For fourteen years, Ann Edie, a blind lady, has depended on her hip-high miniature horse to help her navigate the challenges of life. Panda, the fluffy black-and-white service pony, has guided Edie through congested areas, retrieved her home keys, and even sat silently in restaurants while she ate.
Thus, Edie was happy to aid Panda again when she needed it.
About a year ago, the little horse had a potentially fatal intestinal obstruction, and in order to pay for surgery and other medical treatment, Edie and her husband had to withdraw more than $30,000 from their retirement funds. After several months of caring for her through difficulties, they were able to get her back on the streets of their suburban Albany, New York neighbourhood.
“She’s very special, so of course I wanted to do everything I could to save her,” says Edie, a retired teacher of 69 years old who has been blind since birth.
More than $11,000 has also been donated by a group of equestrian enthusiasts who read a blog detailing Panda’s training to assist with the mounting veterinary expenses as she continues to walk the long road to recovery.
“I always wanted to be responsible for my service animal and not ask for help because I am a person with a disability,” Edie explains. However, many want to assist her. They’ve been very giving.
Edie, a teacher of children with vision impairments, has had guide dogs. After nine years of service, her chocolate Labrador retriever, Bailey, passed away, but her two German shepherds had a tendency to chase children or other animals. Because miniature horses may live up to 40 years and have characteristics that make them ideal for guiding work, Edie made the decision to give them a try.
Who has other riding horses? Edie explains, “Horses very much live in a social environment and are attuned to their people.” “It’s even more acute that Panda and I communicate than it was with Bailey.”
Panda was purchased by Edie and her horse-training buddy Alexandra Kurland in 2001 from a breeder in Florida. Over the course of the next two years, Kurland taught Panda how to drive, ring a bell to go outdoors, relieve herself on cue, and navigate crowded streets safely while Edie held her leather harness. Treats and a portable clicker are used in the training method to promote good behaviour. According to Kurland, several trainers were motivated to attempt clicker training with their horses by Panda’s success.
Dolores Arste, a clicker horse trainer in Galway, New York, estimates that 10,000 canines assist blind partners in the United States, but only around six small horses fill that duty.
When they learn how much more labour a horse requires, many who have called me in the past to inquire about guiding horses become disinterested, according to Arste. A dog eats twice a day, however horses need a stable and space to gallop outside. Horses also urinate regularly.
Panda usually spends her days lounging around the home, cuddling with Edie as she plays Scrabble, playing with toys, and snacking on vegetable snacks. However, Panda’s sickness has resulted in persistent diarrhoea, so she must remain outside in her stable.
“I hope everything makes sense shortly. Edie said, “I miss having her inside.”
Panda is unquestionably the perfect companion for Edie.
Edie patted Panda’s flowing black mane and said, “It’s wonderful to be able to work with her and walk with her.” “It all boils down to the bond between us and her exceptional skill set.”