As a blind Muslim woman, Mona Ramouni has had to make do without a guide dog her whole life. The 28-year-old’s strictly religious parents would not allow a dog in the house, considering the animal unclean. But then Miss Ramouni stumbled across a website article about miniature guide horses in April 2008. ‘It was something that I never thought about for myself,’ she said.
The psychology student used three years of savings from her job at a Braille proofreading company to pay for a horse to be trained to act as her guide.
Since welcoming three-year-old guide horse Cali into her Dearborn, Michigan, home last year, Miss Ramouni has seen her life turned around. Cali measures about 2ft 6in tall and has been taught to stand still indoors. She also helps Miss Ramouni get out of vehicles and move through crowds. Her proud mistress said: ‘She is an awesome little horse. What I really want is to be able to take her places neither of us would have been able to go without each other. ‘Before Cali, I had given up. I got to the point where I thought, ‘I’m going to get nothing out of my life’. Cali has given me the confidence back I used to have as a kid.’ Born three months premature, Miss Ramouni lost her sight shortly after birth. Among the challenges she had to overcome in order for Cali to stay at her home were getting a permit to place a large shed in her family’s garden and to find a farrier to look after the horse’s hooves. Her friends warned her it would be a difficult thing to do. But Miss Ramouni said: ‘The more everybody told me “No, don’t do it,” the more I wanted to do it,’ she said. ‘I got to a point in my life where I thought… “Why should I settle for something less than I can have?” ‘There have been so many obstacles. People said ‘You’ll never find a vet. You’ll never find a farrier.” I found them all.’ She added: ‘More than even the independence, I found that Cali showed me that there are possibilities.’