Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Greatest Joy - My Greatest Sorrow

This past September marked my third year anniversary as Director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. I moved here from Pennsylvania to take this position, leaving behind family, friends, and my last remaining horse (age 34 this January). My husband still works in Pennsylvania and we are not in a position for him to retire for several years, primarily because this job has a significantly lower salary. Many sacrifices continue to be made in order for me to do this work and I will never be able to express how grateful I am to my husband and family for their loving support.

At the risk of showing my advancing age, I have been in the nonprofit workforce now for 37 years. I have worked in the juvenile justice field, for organizations that deal with domestic violence and rape, and I have worked with disabled children and adults. Each position was rewarding in many ways, and gut wrenching in others. This job however, has far and away been my greatest joy – and my greatest sorrow.

My joys:

I have met so many wonderful people who love the wild horses with all their hearts. There is nothing that they wouldn’t do to help and they volunteer their time freely. I have met so many generous people who support the Corolla Wild Horse Fund’s efforts to become a financially stable, growth oriented and visionary organization in a multitude of ways. I am continually amazed by the generosity of strangers and how just when we seem to need it the most, someone appears and provides it. And, I am so grateful to our current elected officials who have been willing to update and change laws and ordinances to protect the wild horses.

I have been fortunate to work beside staff who always give 110%. They work long hours for low pay and drive long distances to get to our place of work. They are often criticized by people who have little, no, or incorrect information. They are always polite and respectful even when it isn’t deserved. There is no task too menial or too difficult for them to undertake and they do it because they love the wild horses.

The wild horses – I never tire of seeing them. Every new baby is another step closer to a herd size that will ensure survival of the breed. Every time a see a wild horse I am reminded that it is my honor and privilege to work to protect and preserve them. Every life that we save after illness or injury is a reward beyond description.

My sorrows:

Seven horses shot and killed with no one held accountable. Three horses euthanized as a result of being hit by vehicles. I will never erase the vision of the last horse to be shot, the drive to the Department of Agriculture with his body in the bed of the truck, and the sight of the winch that lifted him from the truck for necropsy. I will also never erase the memories of seeing three horses with broken legs and being a part of their subsequent euthanizations.

The never ending fight to keep them wild and free is complex and pressing. The wild horse is systematically being removed from the west due to pressures from lucrative cattle grazing deals. We cannot let the same thing happen to our wild horses as a result of irresponsible development or irresponsible behavior. Development is inevitable but it must be done in a way that is respectful to our fragile coastal ecosystem and wildlife.

Our government’s refusal to recognize wild horses as wildlife. Instead, they are defined as “feral,” “pest animals,” and “invasive species.” Horses are native to North America. They became extinct 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Primitive horses crossed land bridges into Europe and flourished. They were returned to their homeland by the Spaniards.

My dream:

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund will continue to build the kind of national, state, and local alliances that will enable the organization to effectively protect and conserve the Colonial Spanish Mustang breed and to specifically maintain the optimum physical and genetic health and safety of the wild herd. In addition a wild herd will freely roam portions of the Currituck Outer Banks for generations to come.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who is a part of making this dream a reality.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thank you Currituck County Board of Commissioners

It’s the law. At their December 8th meeting, the Currituck County Board of Commissioners voted amendments to the county Code of Ordinances into effect that will further protect our small herd of historic horses. Section 10-55 has been amended to read, “It shall be unlawful for any person to keep, harbor, maintain, possess, ride, walk or bring a horse into or upon that area of the county on the Outer Banks from the terminus of the paved portion of N.C. State Highway 12 to the Virginia state line. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a horse may be used on private property with written evidence of the owner’s permission or on a cartway, a neighborhood public road, a dedicated right-of-way, the foreshore or beach strand or any other public vehicular area in that area of the county on the Outer Banks from Dare County to the terminus of the paved portion of N.C. State Highway 12.”

We commend the members of the BOC for taking this step. Precedent has been set in all other wild horse sanctuary areas. All current physical and behavioral science regarding the exposure of wild horses to domestic horses advises against it and the decision of the Board mirrors national wild horse management practices.

Doing the right thing is often difficult and certainly not always popular, but this change was absolutely imperative if we are to protect one of our most valuable historic assets and the symbols of what makes the Currituck Outer Banks unique. The BOC is charged with protecting the safety of the public and the change to the ordinance does just that. It was the right thing to do and we are very grateful.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sticking To The Science

On November 16th, the Currituck County Board of Commissioners took a very important step to protect the wild horses of Corolla. They amended the Unified Development Ordinance to prohibit ownership or the riding of domestic horses in the RO2 District (4 wheel drive beach). Why is this so important? Domestic horses, even those that are vaccinated, can carry diseases for which the wild horses have no immunity. Fact: The small herd size makes the wild horses even more vulnerable to being completely wiped out by a contagious disease. In addition, wild stallions will (and did) charge riders on domestic horses in an effort to protect their harem from horses that they perceived to be a threat. Two incidents necessitated medical treatment of riders. Anyone wishing to ride on the beach can still do so for at least 36 miles south of the wild horse area.

I read some comments from readers of the Virginian Pilot after an article about the change to the UDO appeared in today’s paper. The readers questioned the decision and thought that the Fund had gone too far - that domestic horses didn’t seem like much of a threat at all. Five well known experts that know far more than we do feel strongly that they are. Statements from the following were received and shared with the county planning staff:
• Dr. Rachel Cachero, DVM, Dominion Equine Clinic, Suffolk, VA
• Dr. Charles Issel, DVM, PhD, Chair of Equine Infectious Diseases, University of Kentucky Department of Veterinary Science
• Dr. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM. PhD, VMR Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Tech
• Karen Sussman, President of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, Lantry, South Dakota
• Mike Yoder, Coordinator, Regional Equine Information Network System, Animal Science Extension, North Carolina State University.

A lifelong resident commented in the newspaper article that we were “taking away more rights” and that he had horses and other livestock “up there” years ago and there “weren’t any problems.” Twenty years ago, the wild horses had a range that was about three times the size of their current habitat. There were far fewer opportunities for interaction between domestic and wild horses because there were only a small number of wild horses on the north beach. There was also no paved road from Duck to Corolla years ago either and there were a handful of houses rather than the thousands that exist in 2009. Back then, no one was monitoring or managing the health of the wild horses on a daily basis like we are now. And now, the wild horses have no choice except to live between the south fence in Corolla and the north fence on the Virginia/North Carolina border.

Thankfully, we have science, scientists, and wild horse experts today who can provide us with accurate, in depth information and data. It is right and responsible to consider the best information available when making decisions that affect both the safety of the wild horses and the safety of the public. Wild horse management all over the country prohibits the presence of domestic horses where there are wild horses. We commend the Currituck Board of Commissioners for taking action to protect both the wild of horses of Corolla as well as our residents and visitors.

Monday, October 26, 2009


According to the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign:
• In the 19th century, more than 2 million wild horses roamed the West (source: J. Frank Dobie, “The Mustangs”, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1952).
• Today, less than 25,000 wild horses likely remain on public lands.
• Over 6 million head of private livestock enjoy subsidized grazing on public lands.
More than 200,000 wild horses and burros have been removed from public lands since 1971. The BLM plans to remove another 6,000 for Fiscal Year 2009.
• The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act mandates that wild horses and burros be managed on 47 million acres of public lands on 303 herd areas.
• Since 1971, wild horses have been zeroed out from 111 herd areas representing over 19 million acres.
• BLM relies on an annual population increase rate of about 20% to evaluate population levels and justify round-ups, while the National Academy of Sciences estimates that rate to be closer to 10%.
• Wild horses account for less than 0.5% of large grazing animals on public lands.
• 6 states have lost their entire wild horse and burro populations.
• In 70% of the remaining herd areas, BLM’s population targets are set at levels that will not ensure genetic viability.
• The current removal policy is costing over 39 million tax dollars a year.
• According to the USGS, $7.7 million could be saved annually through the use of contraceptive measures alone.
• The removal and processing of a single horse through the adoption pipeline can cost as much as $3,000.
Over 30,000 wild horses are currently held in government holding pens. Under the Burns Amendment, about 8,000 of them are threatened with slaughter.
• In 2008, less than 5% of BLM’s wild horse and burro program budget was allocated to herd management on the range, with the remaining 95% allocated to captures, holding and placement.
If you care about America’s wild horses, please visit this website and sign the petition. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/STOP-THE-ROUNDUPS-SAVE-OUR-WILD-HORSES Don’t wait – the horses are running out of time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Feeding Was Almost Fatal

Several months ago, we ran an article in our newsletter about the serious consequences of feeding a wild horse anything that is not native to its diet. We have also discussed it previously in this blog. It bears repeating as we recently had a wild mare severely colic after being fed by residents in a rental house. She nearly died.
We received a call from a resident on a Friday afternoon who was observing the people at the rental house feeding a mare with a foal at her side. Later that evening, Herd Manager, Wesley Stallings, responded to a call about a black mare that was lying down and getting up repeatedly. She seemed disoriented. She had a foal at her side and was in the same general area as where the feeding took place. Wesley took the horse trailer up the beach and with the help of Carova Beach EMTs and other residents, he was able to capture the mare and foal.
A veterinarian from Dominion Equine Clinic examined her and pulled blood work. Normal heart rate for a horse is 28 to 40 beats per minute. This mare’s heart rate was 89, indicative of pain and distress, and it stayed elevated for over 24 hours. Early and aggressive treatment saved her life. Fortunately, this horse was located in an area where she was noticed when she began to colic. Not all horses will be that lucky. Some horses can tolerate nonnative foods better than others and do not colic. However, there is no way to determine which ones they are. THAT is why it is against the law to feed them. Feeding can be fatal. At the very least, it can cause excruciating pain. Who would knowingly want to do that to a wild horse? We have even observed visitors trying to give them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
A horse that colics may breathe heavily or sweat and will lay down and roll repeatedly. Rolling can cause the intestines to flip and twist. If this happens to a domestic horse, immediate surgery is the only way to save its life. An intestinal blockage and high fever can occur as well. If these conditions happen to a wild horse – it’s a death sentence.
Besides being harmful to the horse – feeding is against the law. The Currituck County Wild Horse Ordinance states in Sec. 3-36. “Feeding, riding and petting prohibited. It shall be unlawful for any person to feed, ride, pet or approach with the intent to feed, ride or pet any wild horse.”

Please, if you see someone putting a horse at risk, call the Corolla Wild Horse Fund immediately (252-453-8002). You may be saving the horse’s life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Disappearing Wild Horse

It is important that we continue to update you on what is happening to wild horses out west. This is from the Cloud Foundation. Dr. Cothran is the geneticist who analyzed the genetic health of the Corolla wild herd.

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO- August 28, 2009: The Cloud Foundation and Front Range Equine Rescue have filed a lawsuit and a request for an injunction in Federal Court in Washington, DC to prohibit the Bureau of Land Management from removing horses from the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, and to stop the unprecedented round up of the Pryor Wild Horses slated to begin September 1, 2009.

The appellants argue that this removal of 70 horses will leave this unique and historical herd genetically non-viable and unable to sustain itself into the future. According to noted equine geneticist, Gus Cothran, Ph.D. of Texas A&M University, “… a census population of 150-200 is required to achieve the minimum effective population size…. The [Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Herd] has been one of the most important and visible herds within the BLM Wild Horse Program and it is important that it stays viable.”

The Bureau of Land Management is circumventing Congress’ wishes that wild horses be protected in the American West. The House just passed the Restore Our American Mustangs (ROAM) act and the Senate will review this bill (now S.1579) when they return from recess in September. “Is BLM just trying to do as much irrevocable damage to America's wild horses as fast as they can before the Senate can act?” asks Ginger Kathrens, Volunteer Executive Director of the Cloud Foundation.

“Right now there are twelve entire herds being eliminated from 1.4 million acres near Ely, Nevada because these lands are suddenly not appropriate for wild horses,” Kathrens continues. “However, no action has been made to reduce cattle grazing in these areas.” There are no grazing permits in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range and reasons for holding an unprecedented removal this year are not clear. The range and adjacent lands are in excellent condition following three years of drought-breaking precipitation.

Cloud and the wild horses of Montana’s Pryor Mountains are world famous but fame and an outcry from the American public does not seem to impact the BLM’s plans. There are currently only 190 wild horses (one year and older) living in the spectacular Pryor Mountains. The BLM plans to remove 70 of them, including young foals and older horses who could be sold directly to killer buyers.

The Pryor Mountain wild horses are descendants of the Lewis and Clark horses who were stolen by the Crow Indians in the early 1800's. George Reed, Secretary of Cultural Education for the Crow Tribe Executive Branch, wrote in 2006: “We advocate preserving our heritage, culture and language, and these Pryor wild horses are part of our culture.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunny and Suerte

Kimberlee’s Sunrise was rescued on July 9 at age 5 days. She is now 7 weeks old and just gets cuter every day. She has progressed to eating foal lac pellets and drinking milk replacer from a bowl and is being weaned from her bottle feedings. Sunny has been paired up with another formerly wild Mustang, Tracie, to teach her how to be a horse.

Without a dam, an orphaned foal misses out on the nurturing, socialization, and discipline that would be provided by its mother. They often become overly aggressive. Tracie is helping to fill some of those gaps. She has been gentle, patient, and protective of her little friend.

If Suerte (see August 5 blog) was a cat, he would have definitely used up several of his nine lives. He is a totally different colt these days. His motor skills have returned to normal and as you can see by the photo, his attitude is alert and bright. The only unknown now is if he has suffered any permanent neurological damage that may interfere with learning. Only time will tell. Regardless, we will care for him.

These little horses have the strongest will to live that I have ever seen. Although I know that in order to survive on their own for nearly five centuries, they would have to be strong willed – I am always in awe when I see it for myself. They are as tough as they gentle.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Putting Things in Perspective

Summer is drawing to a close. The last five months have been exceptionally busy and stressful. Two horses hit by vehicles resulting in euthanization. An orphaned foal to raise. A poisoned foal to care for. Domestic horses living and being ridden among the wild horses. Hours and hours of education on the beach and behind the dunes in an effort to keep visitors from feeding or getting within 50 feet of the horses. Multiple activities and projects going on simultaneously. Long hours, never ending workload. By this time of year, we are all extremely tired, and I have to admit, it is easy to become discouraged. It is all too easy to focus only on the negatives. Then, just when we need it the most, something wonderful happens. Something that reminds us all over again of how very fortunate we are to be in the presence of these incredible horses and what an honor it is to be responsible for them.

The picture above is a strong woman fighting back from the effects of a stroke and a 3 year old Colonial Spanish Mustang mare called Whispering Jesse. Two and a half years ago Jesse was a part of the wild herd. She now lives in Marshall, Texas at Karma Farms. Her new mission in life is to be the companion of Mary-Margaret. After suffering a stroke her balance problems make it difficult for her to ride but she longed for a horse to care for and love. The following is an excerpt from today’s email from Vicki Ives, one of the leading experts on Colonial Spanish Horses in the country and the owner of Karma Farms.

“Mary-Margaret wanted a critter to love, groom and adore. If Margaret would agree that little Whispering Jesse would never have to leave Karma Farms (where her best friends Splendor Splash, Adam's Eve and her one day mate, our Corolla stallion The Sea King live), we would agree to sell Jessie to Margaret to be groomed, loved, trained and eventually to be a part of the Karma Farms "dude string" for our younger riders. Margaret was so excited that she had to go and meet Jessie immediately.

I drove her to the pasture where Jessie and Splash joined us as soon as they saw my truck. Were they in for a pleasant surprise--I'd brought the feed bucket! They were "in my back pocket" immediately. I slipped on Jessie's halter and handed her lead to Margaret, delighting in the joy that bloomed in Margaret's eyes.

"She's SO beautiful!" Mary-Margaret exclaimed. ""Can I take her home and groom her?"

I hadn't crossed that bridge, hadn't considered that Margaret might want to start with her RIGHT NOW. We were 1/2 a mile from my house in a meadow full of Colonial Spanish Horses and there was no way to get Jessie back to my house and the grooming equipment unless Margaret walked her there. When I thought of a young mare asked to leave her herd in the meadow for the first time by herself and then be led down the hill, across the creek and over the Home Pasture to the house by a slightly disabled stroke victim, I had some reservations. But I had started this and I believed that Jessie was what Mary-Margaret needed. It was karma--if she could get Jessie to the house by herself on her first attempt, I'd know that this was a bonding that was designed by Someone a lot bigger than me. I show Margaret how to use her lead for a come-along if Jessie balked and watched them set out over Dairy Hill.

"If she's not at the house in 15 minutes, I'll go get Jessie for her myself," I thought. But there was no need. Before I had time to really worry, I saw Mary-Margaret and Jessie coming over the creek crossing and heading for the house. I ran for my camera and hid beside the round pen to record their success. In the shadow of a small tree so that Margaret didn't even know I was taking pictures, I recorded their first success. Enjoy!”

I thank Vicki for sharing this story and putting things back in perspective for us – especially for me. The bottom line is that these horses are very, very special. Not only are they highly intelligent, exceptionally athletic, beautiful movers, strong, brave, and adaptable – they are healers of mind, spirit, and body. “Bread may feed my body, but a horse feeds my soul.” - Anonymous

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Luck, Love and Toxins

He is a two month old colt. He doesn’t walk - he staggers. His head is either hanging down or twisted off to the side. He had forgotten how to nurse. He is oblivious to what is happening around him. He got kicked in the head by another wild horse. Blood work has shown that his liver enzymes are three times above normal. The liver is a filter. When it is compromised, more toxins build up in the body, including the brain. Without intervention, within days, death is certain.

On Monday morning, we brought a wild mare and her foal from Swan Beach. We got a call from Currituck County Dispatch about a foal in distress around 3:15 on Sunday. In the middle of a fierce thunderstorm with torrential rain and vivid lightening, CWHF staff and volunteers responded immediately. A special thanks also goes out to Ocean Rescue staffer, Patrick (I apologize from not knowing his last name) for his assistance as well. We were able to pen the foal and his mother in a beach house carport. On the advice of Dominion Equine Clinic, we treated the foal with medication onsite, and the homeowner and her daughter, kindly checked on them periodically after we left at 9:00 p.m. The foal did not improve and by 8:15 a.m. Monday, he was on our trailer with his mother.

Dr. Bart Kite met us at Wrangler Farms and thoroughly examined the foal and drew blood from both mother and foal. We continued treatment with DMSO both intravenously and with paste, as well as injections of banamine for pain. The foal continued to show no signs of improvement and we prepared ourselves for the worst.

Dr. Kite returned Tuesday with the results of the blood tests. The foal had ingested something toxic. We administered IV medicine again and as we were discussing what the course of action should be, the foal attempted to nurse for the first time in 48 hours. Momma wasn’t at all happy initially but eventually allowed him to nurse for a few minutes until he lost interest. Wesley (our Herd Manager) was able to get about an ounce of milk replacer in him via baby bottle before he collapsed. We decided to aggressively treat him another day and we named him “Suerte”, Spanish for “Lucky.” We named momma, “Amarosa”, or Love

He nursed several times during the night and at 6 a.m. Wednesday, Wesley reported that the foal’s motor skills seemed slightly improved. He is still not out of the woods by any means but we are finally encouraged.

What is NOT encouraging is the fact that he ingested something poisonous. If you live on the north beach, PLEASE, do not dump your antifreeze or anything else into the sound, the canals, ponds, puddles, or into the sand. The horses rely on what grows on the land and they drink the water. If it is poisoned – so are they.

With luck and the best veterinary care available, we pray that we can beat the toxins and restore this foal to a quality life. It is not just our job – it is our passion.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Managing for Extinction

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund is the only nongovernmental organization in the country responsible for the management of wild horses. Every other wild herd is managed by the federal government through the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), or US Fish & Wildlife Service – all of which are components of the Department of the Interior. The overwhelming majority of the horses under their care are located in the western states. According to the Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a national nonprofit dedicated to preserving what is left of America’s wild horses, flawed management practices, especially by the BLM, have resulted in more wild horses and burros now being held in government holding pens than exist in the wild. BLM has systematically favored subsidized livestock grazing on public lands over wild horses – even though the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act set aside these lands for wild horses and burros. Over 30,000 wild horses languish in steel pens. Many have died or been seriously injured, especially during helicopter roundups of “excess” horses.

Over the past 38 years, the intent of the act has been seriously eroded. Over 19 million acres that the Act granted to wild horses and burros have been taken away. Recently, BLM began asking Congress for permission to euthanize thousands of healthy horses and burros or sell to them for slaughter in Mexico and Canada.

The practice of chasing wild horses and burros with helicopters, often over exceedingly long distances, is nothing short of cruel. The photo above is from a “round-up” on US Fish & Wildlife’s Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada. The primary concern in round-up operations continues to be efficiency, to the detriment of the horses’ welfare. Instead of helicopters, officials should be required to use bait trapping, a much safer and more humane method of capture. BLM has refused to use bait trapping in such instances as the 2007 Jackson Mountain round-up, when 185 horses died at the holding facility.

A few days ago, the House of Representatives passed HR1018, the ROAM Act. ROAM stands for Restoring Our American Mustangs Act. Introduced by U.S. Representatives Rahall (West VA.) and Grijalva (Arizona), the bill amends the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act by adding important new protections and provisions, such as the banning of helicopter round-ups and the reclaiming of land. It is the first ray of hope for wild horses in the west in decades. North Carolina’s United States Congressman, Walter Jones, voted to support the bill. The Act must now pass the Senate.

For more information and how you can help, please go to http://www.wildhorsepreservation.com/

Other links:
http://www.wildhorsepreservation.com/sheldon.html Warning: Telling but disturbing images of what happens during mass “gathers of excess horses.”

What does this all have to do with the wild horses of Corolla? Part of the range of the Corolla wild horses is the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge managed by USF&W, a bureau of the US Department of Interior. While I do not foresee our horses EVER being chased by helicopters or sold for slaughter, the policies and attitudes toward the presence of wild horses on public land are set at the top. Current policy does not allow for horses on the Currituck Wildlife Refuge and their current Comprehensive Conservation Plan defines the horses as “pest animals.”

We work cooperatively with the Refuge staff, helping to maintain an exclosure fence, and monitoring the presence of horses on the refuge. Annual aerial counts have shown that the maximum number of horses ever found on the refuge is 26 (2,500+ acres). About 73% of the herd has consistently been found on the privately owned land. It is our continued hope that as we gather more scientific data regarding the actual impact of the horses on federally owned land, that we will ultimately be permitted to increase the herd size to the recommended genetically and physically healthy range of 120 – 130. The wild horses on the Shackleford Bank portion of Cape Lookout National Seashore are managed at this level on 3,000 acres. The Corolla herd has access to a total of 7,544 but the current management plan still calls for a maximum herd size of 60.

We cannot and will not allow management for extinction here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Happy Endings

If you’ve never been to Wild Horse Days, you’re missing out – especially this year. Our silent auction was bigger than ever, thanks to all the wonderful local merchants who supported our efforts to care for and protect our unique and historic herd of wild horses and through the efforts of volunteers who worked tirelessly to solicit auction items. Because of the generosity of Wrangler Farms in Grandy, we were able to offer mini riding lessons and “pony” rides on once wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs who live because they were rescued and rehabilitated by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and its dedicated volunteers. Board member Steve Edwards and his students traveled nearly two hours to bring Corollas, BLM Mustangs, Chincoteagues and Shacklefords. We were able to triple the number of children’s activities through the efforts of our board president and volunteers, and we raised the most funds to support our efforts to protect and preserve the wild horses in the 6 year history of Wild Horse Days. However, the highlight of Wild Horse Days came on the last day, in the last hours and on the day after.

A horse tour guide called Herd Manager Wesley Stallings around 4 p.m. on July 9th to report seeing a group of mares and a stallion trying to drive a tiny foal from the harem, biting and kicking the baby. We still had many people on the grounds of the Wild Horse Museum and our truck’s tires were not aired down as we had been hauling trailers. (Traveling the 4X4 beach requires tire pressure of 16 – 20 pounds.) Board President Kimberlee Hoey jumped in her Jeep and headed up in advance. We communicated with Kimberlee by phone. The foal was trying to nurse but no mares would allow it. The temperature was in the 80’s and if dehydration didn’t kill the foal, a well placed kick from an adult horse would. Clearly, the foal’s mother had been stolen by another stallion and the foal was left behind. Wesley instructed Kimberlee to try and get the foal away from the other horses and restrain it if possible.

When we reached the location, Kimberlee was sitting in the sand, a safe distance from the harem across the street. The exhausted foal was in her arms. Wesley was on the phone with the vet at Dominion Equine Clinic. The vet recommended a baby bottle with water to try and hydrate the foal. Two men who were staying in a nearby house with their families offered a baby bottle with water. Wesley cradled the foal in his arms and climbed into the back seat of our truck. I drove and he was able to get the foal to drink a bit of water from the bottle and we raced to meet the vet at Wrangler Farms in Grandy.

After a thorough examination by the vet, the filly was determined to be 3 – 5 days old. Miraculously, she had no broken bones and only a small bite mark on her neck. To save her life, she would have to be bottle fed a commercial mare milk replacer every two hours, night and day for two weeks. Wesley has taken night shift, sleeping in his truck between feedings, and Wrangler staff has taken the day.

EVERYONE has fallen in love with “Kimberlee’s Sunrise” – or Sunny. She is thriving, kicking at the air, jumping, and bucking after each feeding. She is sleeping peacefully in her stall with a full tummy and many loving hands to scratch her neck.

The next day, we responded to a call at 5:45 p.m. regarding a wild mare with a beach chair around her neck and through her front legs. She was captured, the beach chair was cut away from around her neck, and she was released to rejoin her family group. It probably resulted from her reaching through the opening in the chair for food left behind by tourists who had been feeding her earlier.

Wild Horse Days is one of the many ways we generate the resources we need to do what is necessary to help horses like Sunny and the entangled wild mare. If you sponsored, attended, or volunteered in some capacity, you were an important part of saving their lives. If you are a member, a customer, or a supporter in another way, you can all be proud to be a part of these two happy endings. Thank you to each and every one of you who support the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. You ARE making a difference.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Killing Them Softly

I have been the Director of the CWHF for nearly three years now. In that time, I have seen a tremendous expansion in the size and scope of commercial businesses related to viewing the wild horses. It is a lucrative business. For the most part, the horse tour companies are being more respectful than ever this summer. In part, it is due to the eyes of the county being upon them, and also due to tour guide training and education provided by CWHF.

It still seems however, that there is no limit to the measures that certain tour companies will take to profit from the presence of the wild horses. On June 27th, there were three domestic horses being ridden north on the 4X4 beach with two other horses being “ponyed.” (led by riders on horseback). I observed at least one rider drinking. A sanctuary patrol officer stopped to ask them to not continue and explained that even if vaccinated, their domestic horses can carry diseases to the wild horses for which they have no immunity. She also warned them that the wild stallions would see them as a threat and may charge them. They did not care. In fact, they were defiant. I also stopped them but they had no interest in hearing what I had to say and told me that they were “delivering” the horses to the owner of Barrier Island “Eco” Tours. This horse tour company operates two monster buses and at least one suburban. They told me that the owner had built a corral and would be keeping the horses on his property on the north beach. His plan for the horses is a commercial enterprise to give horseback rides to tourists. In essence --to ride the domestic horses among the wild horses.

As they were riding up the beach, a stallion appeared on top of the dunes. He did what comes naturally to him. He charged the intruders to his territory in an attempt to drive them off and protect his harem. One of the horses reared, throwing its adult male rider to the ground. Sheriff’s deputies had to chase the wild stallion back several times. Unfazed, the riders continued, stopping occasionally to talk to curious beachgoers and on one occasion, allowing a bikini clad woman to step from the bed of her truck into the saddle and go for a pony ride of sorts. All the while, the female rider that was giving the “pony ride” had a bottle of alcohol in her hand. At one point in time, they were riding illegally on the Currituck Wildlife Refuge. Clearly, here is yet another group of individuals who have little or no respect for law, or for the wellbeing of the wild horses.

One of our volunteers was told by the owner that the domestic horses “won’t hurt the wild horses,” and that there were domestic horses kept on the beach in the past and nothing happened to the wild horses then. The “then” was 20 years ago and the wild horses had a range of over 27 miles and at least 25,000 acres. Chances of interaction between a wild horse and a handful owned by a former commissioner were far less likely than today. Today, the wild horses’ range is 7, 500 acres and there are more wild horses, more houses, more vehicles, and more people that in the “past.” Also -- there was no one looking after or monitoring the wild horses “then” to be a voice for them.

To expose the wild horses to domestic horses on a daily basis is an outrage. The Colonial Spanish Mustangs of the Currituck Outer Banks are already on the endangered breed list. To create a situation with the potential to wipe out the entire herd is beyond irresponsible – it is reprehensible. Our Commissioners and county staff are working on the legal issues as I write this and for that I am very grateful. Barrier Island “Eco” Tours is in violation of at least one county ordinance and possibly more. The legal process has been set into motion. And I haven’t even touched on the safety issues involved when you put inexperienced and unsuspecting riders on horseback and risk the same kind of interaction that occurred on Saturday. Disastrous.

The wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs of the Currituck Outer Banks have managed to survive nearly 500 years of hurricanes and fierce nor’easters. Their Spanish and Arab ancestry is most apparent when they are trotting, floating suspended, like a hydrofoil hovers and skims just above the water. Stallions are heavily muscled, strong and proud, fighting fiercely to protect their own or acquire new mares. They are descended from the horses of kings. They are at the heart of what represents the spirit of the Outer Banks – wild, rugged, tough – free. Billy Clayton, or anyone else, must not be allowed to keep domestic horses on the north beach and must not be allowed to profit from the presence of the wild horses with NO REGARD for their wellbeing.


Friday, June 19, 2009


Remember this name. Kendra James. She is a recent college graduate who I understand is planning on becoming a teacher. She was charged today for failure to report injuring a wild horse on the north beach of Corolla on March 29th. She knew she hit the horse but she drove away leaving him to suffer for hours and hours. It was during an unusually hot spell for March – temperatures were in the high 90’s during the day and the 80’s at night. The insects were unbearable. When found, he literally had a moat of sorts around him. He could only pivot around in a circle on his uninjured left hind leg. He was shaking from the effort to stay upright.

Almost all of us have made mistakes when we were young. Done foolish things that we regret. But this young woman was VERY familiar with the northern beaches. Her parents have owned a home in Carova for years. It is impossible to spend even a short time there and NOT know that there are wild horses on the sand roads and beaches at all hours. She would also have to know that the beaches and sand roads of the northern Outer Banks are very dark at night. There are no such things as street lights on the northern most beaches. The speed limit is 15. She hit a horse, close to the dune line, with enough force to cause a compound fracture. That is hard to do if you are going 15 miles an hour or not impaired in some manner. She stated that she was going 20 – 25 miles an hour and that it was foggy. Even more reason to not be out driving around on the beach in the predawn hours.
She also stated that a group of horses ran out in front of her and she tried to swerve but the sand ruts were too deep. The first volunteer on the scene stated that there were no other prints except that of the injured horse and that tire tracks led up to the horse and then backed off at an angle. Kendra, is an experienced beach driver and, there WERE NO DEEP RUTS on the beach where the horse was hit. I saw that myself.

She finally admitted to hitting the horse to an investigating officer but not until nearly two and a half months had passed. She knew, and she left him. She stated that she “didn’t know who to call.” All she had to do was call 911. What about taking responsibility for your actions? The outcome would have been the same because the break was so bad, but he could have at least been spared the hours and hours of agonizing pain that he suffered.

At 21, everyone should know that it is wrong to severely injure an animal and leave it suffer. I will never understand how she justified not notifying anyone that could help the horse, or how she justified not taking responsibility for her actions. Is this what she will teach her students?

We are so grateful to Currituck County Sherriff Susan Johnson, Detective Vic Lasher, Lt. Jason Banks, and any other police officers who assisted in the arrest. They treated this crime with importance it deserved and sent a message that irresponsible behavior will not be overlooked or tolerated.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Path to Protection

Since euthanization of Spec, who was hit by a driver who again heartlessly left another horse to suffer in agony, we have received more e mails and letters than I can count. Many have asked, “Why aren’t these horses better protected?” and “What is your organization doing to find protection?”

Some history is necessary before anyone can understand just how far we have come in the last two and a half years. Did you know that in 1926, there were five to six thousand wild horses all up and down the Outer Banks? (National Geographic) Now there are 98 north of Corolla and 127 on Shackleford Banks (Cape Lookout National Seashore). What happened to all those horses over the last 73 years? They had no protection. In fact, when the National Park Service began buying the land that is now the Hatteras Island National Seashore, there was a bounty placed on wild horses in 1938. Wild horses have never been recognized as native wildlife and are still considered today to be a “feral,” “invasive species” or “pest animal” by the Department of the Interior (US Fish & Wildlife and National Park Service) and the North Carolina Estuarine Research Reserve.

From the 1950s up until the late '80s, removal of the horses was standard operating procedure for the National Park service, which owns and manages a large portion of the Outer Banks. In addition, anyone who wanted a wild horse could just capture it and sell it if they wished. That is one of the reasons that we have no horses that are any color other than bay, sorrel, black, or chestnut. The unusually colored horses were caught by residents and sold off years ago.

It is commonly but mistakenly believed that the wild horses of Corolla live on a protected sanctuary. They do not. Although defined as a wild horse sanctuary, seventy percent of the land they roam is privately owned by individuals and limited partnerships. Out of the 7,544 acres available, the North Carolina Estuarine Research Reserve owns 331 acres, the Nature Conservancy owns 62 acres, United States Fish & Wildlife owns approximately 2,500, and the rest is private land. There are over 3,000 platted lots on the private land and over 1300 houses. The beach is the road and the only way that residents and vacation rentals can reach their homes.

The wild horses on Shackleford Banks (Cape Lookout National Seashore) – genetically the same breed as the Corollas (registered Colonial Spanish Mustangs) have been federally protected since 1997.These horses are managed by the National Park Service who once took steps to remove them. The Shackleford Banks Act, written by US Congressman Walter Jones, mandates not only that the herd be managed at a healthier number than the Corolla herd (120 – 130 as opposed to 60 - but that’s a whole other topic) it also makes doing what has been done to our horses (7 shot and 2 hit) a FEDERAL OFFENSE. The Shackleford herd roams 3,000 acres of land owned solely by the National Park Service, not inhabited, and accessible only by boat.

In 1989, Currituck County enacted a Wild Horse Ordinance as the Corolla area was exploding with development and horse/human interactions were becoming more frequent. There is a link to the ordinance on our home page. If it were not for the efforts of the county, there would be no consequences for impacting the life of a Corolla wild horse at all. We are grateful to the county for their foresight as it is still the only protection that they have.

To make a complex and lengthy saga short, we have been working tirelessly to acquire the same level of protection for the Corolla horses as the Shackleford horses enjoy. It is complex because the Corolla horses roam state, federal, AND private land and the missions of the state and federal agencies are in conflict with the presence of the horses.

Those are just a few of the many obstacles on the path to protection but we HAVE made progress. DNA testing and registration by the Horse of the Americas registry confirms the Spanish origin of the wild horses. Congressman Jones was here in Corolla last October and other legislators have been receptive as well. We have just finished up a project with the Currituck School District that involved primary, elementary, and middle school students in a letter writing campaign. Hundreds of students wrote letters asking that the Colonial Spanish Mustang be designated the North Carolina State Horse and both Representative Bill Owens and Senator Marc Basnight have indicated that they will sponsor and support such legislation. Students in Dare County will be participating in the fall and we hope to have at least a thousand letters for a formal presentation in November.

The children of Currituck and Dare Counties are standing up for the horses. If you live in North Carolina and have a child or classroom that would like to participate, visit our home page and click on the NC State flag. Or just read what some of the children have written – it will inspire you.

If you aren’t a member of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, please become one now. Members are voters and voters give the horses a much needed voice. I need to be able to show our federal legislators that thousands of people, all over the country, believe that these horses are worthy of preservation and protection. Don’t they deserve the same protection as their wild relatives on Shackleford Banks? Perhaps if they are the state horse of North Carolina we will be one step closer.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

In Memory

Today marks one week since the euthanization of our tough little wild stallion, Spec. It will be two months tomorrow that we euthanized another stallion, the same age, but not as well known as Spec. The similarities are sickening. Both hit by motorized vehicles in the prime of their lives, and knowingly left to suffer in agonizing pain.

I have often said that animals seem to bring out either the best or the worst in people. Spec and T-Rex personify the worst. What has transpired, especially in the last week personifies the best.

First, local photographer Mary Basnight set up a cause on facebook, on Monday, May 25th. As of this moment, 1,639 have signed up for the cause and over $400 donated toward the reward fund at this site.

News coverage from every local affiliate as well as Associated Press has prompted emails from all over the country as well as Europe. A couple from Virginia has donated $1,000 via our website to be added to the reward fund. Others have called to donate, sent checks, become members, or just sent messages of outrage or condolence.

I have read hundreds of comments on a variety of news websites and there is an overarching theme . . . WHAT is wrong with people? How could ANYONE hit a wild horse and leave it to suffer because they were too cowardly to notify authorities?

I do not know the answer to that. People ask the same question about the SEVEN horses that have been shot since 2001. “How could anyone do that?” I have no frame of reference in my life’s experience to be able to understand the thought process of a cruel and cowardly person. The individuals that hit these horses have no conscience. How could they? And there are people out there who know the individuals who committed all these acts but choose to remain silent. In my book, that makes you a coward too.

Sometimes, it is hard to do the right thing. Maybe even risky. Hopefully, as the reward fund grows, it will instill some incentive in those who can help us hold the guilty parties accountable. If moral responsibility does not motivate, perhaps monetary reward will.

These two tough little stallions did not deserve what happened to them. All the wild horses want is to be left alone to live the way they have lived for nearly five centuries – wild and free. They ask only that of us and nothing more. Is it too much to ask that those who live, visit, or drive on the 4X4 beaches always be mindful of their presence? To not drive drunk – especially on a foggy night? To not drive ATVs wildly and blindly in the dark of night? To not chase horses with ATVs or vehicles? These horses were on this land long before any of us. They share their land with us. Unfortunately there is a small but dangerous segment of our population that continues to have no respect for the land or the horses. Something has to change and it begins with personal responsibility.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another Senseless Death

I can hardly believe that it has happened again. Another beautiful wild stallion euthanized as a result of a human’s complete and total lack of responsibility or conscience. The beautiful stallion that is featured in the Mary Kolliner photo in the center of our brochure and our Charter member photos is dead. His name was Spec. He was euthanized at 2:30 p.m. on May 23rd. His left hind leg was broken so badly it was snapped completely in two. Dr. Bart Kite examined the leg thoroughly. It was hit from the side with great force and broken inward. There were ATV tracks all around where the horse was originally seen on the beach at 6:43 a.m. It is possible that ATV’s were being used to chase the horse and then hit him. Residents reported hearing ATV’s tearing around at 1 and 2 a.m.

Spec drug himself up over the dunes over a mile from where he was first seen. I have no words to describe what the last few hours were like for those of us who were present, and what they were like for Spec. If there is a tougher horse on the planet than Spec, then it’s got to be a Spanish Mustang as well. Spec did not want to die and he fought and struggled long and hard. It was gut wrenching. It was a waste. It was sickening. He was terrified.

Someone may be on the north beach right now that is responsible for his death. Or perhaps, like the other horse that was hit in April, they left the beach for awhile, they got rid of their damaged vehicle, and they’re counting on others to continue to cover for them.

Please, if you live or vacation on the north beach and you see or hear something that you know is not right – call the Sheriff’s office. You don’t have to give your name. We have lost two healthy, beautiful, stallions in the last 4 weeks. Hit by people who know that they hit them. Left to suffer in agony. Help us hold them accountable. Help us keep another horse from having to die.

IF YOU DRIVE THE NORTH BEACH AT NIGHT – DON’T SPEED. The horses are almost impossible to see at night. THIS WAS THEIR LAND LONG BEFORE IT WAS OURS. They have shared their land and peacefully coexisted with us. IF YOU RENT ON THE NORTH BEACH – ACT RESPONSIBLY. Two deaths in two month is horrifying. Both caused by the irresponsible, immature, and heartless actions of people. IT MUST STOP.

My deepest thanks to former Herd Manager Steve Rogers and his wife Hannah who drove here from Columbia on Saturday morning. Steve was able to use his expert marksmanship skills to dart Spec twice with tranquilizers allowing us to proceed with the next steps. Thanks to Deputy Justin Cartwright for his assistance, to Edna Baden, Kim Hoey, Jim and Ellen Rein, Brian O’Connor, Cameron Gray, and my husband Mike.

Friday, May 15, 2009

100 Reasons to NOT Touch or Feed Our Wild Horses

Our current herd count is 100. That is about 30 short of the minimum we need to maintain the genetic diversity and physical health of the wild horses. It is about to get smaller.

Last night I got several calls regarding a stallion that was lying on a sand road in Carova (the northernmost development on the north beach). He had been in the area grazing all day but had been lying on Ocean Pearl Road for about an hour. The initial caller wasn’t too concerned at first because the horses lie down in the sand and rest all the time. What caused him the most concern was watching a woman walk right up to the stallion, scratch him on the forehead, and the stallion made no attempt to get up or show signs that he didn’t welcome the attention. That is not normal behavior for a wild animal. That is what convinced him that something was wrong with the horse.

Long story short – the stallion was not sick or injured - but he is going to have to be captured and removed from the beach anyway. Why? Because he clearly has no fear of humans. He has no fear of humans because it is most likely that he has been approached and or fed so many times that he accepts, and perhaps now looks for, attention from humans. Now this horse has become a danger to humans. If he isn’t already, he will now approach humans and demand to be fed. In 2006 we removed another young stallion because he approached a resident out for a walk, demanded to be fed, and knocked the woman down because she had nothing to give him. Luckily she was only severely bruised. Now he is a gelding awaiting adoption and can never return to the beach that was his home.

Last year we found a young mare dead by a canal. Necropsy results identified alfa toxin poisoning as the cause of death. The horse apparently ate moldy hay that some well meaning but misguided person put out for the horses.

We have only 100 horses. We cannot afford to lose a single horse from the already dwindling gene pool. IT IS AGAINST THE LAW IN CURRITUCK COUNTY TO APPROACH, PET, OR FEED A WILD HORSE. There are 100 good reasons for this.

The horses have a specialized diet that has kept them healthy for nearly five centuries. Our volunteers have found apples, carrots, celery, spinach and lettuce that is being left out or fed directly to wild horses. The other consequence of feeding is painful colic or death but that is another topic in itself.

The link to the Wild Horse Ordinance is on our home page. Spread the word. Save our wild horses. Respect the Wild Horse Ordinance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Is it Memorial Day yet? That is our new Herd Manager, Wesley Stallings’, first day of work. The fact that we are only updating this blog about once a month says it all! We are just two staff right now and we are feeling the pressure of the daily demands of a very busy nonprofit. We are so fortunate to have a core group of volunteers who give so unselfishly of their time.

We started out the month with the loss of a six year stallion. Someone hit him on the beach during the night and left him to suffer. What an incredible act of cowardice. These horses have a will to live that has no equal. He stood, broken, for hours upon hours, shaking from the effort. Again, there were volunteers there to help watch over him, provide support to me, and to bury him after he was humanely euthanized.

The Wild Horse Museum is open year round and April has been a very busy month. We are so grateful for volunteers like Fran Green, Mary Riley, Terry Bell, Barbara Burke, Betty Lane, and Judie Miller who got us through the week before and after Easter.

Speaking of Easter break, someone plowed their vehicle into the gate by the ramp to the beach, completely destroying it. John Doub and Greg Wilson came to the rescue. John donated a brand new stainless steel 18 foot gate and Greg installed it.

Last week, one of our members from Wilmington, DE, arrived for a week with his two daughters during their spring break. They spent three days of their “vacation” crossing things off our long “to do” list. Todd Zeisloft and daughters Morgan and Erin, donated nearly 20 hours apiece. As a result, we have 20 additional wooden horses attached to the trees for our children’s painting activity, fence on the north beach was repaired, inventory was taken, and 52 wooden horses got painted.

More examples of the way in which many wonderful people open up their hearts to help us care for and watch over the horses:
• Bob Green, who has taken the responsibility of scheduling Sanctuary Patrol Officers off Denise’s and my plates.
• Sanctuary Patrol Officers like Brian O’Connor, Bob Green, Kimberlee Hoey, Betty Lane, Sally Baron, Sally Wright, Jennifer Flannigan, and Dottie McGuire who have already given countless hours educating visitors and it isn’t even summer yet.
• Karen Lockwood, who is donating her beautifully hand painted wine glasses for sale in our stores.
• Bob and Kathy Schultz, Lynne Wilson, Kimberlee Hoey, Karen Lockwood, Roy and Fran Hamilton, Fran Green, Mary Riley, Walter Stiff, Betty Lane, Marie Baecher who are leading the planning efforts for our major July 7, 8, 9, fundraiser, Wild Horse Days. There will be host of others in the days before, during, and after who will help with set up, food preparation, activities, and clean up.
• Wrangler Farms owners and staff for all the extra things they do for our horses that reside there.
• Our Board: President: Kimberlee Hoey; VP: Mary Kolliner; Treasurer: Karen Gresham, Secretary: Mary Riley; and members Lynne Wilson; Dr. John Sangenario; Matthew Hewes; Sharon Twiddy; Steve Edwards; and Vance Aydlett.
• A special thanks to board member Steve Edwards for promoting the value of the Colonial Spanish Mustang and the need to protect and preserve the breed, in so many meaningful ways.

We will be honoring the many contributions of ALL our volunteers with a picnic at Wrangler Farms on May 3rd. We will also be celebrating the first birthday of our little filly, Corolla’s Grace, daughter of Swimmer. It is a small gesture in view of the enormous contributions of all those who help in so many different ways. On behalf of Denise, myself, and the horses we love so much – I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Karen McCalpin, Executive Director

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring is Here!

The Corolla Wild Horses are celebrating the arrival of spring by trading their coarse winter coats for a sleeker, more beautiful and shiny appearance. They roll in the sand to groom themselves, and when they are finished, the transformation is amazing. Thanks to visiting Elon University student interns Travis and Katie, our Schoolhouse grounds look beautiful also with fresh flowers, fresh paint and a much needed cleanup! Come join us April 10th at Currituck Heritage Park for the annual Easter Eggstravaganza, which will take place from 1:00-3:00 on the grounds of the Whalehead Club. Kids' activities will include an Easter Egg hunt, photos with the Easter Bunny, and a visit from a real Colonial Spanish Mustang! Unlike the wild horses on the beach, you can pet this gentled horse while you find out more about saving this critically endangered breed. Then come see us at the Schoolhouse on Tuesday April 14th for horse painting! This wildly popular activity is for kids of all ages. Wooden horses can be painted for a nominal fee between the hours of 10:00 and 3:00. And last but not least check out our website for information on our 3rd Annual Photo Contest! Enter up to three photos for judging--winners are published in the Corolla Wild Horse Fund official calendar! Entry Forms and Rules are available online or at the Schoolhouse. All proceeds from activities benefit the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. For more info visit: www.corollawildhorses.org

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They're coming...!

The weather is still cold here at the Old Schoolhouse in Corolla, NC but each day it seems more and more visitors are arriving to see what treasures can be found on this sandy coastline. The staff is putting plans together for this Summer's list of programs and activities. And it doesn't matter if you've been here fifteen times or if you're planning your first, we'll have something new for everyone. The paint, brushes and smocks will be ready for horse painters and our pony pen polished and ready for the weekly visit of a gentled wild mustang. You can check our website (www.corollawildhorses.org) for weekly activity schedules, but year-round the Schoolhouse in Old Corolla Village is the place to learn about the Wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs of the Currituck Outer Banks. Open 10-4 Monday through Friday.