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In a first, Indian-origin blind man to get guide horse in UK

In a first, Indian-origin blind man to get guide horse in UK
Highlights

An Indianorigin man based in northwest England, who suffers from a degenerative eye condition, is set to become the first person in the UK to get a guide horse to assist him with daily tasks once he loses his vision completely

An Indian-origin man based in north-west England, who suffers from a degenerative eye condition, is set to become the first person in the UK to get a guide horse to assist him with daily tasks once he loses his vision completely.

Mohammed Salim Patel, a journalist based in Blackburn at Lancashire, suffers from a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, due to which he is left with a very small amount of sight in his right eye and will eventually become totally blind.

The 24-year-old, who suffers from a deep-seated fear of dogs since a scary childhood encounter, could not rely on the more commonly used guide dogs for the blind and that is how the concept of a miniature guide horse came to his attention.

“Digby (guide horse) is still a baby and will be two years old in May 2019. His training will take around two more years, so I expect to be able to bring him home to Blackburn once he's finished his training," Patel said.

“There is no rush though, as there would be for a guide dog. Digby will be able to work into his 40s, whereas a guide dog has to retire at the age of eight,” he said. After spending some time with his companion-to-be, Patel believes a guide horse has many added benefits over guide dogs, including a much longer working life, 350-degree vision and ability to see in the dark.

The story of Digby caught the attention of the annual Amplifon Awards for Brave Britons, where the horse is among the finalists in the Hero Pet category – aimed at honouring animals who have transformed the life of their owners.

The BBC journalist began working with his local station, BBC Radio Lancashire, before moving on to BBC North West Tonight TV after completing a Journalism Trainee Scheme. However, it was not an easy journey, being told that a broadcast journalism course would be too difficult for a blind person to complete.

By Aditi Khanna

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