Guide horse is the mane attraction on Tyne and Wear Metro

A unique visitor to the Tyne and Wear Metro proved they were no one trick pony.

Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 11:11 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 11:14 am
Digby, a guide horse, in training on the Tyne and Wear Metro. Picture by Steve Brock.

The transport system hosted a special training day for Britain’s first ever guide horse.

Digby, an 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.

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.

It gave him the chance to experience trains, stations, ticket gates and lifts plus familiarise him with a transport system.

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.

“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, owns 20-month-old Digby, who she has carefully trained to become a guide horse.

She said: “The 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.