First UK guide horses the main attraction for Tate House visit

Blind and partially sighted residents at a Harrogate care home helped lend a hand to help train the UK’s first guide horses during a special visit.

Tate House on Wetherby Road, which is run by sight loss charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), welcomed miniature guide horses Digby and Taz last Friday (February 8).

The guide horses in training were a hit with residents, says Sean Atkinson-Maury, Registered Manager at RNIB’s Tate House, giving them a chance to practice guiding them.

Sean said: “It’s wonderful that Digby, Taz and their trainer, Katy, were able to come along to Tate House and meet everyone.

As a residential care home that supports blind and partially sighted people, it’s the perfect place for the horses to brush up on their skills and perfect their technique – ready for when they take to the streets with their new owners.

“The staff and residents were very excited to meet Digby and Taz. Quite a few people here have had guide dogs in the past, so were interested to see how the horses would shape up in comparison.

“I’m pleased to say they got glowing reviews from everyone.”

After two years of training at KL Pony Therapy in Northallerton, Digby will be moving on to a new home in London to work with visually impaired owner Helena Hird. Taz, dubbed his ‘little sister’, is still in the early stages of her training.

By the time they complete their training both will be able to assist people with tasks including using pedestrian crossings by pressing the buttons for them, recognising obstacles, finding the opening in post boxes and lying down on command.

One of the residents who welcomed the pair to the home was Susan Heywood. She said: “I was surprised at how well-trained Digby is. He can do a lot of things that a guide dog could do, like following and leading, recognising obstacles and pressing buttons

“He’s got a lovely little character too.

“He’ll make a fine guide for his new owner when he finishes his training.

“And Taz was adorable. I wish they were staying with us.”