I’ve seen a few situations where people use miniature horses as service
animals, but it’s not widely done as horses are easily spooked and that can
present problems. I think they’re very cute though and would love to have
one, but definitely for the wrong reason, (because of their cuteness and not
necessarily because of their ability to serve), and so I’ll not be working
towards getting one. Thanks Proggiemuslima for sending
By BEN LEUBSDORF
Associated Press Writer
6:25 AM CDT, April 10, 2009
than Cali as they ride the rattling bus to work for the first time.
“You’re a good girl, you’re OK, you’re OK,” Ramouni says softly, stroking
Cali — a 3-year-old former show horse that stands about 2 1/2 feet tall,
weighs about 125 pounds and has trained since November to become Ramouni’s
Ramouni lost her sight to retinopathy of prematurity shortly after birth.
She relies on her family to guide her around the Detroit suburbs where she’s
lived, studied and worked for all of her 28 years.
She wants more independence, but a traditional guide dog isn’t an option.
Many Muslims consider dogs unclean, and Ramouni, an observant Sunni,
respects her Jordanian-born parents’ aversion to having a dog in the home
where she lives along with three of her six siblings.
The answer, she hopes, is Cali, short for Mexicali Rose.
“I want a horse that will be a partner for the next 30 or so years. This is
a really awesome little horse … and what I really want is to be able to
take her places and go places with her that neither of us ever would have
been able to do without each other,” Ramouni says.
While most Muslims believe dogs can violate ritual purity, horses are seen
as “regal animals,” says Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter.
Still, “there would be concerns about bringing a horse into certain
establishments and areas of worship as well,” he says.
There are only a handful of the miniature animals trained as guides for the
blind in the United States. Cali’s trainer, Dolores Arste, knows of five
“Taking on a horse as a guide is a huge commitment, same as a dog but with
more physical needs,” Arste, 61, says. “It is not a novelty. It is a real
The horses can live into their 30s, more than twice as long as most dogs,
Ramouni says she was a “typical horse-crazy little girl.” She heard about
guide horses as an adult and eventually connected with Arste, who earlier
helped train a guide horse.
A breeder offered Cali as a guide and the training began for both the horse
and Ramouni. Ramouni paid for the horse, $450 a month for Arste’s training
and other expenses out of her savings.
Since Ramouni had never used a dog, she had to learn how to control a guide
animal. She was partially successful at training a pet dwarf bunny named
Baylea — “she does come when I call her,” Ramouni says — and has worked
hard with Cali.
“I’ve never met a young woman with so much dedication,” Arste says.
Arste trained Cali partly in Hatfield, Ark., and partly in Saratoga Springs,
N.Y., teaching the horse how to get in and out of vehicles, guide through
crowds and stand still indoors.
Cali first came to Dearborn in December, but her three-day trip this week
was a more important test. Ramouni took on responsibility for caring for the
animal as it led her through her daily routine, including Thursday morning’s
commute on a public bus from her Dearborn home to the Lincoln Park office
where she proofreads textbooks in Braille.