Mona Ramouni, who has been blind since a few months after her birth, has seen the a world of possibilities open up thanks to her seeing-eye horse Cali.
Ms. Ramouni, 28, is a devout Muslim who lives in Dearborn, Michigan. She was unable to have a seeing-eye dog because her parents believed that dogs were “unclean”. But in 2008, she read about the use of miniature horses as guide animals.
After saving for 3 years, she was able to purchase Cali, a 3-year old miniature horse that stands 2’6″ tall and weighs about 100 pounds. Although there are challenges to having a mini horse as a guide animal (finding a farrier can seem daunting to someone who lives in the city and has never dealt with growing hooves and manure removal is an ongoing problem), miniature horse make good guide animals for several reasons.
- Minis are sturdy and can provide more physical support for blind people who have problems with mobility.
- Minis live longer than dogs — some are in guide service for 30 years, whereas dogs are able to serve only 8-12 years.
- Horses have excellent peripheral vision — up to 350 degrees — making them more aware of their environment.
- Compared to dogs, horses are relatively quiet.
With Cali leading the way, Ramouni is now attending Michigan State University where she is pursuing a degree in psychology. The added mobility that Cali has brought to her life is significant but as Ramouni said,
‘More than even the independence, I found that Cali showed me that there are possibilities.’