opportunity to take lessons there I think I will since it is much closer and people won't have to drive me nearly as far. And in spite of being kicked, getting a full kick to my left knee last week, by Jazzy the mini horse, I am still very interested in mini horses. I talk to Ann Edie, whose guide horse is Panda, Mona Ramouni, whose guide horse is Cali, and Alexandra Kurland who trained Panda, and Dolores Arste who trained Cali. And I am very much looking forward to buying my own miniature horse and either having it trained, or most likely having to train it as a guide animal on my own. I found this comprehensive resource and reports on how guide horses are trained. there are 8 reports or so.

https://www.theclickercenter.com/pg-2-basic-training-1
I discovered I get along better with horses than I do with dogs. I spent a lot of time with Jazzy, unsupervised. I had bad experiences with dogs as a child and I strongly believe that a guide horse would work great for me.
Welcome to this group Josh & my mini Citi certainly would never be a reliable ‘guide’ he just doesn’t have the right character BUT it does seem you have the right connections to a couple of miniature horse trainers specifically to become guides … I would suggest using their expertise to the fullest & I would err against trying to train any animal myself for such an important role. Training any animal is very much about visual ‘cues’ & if these are missed it can be dangerous.

Mini’s are small but mighty & I think that you will absolutely find a mini that is trainable for your personal needs & that you form a connection with but for safeties sake please have the horse trained by one of the pro you mention PLUS then you yourself will have to have extensive training too.

Would Jazzie’s owner consider loaning or selling her to you as she’s already trained & then it would just be working on your combined training to assist/guide you.

Have you also thought about where the horse would be kept, how you’d transport her & also places where a guide mini is able to go etc restaurants, grocery stores etc. That’s if you’re hoping to have the mini trained to do a lot of what a traditional guide dog would do?

I hope you’re able to keep us all up to date on your journey
 
I know nothing about training a horse to be a guide horse and have read the links you have posted with interest. Thank you for sharing.

Wishing you well and hoping you hear back from Procyon Training soon!

In the meantime I hope you are able to enjoy barn time with Jazzie!
 
yes, and in fact, so far my first lesson was learning to groom Jazzy, including which brushes to use. My second lesson is this coming Thursday. Everyone at the lesson barn knows I am very interested in having a guide horse if possible, even if I have to learn how to, and then train one myself.
 
For those interested, here is a recording of a zoom meeting with a very long discussion and interview with Ann Edie, a guide horse user. She answers all the questions you may have about guide horses.

 
It is always interesting to learn more about horses and the various ways they work with people.

While you continue to research, I hope you are able to spend hours each week with hands on horses, of all sizes. While size is really important in a potential guide horse, it is meaningless when learning about horses in general, so any size horse will teach you how to move, talk, and communicate with them. These essential hours will help you build a good working foundation to learn specialized techniques in the future.

Wishing you lots of time, even beyond Jazzy, with horses!
 
I enhanced the recording to make all the voices louder for easier understanding...

 
There was an issue with the first link, I think I got it sorted out now. try this one and let me know if it works. A dialog may come up, just tab to and hit enter or spacebar on the play anyway button.
 
Well I have three makeup lessons coming up this week. The owner of the lesson barn took some well-deserved time off. I got to go into much more detail regarding grooming, cleaning and picking out hooves, learning how cross-ties work, how to put blankets on and off, and I got to lead Teddy around the arena for 20 or so minutes. this was about two weeks ago. He is a bit bigger than Jazzy. I just pay for lessons--and that is good for me because I get to work with multiple horses of different sizes. The more horses I work with the better, I would think. After all, during Ann Edie's interview she said it is best for me to get a mini horse as a foal, then train it from scratch. Ann said that Panda sees people as her herd, and not other horses. First starting out with puppy raising, good house manners, house-breaking, and then move on to socializing the mini horse and desensitizing it to as many situations as possible while I then begin to teach it to become a guide horse. And once its training is mostly complete, then it will be time to have a guide harness made for it. I will be following Dolores Arste and Alexandra Kurland's positive reinforcement clicker training method. Dolores worked with Alexandra during Ann Edie's guide horse--Panda's training. Alexandra Kurland told me that she thinks that miniature donkeys may also make good guide animals, but she doesn't know because she hasn't tried training a mini donkey to become a guide animal, yet.
 
Ann also said that horses pick up on the "clicker training game", very fast, generally. She trained her big Arabian horse, Magnet, who has since died several years ago, she trained Magnet to go around the arena and retrieve dropped objects and bring them to Ann before lessons began. And if he couldn't find something to bring her, he would often bring her one of the bigger pieces of shavings.
 
Glad to hear you are getting in some hours with a variety of horses. It is not possible to have too many hours when you are considering the training of a foal.

Another avenue to research, which you may already be doing, is the general care and feeding of a foal. If possible, talking to those who actually breed and raise foals and an equine vet would be my first choices.

About mini donkeys, I have limited amateur experience and only with our donkey, but know that they do not learn like horses. Donkeys are a separate animal full of personality, smart, lovable and of an independent mind. Donkeys are an entirely separate species from horses. They belong to the same family, equidae, but are not the same species.

Happy “horsing around”!
 
Personally, based on limited experience, my answer is a firm no. Standars Equine has far more experience and could offer more perspective.

It may be worthwhile to start a new thread something like: Donkeys as guide animals. More people would perhaps see it and respond as others do have donkeys.
 
Do you think that miniature donkeys could be trained as guide animals?
Thanks @MaryFlora, In my opinion it's possible; however, it would take a long time before one would be solid. And it would take the right personality to train that animal. They are just different from horses in their reactions and thought processes. Once they're solidly in their understanding, they're great! But sometimes getting them through to that understanding is not so easy. They are STRONG, surprisingly so for their size and not always easy to read body language wise. More stoic than horses, so there may be a fear response or nervousness about a situation that isn't recognized in training that would be remembered when the animal is older that could cause a negative reaction. For the most part, they are more sound, hardy and require less feed. Anyways, that's just my 2 cents.
 

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