Digby, an American Miniature horse, is Britain’s first recognized guide horse (WARHorses has written about Digby before). Trained by Katy Smith, 58, KL Pony Therapy, he was placed with BBC journalist Mohammed Salin Patel last year. All was going well until Digby experienced an unexpected growth spurt. He became too large to maneuver around Patel’s office and was knocking items off the grocery store shelves. Digby lost his job.
But his unemployment woes were temporary. Helena Hird, 51, a visually impaired civil servant at the Office for National Statistics in London jumped at the opportunity to partner with Digby. Having read about Digby and Patel, she had already inquired to Smith about obtaining a guide horse of her own. When things went south with Patel, Hird was quick to inquire about Digby.
Currently back in training, Digby is learning additional skills needed to help Hird get about London’s busy metropolis including how to ride the tube. He has already learned to go up to a crossing, push the button and wait for the green man that signals it is safe to cross the road. Smith combines voice and clicker training to teach Digby reinforcing his actions with praise and rewards. Training is progressing well and Digby should be back to work full time within the year.
According to The Guide Horse Foundation, American Miniature Horses may live to be more than 50 years old, Hird hopes Digby will be her working companion for the rest of her life.
“He is so patient, so gentle,” says Hird. “I have got high hopes for him and me as a good partnership.”