First-ever guide horse trained to help blind journalist

Britain's first-ever guide horse has been given to a blind journalist as campaigners battle for the animals to be allowed on planes and in restaurants. 

Digby, an American miniature horse, is being trained as an assistance animal for Mohammed Salim Patel, 23, a journalist for the BBC, who is visually impaired and afraid of dogs.

Digby's owner Katy Smith is pushing for greater rights for those who rely on the horses as an alternative to the more traditional guide dogs. 

The horses are common in the United States but Digby is believed to be the first in training to work as an assistance animal in the UK. 

Ms Smith, of Northallerton Equestrian Centre, in north Yorkshire, told the Daily Telegraph that she has been working with her MP Rishi Sunak to improve the legal framework for horses which are used as guide or assistance animals. 

Mohammed Salim Patel with Digby CREDIT:  LANCASHIRE TELEGRAPH / SWNS.COM

The first step is to persuade food hygiene agencies to allow Digby to go into cafes and restaurants wearing a device which means he does not leave excrement on the floor. 

"The wording of the legislation needs to be changed so dogs need to be taken out and animals put instead, so that will be one of the next steps we'll be aiming for," she said. 

"Once the environmental health people say they're happy with the underpants thing we'll be one step closer. 

"Because it's the first, it's a question of going about it in the right way and getting people on our side and getting people aware of the positiveness of what a miniature horse can bring to helping someone to live a normal life."

Equalities law says businesses must make "reasonable adjustments" for disabled people, which would include catering for assistance animals, but it is not yet clear whether a person refused access for a guide horse would have a case for discrimination. 

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said: "While we have not come across a guide horse before, assistance animals help disabled people with activities that many people take for granted every day.

"Food business owners should take this into account when considering whether to permit access of assistance animals into their premises."


Equestrian Escapes offer a number of bespoke packages for people with disabilities. Please enquire via the website or call 01829 781 123.

Find us on Facebook

Interact with Us

Email us with your requirements
Sign up for special offers
Make a payment for your holiday
Sign up to our newsletter