Pony Helps Blind Woman Attend College

Cali is a guide animal, and perhaps the first pony to attend college. She works with Mona Ramouni, a young blind woman studying counseling and psychotherapy in a graduate program at Michigan State University. Ramouni intends to earn a psychology degree so she can work with disabled children.

So why the pony, when guide dogs are much more typical for assisting the blind? Ramouni is a devout Muslim and was raised in a Muslim family. Dogs were not allowed in her parents home, and she didn’t take well to using a walking cane. Cali was purchased just two years ago to help Ms. Ramouni be more independent. Several months of training brought Cali up to speed on how to get on and off buses, and in and out of cars with Ramouni. Cali now also taps her hoof to communicate to Ramouni about obstacles when walking.

The relationship with the guide animal has opened Ramouni to new opportunities. “My whole world and my whole outlook on stuff has changed, because I feel that there are a lot more possibilities,” she said. (Source: Google News)

Cali is a miniature horse weighing about 100 pounds. The advantage of having a larger, very sturdy guide animal is they can provide more physical support for blind people with less mobility. Miniature horses also live longer than dogs. Some are in guide service for 30 years, whereas dogs typically last 8 – 12 years in service.

The Guide Horse Foundation lists a number of benefits miniature horses can provide. One is that horses have very wide peripheral vision, up to 350 degrees they say, due to the position of their eyes. They also say horses shed only twice a year, and do not get fleas. In addition, horses do not have sharp teeth, and are not predators, so they aren’t intimidating to people in the same way dogs can be. Horses also are relatively quiet compared to dogs –† they don’t bark when they are agitated, nor do they growl.

Another student in one of Ramouni’s classes uses a guide dog, and both animals get along with each other. Michigan State University has a center dedicated to helping students with disabilities cope with challenges they experience during their academic careers.

Image Credit: Josť Reynaldo da Fonseca

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Christine Stewart

Horses do have the advantage of living longer than dogs, and having less stinky poop- I have heard of other people having horses as guides, so it's not just a Muslim thing.

Lynn D.
Lynn D5 years ago

At least it's a little pony (sure looks like it's getting fat though!)!!!!

Elizabeth W.
Elizabeth W5 years ago

Beautiful story.

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago


Shaheen N.
Shaheen N5 years ago

Thanks for sharing an inspirational article. Loved Cali, my he live long & assist her companion for many years to come.

Vero Gall
Past Member 5 years ago

I just came across this topic and have to respond to a previous thread. Rebecca Lynn M. says:
"I guess I still have a problem with understanding why it is that people from different countries & cultures move here to the U.S., for a better life, only to continue the exact customs and religious restrictions that brought them here. ASSIMILATE PEOPLE !"

Anyone who believes that has forgotten or ignored their history lessons. It is PRECISELY because they could follow their own customs and religious restrictions that most of our founding fathers and future immigrants came. Starting with the Puritans, groups of Americans in every decade for 200 yrs have done everything including killing people who did not follow their customs and restrictions.

About dogs being perceived as unclean: this isn't just a Muslim thought. I know (Christian) Americans, Europeans and people from other continents who do not allow animals into their homes because they are "dirty". However, I do agree with Niall that many misinformed people believe it is. Refusing their child a guide dog isn't a Muslim thing, it's a choice and other non-muslim American parents have done it too.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

This is cool...thanx

Niall L.
Niall Leighton7 years ago

Sadly Mona Ramouni's parents are far from an exception to the rule that the visually impaired are marginalised, either deliberately or negligently by society. I've been away from Care2 for some time, and earlier made a search for words related to visual impairment. I found several petitions regarding Braille. None had more than a couple of dozen signatures. Most closed with none at all!

The visually impaired are more often the victims of theft and fraud than the general population as they are more vulnerable (see for example: http://www.care2.com/news/member/463707598/2663741).

I am disappointed but not surprised that no-one has commented on this. Is it OK to steal from someone who is vulnerable? Personally, I don't think so, but my opinion seems to be in a minority here. Why is it that those who have power and influence (in this case National Express, who should have replaced everything stolen) won't behave decently?

Niall L.
Niall Leighton7 years ago

In response to the many comments regarding defecation I suspect the horse was taught against a word on command in the same way a guide dog puppy is. Someone I know has a guide dog and tells the dog to go "busy busy" and the dog is happy to go toilet, usually in the gutter or on grass.

With regard to the Muslim question, I'm going to try to refrain from ranting! Here in the UK we hae accessibility laws very similar to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Among other things this entitles a guide dog and handler to enter food premises and indeed anywhere else she may wish to go.

My friend and I have been accosted and thrown out of many establishments, a disproportionate number of them run by Muslims, on account of her having a guide dog.

I have been through the Holy Qur'an and have found no reference to dogs being unclean. These references are found only in the Hadith and appear to be cultural with religious excuses than religious teaching from the Holy Qur'an. The Hadith makes exceptions for service animals, and there is a Muslim, Mahomed-Abraar Khatri, in England with a guide dog who is permitted in the mosque.

I have begun to wonder if Allah is compassionate so that Muslims do not have to be. I feel it was unacceptable that Mona Ramouni's parents denied her a guide dog to help her be independent.

It is not only Muslim shops we have been expelled from. Many food establishments are ignorant of the laws regarding guide dogs and other service animals.

Tiffany Lambiase
Tiffany Lambiase7 years ago