Britain’s first ever guide HORSE named Digby takes a ride on a busy train as he undergoes training ahead of a move to London to assist visually impaired commuter on the Tube
- The UK’s first guide horse Digby, two, takes a ride on Newcastle’s Metro system
- He is training for life in London where he will help a visually impaired woman
- American miniature Digby is described as affectionate and he loves to be petted
- People can be allergic to guide dogs and some horses can live for up to 40 years
The UK’s first guide horse was introduced to the sights, sounds and smells of a bustling railway carriage as he took a ride on a train.
Digby, a two year old guide horse in training, stepped off the platform and joined commuters on Newcastle city centre’s Metro system in preparation for life in the capital.
He will soon move to London where he will lend a helping hand to civil servant Helena Hird, 51, who is visually impaired and regularly travels on the Underground.
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Digby, who is 32.5inches high, had never been on a train before today but has made trips to railway stations to get used to the noise. He rode on Newcastle’s city centre Metro system
Guide horses are a common sight in other countries, but Digby has the honour of becoming the UK’s first. Some people are allergic to dogs and horses can live for much longer.
Digby passed through the barriers and boarded a train from St James’ Park in Newcastle to several different stops on the line.
Katy Smith, owner of KL Pony Therapy, based in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, said: ‘The trains didn’t phase Digby at all.
‘He seemed right at home among the passengers, who took a real shine to him.
Digby waits for a train with other passengers. He will soon move to London where he will lend a helping hand to civil servant Helena Hird, 51, who is visually impaired and regularly travels on the Underground
He took it all in his stride. The response to him when he’s out and about is always really positive.
‘People are fascinated and want to know all about him.’
He is in the middle of a two to three year training programme during which he is visiting restaurants, pubs and shops to get used to busy, everyday environments.
Before moving in with Helena, Digby will learn the routes she regularly takes, so he can lead her safely through the busy streets of London.
Katy added: ‘Guide horses can do everything guide dogs can do, only they live much longer, to 35 or 40-years-old.
‘Some people like the idea of a horse, others are allergic to dogs so a horse is a much better option.
Digby is seen in a carriage, above. He is in the middle of a two to three year training programme where he is getting used to busy environments
Katy Smith, owner of KL Pony Therapy, based in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, set up her business, which arranges for miniature horses to be taken into care homes as therapy for the residents, eight years ago
‘Digby’s training is going really well. Nothing phases him. He’s a really intelligent animal and Helena has fallen in love with him. He is affectionate and loves to be petted and stroked.
‘Guide horses are trained in a really similar way to guide dog. We give him a treat sometimes and lots of verbal praise and cuddles.
‘He has learnt how to push buttons at pelican crossings and wait for the green man and the noise before safely negotiating the road.
‘He can find postboxes and the disabled button when he is in the first class lounge at railway stations.
‘He walks up, pushes it and the door opens for him. he is also learning basic commands such as forward, wait and stop.’
Digby, who is 32.5inches high, had never been on a train before today but has made trips to railway stations to get used to the noise.
A stable will be built in Helena’s back garden but Digby will also have access to her home where she is expected to curl up in front of the fire.
Digby needs to get used to busy, everyday environments to help civil servant Helena, who lives in London. Before moving in with Helena, Digby will learn the routes she regularly takes, so he can lead her safely through the busy streets of the capital
Katy set up her business, which arranges for miniature horses to be taken into care homes as therapy for the residents, eight years ago.
After learning about the success of guide horses abroad, particularly in America, she decided to train one of her own.
Digby was originally reserved for a BBC journalist in Manchester, but he turned out to be too big to fit under his desk and knocked products off supermarket shelves.
But Helena can’t wait for Digby to join her and said: ‘I live in London so having a horse that’s able to go on trains and buses and hopefully on the Underground is really important to me because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get around.
‘I love dogs but with guide dogs you only have one for five to eight years, and I think I would find that quite emotionally difficult.
‘But Digby should hopefully last the rest of my life. He is very loving. He is like a dog, very friendly. He wants to be with you, he is a total sweetheart.
‘He is so patient, so gentle. I have got high hopes for him and me and a good partnership.’
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