Iron-clad mini feet pounding the dust
October 4, 2008 3:58 PM   Subscribe

Yeah, guide horses seems like a bad idea. Horses can be intelligent, but I'd be willing to say a smart dog is smarter than a smart horse. Plus I'd rather have an animal whose first instinct at danger isn't going to be "run away!"
posted by maxwelton at 4:04 PM on October 4, 2008

The yea and the neigh.
posted by nickyskye at 4:05 PM on October 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Are those horses wearing, like, running shoes?
posted by GuyZero at 4:06 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would have figured that by now there would be a TomTom or other voice guided GPS for the blind.
posted by furtive at 4:17 PM on October 4, 2008

Furtive, a dog is better because it can respond to transient events -- like oncoming cars which are too quiet for the blind human to hear. (Some organizations for the blind have been objecting to electric cars because they make almost no noise.)

Also, dogs can see curbs.
posted by Class Goat at 4:21 PM on October 4, 2008

Yes, GuyZero. Special wee horsey sneakers, because horseshoes are hell on parquet.
posted by maudlin at 4:23 PM on October 4, 2008

Are those horses wearing, like, running shoes?

Pretty much, yeah. They do that to be easier on indoor surfaces. No, they wouldn't HAVE to use shoe shaped shoes, but it's really cute so, well, yeah.

It's a shame to hear they don't make great service animals, I'd love to see a little miniature horse roaming the streets with people shoes on.

Or maybe its good, because sadly, miniature horses tend to have all sorts of problems associated with their dwarfism.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:24 PM on October 4, 2008

Botched the title, didn't I. "Sneaker-clad mini feet."
posted by Wolfdog at 4:25 PM on October 4, 2008

Humans have spent 15,000 years breeding dogs to be exquisitely attuned to read human emotions from our faces, voices, and body language, and to follow commands. We've spent maybe 6,000 years breeding horses, mostly to pull heavy loads and to run fast, and to follow simple commands.

We've spent thousands of years diversifying working dogs, to produce breeds adept at fighting, guarding, herding, hunting, finding, carrying, searching, and providing companionship. In that time we've bred horses to carry things and people and to fight.

There's a lot more diverse capability in dogs, and a much finer ability for dogs to anticipate human needs and wants.
posted by orthogonality at 5:02 PM on October 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

I had never even heard of miniature horses as guides before, but it seems like a bad idea. A good guide dog is like an extension of the person and companionship all at once - it's poetry in motion watching one work. I just don't see horses doing anything of the sort. Very interesting reads, though. Thanks!
posted by gemmy at 5:05 PM on October 4, 2008

My Little Pony fantasies in the service-animal sector. Bad idea.
posted by grounded at 5:24 PM on October 4, 2008

I first heard about this about 5 years ago. At a barn. We all laughed and laughed. Laughed and laughed and how ill-suited even a steady draft horse, if it was shrunk down, would be. Then we worrried about people who be put at risk.

If you want an animal to sayth among the trumpets ha ha, go with a horse. If you want an animal to pay attention to you and the world you are in 24/7, go with a dog. A very good dog with a lot of training.

Sometimes we hear from people who want to train their dog, who has no previous training and known bite-history, as a service dog.

I just try not to think about it.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:47 PM on October 4, 2008

I want an animal to sayth among the trumpets ha ha! I want one of those!

What is that, exactly?
posted by Naberius at 6:24 PM on October 4, 2008

Are those horses wearing, like, running shoes?

and some fly kicks at that. I for one first learned about guide horses from this short film I saw a month ago.
posted by jrb223 at 6:31 PM on October 4, 2008

A double post is as good as a nod to a blind horse.
posted by An Infinity Of Monkeys at 6:58 PM on October 4, 2008

Naberius, you can find that animal in the book of job.

The bible is lean on support for our animal friends, as friends, but that's one spot for 'em.

In King James, it goes like this, starting on line 19 right after the unicorns.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:26 PM on October 4, 2008

Sometimes we hear from people who want to train their dog, who has no previous training and known bite-history, as a service dog.

Despite his lack of training as a service dog, I have no doubt whatsoever that one of my dogs would be a terrific service dog for someone who is both legally blind and attempting to locate the Trader Joe's turkey sausage stromboli that I left on the kitchen table for about three minutes earlier this evening.
posted by davejay at 10:49 PM on October 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

So does this mean I should probably abandon my guide Gila monster farm idea?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:56 AM on October 5, 2008

On the contrary, please pursue that with renewed vigor.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:10 AM on October 5, 2008

A gila monster farm? Do it for the children!

And be sure to have some two-headed calves around.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:17 AM on October 5, 2008

I love horses. They're fantastic animals.

They're much dumber than dogs.

Even consider just this simple fact: horses recognize certain familiar sounds, but I've met a lot of horses and I've never met one that even understood its own name or responded to it. Think about that - that means horses generally can't recognize a single word. That doesn't mean you can't train them - on the contrary - but it does mean that all communication must generally be physical and, yes, visual.

Dogs have superiority in this. Dogs can understand a dozen commands at least and respond quickly and efficiently to them.

I have a feeling, though, that a dog wouldn't be as awesome as a guide monkey. I wonder if anybody's ever tried that.
posted by koeselitz at 10:22 AM on October 5, 2008

I've heard vague murmurs of capuchin monkeys as service animals for para- and quadraplegics, and it looks like the first couple of Google results here are actually legislation of some form allowing the practice. However, given that primates are notoriously horrible, horrible pets, I can't help but wonder how it all works out in practice.
posted by bettafish at 11:34 AM on October 5, 2008

I have never had much use for horses, but my daughter and wife have been riding for several years now, and I have grudgingly come to like the animals. I have to say that horses are much more intelligent than I had believed. They are also fairly high strung, but as the first link says, they can be trained to deal with noises and stressful situations.

The thing about horses is that they are social animals like dogs, but they are simply more alien than dogs seem to be. Dogs integrate into human families naturally - horses, not so much, and it's not because they don't live inside with us - they are just different. They are affectionate, have excellent vision, hearing and smell - horses are tuned in to the environment extremely well - that's one thing that contributes to their skittishness.

I think under certain circumstances, the use of trained horses of a selected temperment would be fine, especially in non-urban areas. The criticisms levelled in the second link and the other articles on that site, are primarily speculative and anecdotal. Sure, a dog may be the guide of choice for a number of reasons, but that doesn't mean that a good guide horse is incapable of doing the job.
posted by Xoebe at 12:37 PM on October 5, 2008

Xoebe: I have to say that horses are much more intelligent than I had believed.

I agree. In fact, this is common enough of a misconception that it ought to be rectified: horses are very intelligent. And, in fact, I feel that the article linked above arguing against the use of guide horses gives an argument that's less than convincing to me: there are certainly horses that are no more skittish than dogs. They exist, and are even common.

The trick is that horses are just different from dogs in fundamental ways. Like I said above, horses' ears don't differentiate human vocalizations enough to distinguish words. That's not to say that they have bad hearing; they just hear differently. That's a big obstacle to the use of a horse as a guide. Personally, though I've spent some years riding, I've never been able to really communicate to a horse what I wanted without riding it. Though I dog wouldn't know what to do with such physical commands (even if it were big enough for me to get on its back) a horse is incredibly sensitive to motions in my legs, feet, and hands. It's amazing how many commands and signals a horse can understand in those circumstances, such that riding is more about training yourself to give the right commands to the horse.

But I don't think a horse could understand vocal commands. It's just not what they're built for. I'll believe it if I see it, but I've never seen it.
posted by koeselitz at 2:41 PM on October 5, 2008

Actually, horses DO recognize words and respond to vocal commands: both my horses know and respond to their names, and both respond, for instance, to quite a few voice cues. I sometimes work with them on a longe line and use ONLY voice commands, and they walk, trot, canter, halt, etc. as requested. Horses are also quite smart; I taught one of my horses to fetch in under half an hour. He never forgot it and would actually initiate games at the drop of a hat.

Would I want one of them to be a guide animal for me, though? No. For one thing, horses have binocular vision and can't see anything that's directly in front of them. A problem on, say, a city street. And if I were relying on one of my horses to get a blind me down a busy street, I'd have to pray to God we'd never pass any kind of edible plant.
posted by OolooKitty at 4:26 PM on October 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, horses have the intelligence to communicate with humans, but we humans just aren't up to their level of communication.... They can read our body language way better than you may imagine.

And, for use as guide animals? I don't know. They can be well-trained for scary situations, as for police work; but, don't let them see any piece of plastic lurking on the ground or blowing in the wind - they'll be the first to flee from the potential terror!
posted by mightshould at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2008

I'm having a certain amount of difficulty seeing beyond the "OMG TINY PONY" aspect of this post. That being said, the general horsey reputation for being skittish tends to make me think that this would be a bad idea.
posted by elizardbits at 12:26 PM on October 6, 2008

« Older art history   |   Not just another ghost story Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments