When Jim and I travel we usually play it by ear as far as the "tourist things to do". But being on the Outer Banks I knew I wanted to find and see the Wild Horses of the Outer Banks. I started reading about the tour companies and all the feedback seemed to be about how the guides rocked the tours and secondary were the comments about the horses themselves.. So I did some more research and came across the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. I was so excited when I read that these were the folks responsible for the safety and well being of the horses and that all monies collected went towards the preservation of the horses.
We met our tour guide "Don" who introduced us to the history of the horses and information about the sanctuary. He explained we would be exploring about 11 miles along the Outer Banks in search of the horses.
I apparently had a romantic notion of the "sanctuary"- I thought it would be an open wild area for the horses to run free. Boy was I ever wrong. The horses live in an area that is about 7900 acres-sounds like a lot right ? Wrong, because that area is inhabited by humans too. The beach the horses roam on is open 24 hours to any and all 4 wheel drive vehicles. On the day we were there it was thankfully deserted pretty much. Don told us that during the peak season cars are side by side for miles with people running all over. And then there are housing developments too. You can only access the homes by 4 wheel drive but it's still humans in the "sanctuary". They've been known to try and feed the horses which usually ends up in the horses dying of colic because they aren't used to the kind of food the humans give them. So very sad.
The following is a description of the sanctuary for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund's website:
The early founders of CWHF researched and attempted several strategies to stop horse fatalities caused by traffic on Highway 12 between Duck and Corolla. In the end, the most effective solution, even though controversial, was to move the remaining twenty horses north of the paved road–to the “north beach” or “4×4 area.” (No one knows for certain how many wild horses were already in the roadless area north of Corolla.) By 1997, CWHF completed the southern sea-to-sound fence of the sanctuary, and the wild horses were relocated to the new“sanctuary.” The northern fence is eleven miles north, at the Virginia state line. Unfortunately for the horses, development continues to push
north. Although referenced as a wild horse “sanctuary”, the 7,544 acres accessible to the horses is a mix of 1/3 public land and 2/3 private land. There are 3,150 platted lots with only 21% of the northern beaches currently developed. The beach is considered public road, and it is open to
the public. It is the only access for residents of Corova, the growing community on the north end. .
I have to say, these folks do an amazing job with what they have to work with. The horses are their number one priority. And oh by the way there is a little over 3000 acres owned by Fish and Wildlife and they want the horses gone so they can open up their land to duck hunters ! Seriously-there are only 2 herds of wild Spanish mustangs left in the entire world-they don't even exist in Spain any longer, only in the USA and Fish and Wildlife has that attitude. I just don't know what to say.
The more time we spent with Don on tour looking for the horses the more my faith was restored in humans-at least the humans associated with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. So if you ever visit the Outer Banks and want to see the horses-see them with the people who really care about them and their survival: THE COROLLA WILD HORSE FUND.
We stumbled upon this on our return from the tour-yes a car fire in the middle of the horse sanctuary-so sad
It's also amazing how resilant animals are-to see how these horses have survived for hundreds of years, in spite of "civilization" and to see the wildness in their spirit was truely amazing. I hope you enjoy the photos.
This was the first pair we spotted right on the beach-they usually aren't found on the beach unless the flies are blown in with a west wind.
This group was grazing, as were most of the ones we spotted,since it was late in the day-it was dinnertime !
These were 2 stallions-one young and one old. The young one took off in the direction of 2 females and the older male followed quickly behind. When he caught up with the young stallion the older male apparently tried to assert his leadership by mounting one of the females.
The older male stallion all worked up and running into the trees where the younger stallion had gathered with the females in the herd.
These were 2 young stallions who challenged each other-things got pretty wild for a few minutes and then settled down with both of them heading into the woods grazing as they went. Amazing. The following pictures capture their battle.
This was the last horse we saw that day-it was incredibly awesome to see these horses interact and to share a few moments in their magestic presence.
Good bye my friend