The Tyne and Wear Metro has hosted a special training day for Britain’s first ever guide horse.
Digby, the American miniature horse who can accompany blind people just like a guide dog, was on Metro to get him prepared for his new life with a partially sighted person in London.
Metro was chosen to familiarise Digby with the sights and sounds of travelling on a transport system. It gave him the chance to experience trains, stations, ticket gates and lifts.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, already opens up the system for the training of guide dogs - but this visit was its first ever guide horse
Digby’s big day out was carefully managed and supervised by Metro staff and throughout the visit he wore a harness, his special ‘thunderpants’, and a special set booties to protect his hooves.
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.”
Katy Smith, who runs KL Pony Therapy in North Yorkshire, is the proud owner of 20 month old Digby, who she has carefully trained to become a guide horse.
She said: “The Tyne and Wear Metro was ideal for Digby’s training and I am really grateful they were able accommodate us.
“This has allowed me to familiarise him with a busy railway environment. 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.”
When Digby’s training is completed he will be given to partially-sighted Helena Hird, who lives and works in London.
Ms Hird wanted a horse to help her with a genetic sight condition, rather than a guide dog, because horses live for much longer. Unlike dogs, they can live for as long as 45 years.