Country’s first guide horse receives training on Newcastle’s Metro system
The country’s first guide horse has been exposed to the sights and sounds of a railway as he prepares to help a partially-sighted person get around London.
Digby the miniature horse was allowed on to the Tyne and Wear Metro system in Newcastle, giving him the chance to experience trains, stations, ticket gates and lifts.
The rail operator already allows guide dog training on to the Metro but this was the first time for a horse.
Digby’s training was carefully co-ordinated by Metro staff, he wore a harness, his “thunderpants” in case of accidents and booties to protect his hooves.
When the 20-month-old’s training is completed he will be given to partially-sighted Helena Hird, who lives and works in London.
She wanted a horse to help her with a genetic sight condition, rather than a guide dog, because horses live for as long as 45 years.
Digby is being trained by Katy Smith, who runs KL Pony Therapy in North Yorkshire.
She said: “I wanted him to experience being in bustling underground stations and get him used to that rush of cold air when trains approach.
“Digby certainly caught a few of the Metro passengers by surprise on the journey, but he always gets a great response from people wherever he goes.
“He’s such a lovely little horse.
“When I first got him I knew that he had something special and that he had what it took to be a guide horse.
“He’s brilliant at following all of the commands, just like a guide dog can.
“He has the intelligence, the ability, and the personality.”
Metro services director, Chris Carson, said: “We were thrilled to help out Digby the guide horse with his training.
“We’ve loved being involved in such a wonderful and heart-warming story, and our customers have loved it too.
“We do a lot of guide dog training on Metro, but a guide horse isn’t a sight that we’ve ever seen. It’s brightened up everyone’s day.
“Digby took all the sights and sounds of the Metro system in his stride. I hope that the training has been of great benefit to Digby and his owner ahead of his big move to London.”