Guide horse sacked for being too big will soon ride the Underground

Britain’s first ‘guide horse’, who was sacked for being too big, has found a new home with a partially sighted Office for National Statistics worker in London.Digby, who is an American Miniature horse, became Britain’s first ‘guide horse’ when he began training with BBC journalist Mohammed Salim Patel in February.But due to an unexpected growth spurt, which took Digby to the height of 33 inches, Mr Patel decided the horse was too large to guide him around his office in Salford, Greater Manchester. He said the animal had become inconvenient because it would knock items off the shelf in supermarkets and couldn’t fit under his desk at work like a guide dog could.–– ADVERTISEMENT ––However, Digby’s special training will no longer go to waste as partially sighted Helena Hird, who works for the ONS in London, has decided he’s not too big for her. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “Eventually, it will be on a national scale. Guide horses will have to be individually assessed and accredited,” she said.“When more people come forward who want to see guide horses working and recognise the benefits of them, it could work on a greater scale.” Ms Hird, 51, told The Telegraph that she 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.“I’ve grown up around horses, and they’re my default animal, if you like,” she said.  Digby, Helena (left) and trainer Kate Masteic at a London awards ceremony.Credit:Caters News Agency “You’ve got to be confident you can read an animal and understand it.“But above all, they have a lot longer life. If I could have one horse that could see me out, that would be great. Guide dogs work for about five to eight years, and they either retire with you or you have to give it away. “If I do the maths and work out how many dogs I could be getting through, that’s heartbreaking.”Digby’s new duties will include travelling on the Underground and navigating escalators for the first time. He could be on the streets of central London and in the ONS’ offices by next year.Digby has already been recognised for his work. Last month, he received a judges’ special award at the Amplifon 2018 Awards for Brave Britons and attended a ceremony at London’s Army and Navy Club in Mayfair.Katy Smith, who runs KL Pony Therapy in North Yorkshire, trained Digby from a foal to help the partially sighted in their daily lives. He can press the button at pedestrian crossings, find the opening in post boxes and lie down on command. Ms Smith hopes that one day ‘guide horses’ will be as popular as guide dogs.  PIC FROM Caters News - (PICTURED: Digby arriving at the awards in London, with Kate Masteic (right) and Helen Hird (left) ) - The UKs first guide horse was the mane attraction on the streets of the capital when he was treated to a big day out at a red carpet event before winning a top prize.Two-year-old Digby, a two foot tall American miniature horse, is in training to help a blind man scared of dogs cross roads, find post boxes and activate traffic lights.SEE CATERS COPY

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