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.