Europe's first guide horse retires after poisoning

Europe's first guide horse retires after poisoning
MEP Hilde Vautmans receives first guide horse in European Parliament. Credit: Flickr/ ALDE group

Dinky - Belgium's 70 cm high guide horse - will have to retire from his duties after he ingested a potentially life-threatening maple leaf.

The unfortunate incident happened when Dinky ate the leaves - many varieties of which are poisonous to horses - while visiting his trainer in Limburg.

Despite recovering from the ordeal, the mini horse has been deemed no longer fit for service as he is now frightened by cars and lacks the emotional stability required for the role.

As a seeing-eye horse, Dinky had been a trusted companion to visually impaired Bruges resident Monique Van den Abbeel since 2018. The duo previously made headlines when they were invited to visit the European Parliament, where Van den Abbeel aimed to raise awareness about the visually-impaired alongside Belgian MEP Hilde Vautmans.

While Dinky is now unable to fulfil his duties, he will still be ok according to his owner. Now he's an ordinary horse in the meadow again,” Van den Abbeel told Nieuwsblad.

While they have become a common sight in the United States, guide mini-horses remain a new concept in Europe. Even Dinky - who was trained by Jules O' Dwyer in Belgium, but came from the Netherlands - was a unique situation.

"It is actually an ideal assistant," Van den Abbeel told HLN in 2018. "I notice that Dinky is much less distracted than a dog." “This can also be a solution for people who are allergic to dogs. A miniature horse is not a pet. It is allowed to visit the living room or the kitchen, but at my home, he has his own stable and a grazing and playing area. The care is also different and requires some extra time. But it is a huge help to me.”

Due to the more complicated nature of training and getting another guide horse, it is likely Van den Abbeel will have to get a guide dog as a replacement, according to reports.

Jules Johnston

The Brussels Times

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