LOCATION: Corolla, Outer Banks, North Carolina
If at first you don’t succeed, then the third time is always the charm. For me at least! The first time I was trying to see wild horses, it was with my friend Dana. We booked the Corolla horse tour but a hurricane came through and flooded the roads and canceled the tour. The second time I tried to see horses, my friend Dan and I traveled to Assateague Island to go on a kayaking tour to see the horses. Guess what? Not one horse was to be found. Luckily, Shiran came to visit me and we were going to see some horses!!
The mustang horses that are now contained to the Corolla beaches in the Outer Banks of North Carolina have been located there since the early 1500s. They were brought over as part of a livestock program with Spanish explorations. As the Spaniards were pushed out of North Carolina and made their way towards Florida instead, their livestock remained on the inlet. Today, these horses remain free and wild and still resemble the distinguishing features of the Spanish-type horses. One of the most notable features is that they have one less vertebrae than most other breeds. Considering they are pure to the sixteenth century Spanish importations, they are very much protected on Corolla today. There is a $50 fine if you are caught closer than 50 feet to the horses and there is a $5000 fine if you touch, feed, or attempt to ride the horse.
The interesting feature about seeing the horses along Corolla is that they are just walking around the beach while people are sunning, having cookouts, and driving around. (Yes, you can drive along that beach). They have adapted to the area for so long that they are able to survive on the water in the area, even if it’s a little salty, and eating the beach grass. Sometimes they can even be found lying under the house stilts to survive a hurricane. The wildlife preserve has made a very conscious effort to maintain their lineage and health. They are always monitoring the horses, and if sick they attempt to treat the animal on the beach. If the horses need additional care, they bring the animal to a vet hospital and care for it. However, due to bringing back localized disease and wiping out the herd, once a horse leaves the beach for treatment, it cannot be returned. Instead, the horses are auctioned off, and applications for one of these special breeds have reached in the thousands.
The tour I went on with Wild Horse Tours was well worth it. We took off in hummer jeeps and drove along the sandy beaches and dunes for two hours searching for horses. Luckily, with such an amazing day, all the horses were along the beach and were quite visible. There are about 80 horses left on Corolla, and I’m quite positive we saw all of them. The location was easy to get to without a tour, however for first timers, I recommend the tour so you can learn more about the breed and the area. It was very interesting. I definitely plan on going back to have a beach day with those mustang beauties again soon.
*Thank you Shiran for going on this adventure with me.
WOULD I DO THIS AGAIN: ABSOLUTELY!!!
HOW TO DO THIS: Either drive along the beach in Corolla in a 4wheel drive, or go through a tour. I recommend the tour first. $44 per adult https://wildhorsetour.com/book-horse-tour.htm