Wild Mustangs in the Morning

There are few experiences I enjoy more than when I encounter wild hores feeding on flooded tidal flats when I’m kayaking. Of course for that to happen you need to be paddling at high tide and the horse need to be out feeding. The next best thing, at least in my mind, is to hike out on the flats at low tide to make images of these graceful animals. That is exactly how I spent this morning.

Some folks are surprised to learn that there are herds of horses living free along the east coast. They might even be more surprised to learn that these horses have lived here before any wild mustang set hoof in the western Unitied States. Likely left behind during early colonization attempts, there have been horses living on these barrier islands for more than 400 years! However, the horses I photographed this morning, the herd living within the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve, have a little different story. In the 1940s the islands that today make up the reserve weren’t part of any kind of reserve. A local doctor kept a herd of horses on the island..This herd largely consisted of Core Banks ponies… the famous Banker Horses… but he also occassionally purchased horese at auctions around North Carolina and Virgina. These domestic animals, mostly Quarter Horses, inter-bred with the Core Banks horses. Over the years the herd was abandoned and eventually the state acquired the property. This is the orgin of the wild horse herd that lives within the reserve.

The herd living within the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve is kept at around forty head. The Carolina Estuarine Reserve Foundation which manages the reserve uses birth control shots to help manage the size of the herd. This keeps the herd at a size that won’t over task the avaialbe resources within the reserve. Of course occassionally a new foal is born and this spring the reserve is home to a new-born. It’s quite a treat to observe this fine young fellow.

Following are a few images from this morning’s expedition. I hope you enjoy them.

Horses roam the tidal flats of the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve

Thought closely related these animals are not pure Banker Horses

Tour guides tell stories of the horses swimming across Back Sound from Shackleford Banks to Carrot Island but the truth is the horses are the remnants of a domestic hed kept on the property in the 1940s.

The herds bloodlines include the famed Banker Horse and the domestically bred Quarter Horse.

The horses feed mainly on Spartina grass that grows on the tidal flats.

Life in the reserve is not easy for the horses, but these magnificant animals do manage.

This entry was posted in Banker Horses, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography.

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