While on our trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in August, we had the chance to go on a wild horse expedition. The northern coastal areas of North Carolina and the southern coastal area of Virginia have groups of horses that live in the wild under a protected status. The horses that are in the Corolla area (where our tour was) are descendants of Spanish mustangs that were believed to have been brought over to the Americas as early as the 1500’s. (You can read more details about them here and here).
My parents, husband, and I signed up for a two-hour mid-week expedition, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The tour was an off-road experience on a modified Hummer that could seat 14 (including the tour guide/driver). We loaded up and strapped ourselves in; the vehicle did have a top, but no windows. I could see the ground through the floor to the right of my feet. At that point, I knew that it was going to be very cool, even if we didn’t see any horses.
Our guide was awesome, giving a bit of history about the horses, how they lived, how often they were seen, how they handled storms. He also explained that people are not to get within 50 feet of any of the horses (unless you are driving past in a vehicle), are not to feed them anything (an introduction of a new food – even an apple – would make them sick), and are absolutely not to touch them (they are truly feral and will be threatened by any approach and would most likely bite or kick).
We charged down the sand along the coast and made our way to the first area where the horses are often seen. At first, the only thing in sight was greenery and sand, but then the guide announced the presence of two gorgeous horses across a small dune, and he made his way toward them.
We continued up into where it is more developed, into a neighborhood of beach houses. We came across a horse actually hanging out in someone’s yard, and then turned a corner and were greeted with an entire group of them, including a little foal! The guide stopped the vehicle so we would have a chance to see them all. The horses were just so stunning – their coats shone in the sun and their manes danced in the breeze. And the foal was, of course, adorable.
We hovered there for a few minutes and observed their movements and interaction. We had to keep moving, however, and headed back toward the beach. Thinking our horse sightings were over, it was definitely a thrill to see the same group (with that sweet baby foal) cross our path again a few moments later as they made their own way down the road toward their next adventure.
I’ve known about these horses for some time, but until I was actually there watching them, witnessing where they roamed and how they lived, I never fully appreciated how truly majestic and resilient these horses are. I am grateful that they have a protected status, and that the community does so much to prevent interference into their lives. That being said, I am concerned with what the future holds for them as more and more of that area is developed and the number of houses continues to multiply. I hope that there will always be enough land and resources for them to thrive.