Friday, December 31, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As 2010 draws to a close, it seem like every television station, magazine and newspaper, both national and local, is running features on the year in retrospect. Every movie star that passed away or got divorced is mentioned. Tiger Woods, the royal engaged couple, sports highlights, and weather events are shown. Some other very important things happened as well, but you won’t see them or read about them but to me, they are far more meaningful.

Some very good things happened in 2010. The economy on the Outer Banks bounced back a bit. Our granddaughter was born. Members of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, at 0 on March 1, 2007, have now surpassed 2,000. The Colonial Spanish Mustang was designated as the North Carolina State Horse. Federal legislation was introduced to mandate a genetically and physically healthy herd size. Six rescued horses found loving forever homes and four horses and a foal were saved from certain death. Facebook has connected us with thousands of new friends who love our horses and support our efforts.
Through the dedicated and determined efforts of people like Steve Edwards, Vickie Ives, Tommi Gray, Josie Brislawn, and Edward Yousey (just to name a few), people all over the country are learning why it is so vitally important to save this endangered breed.

Their efforts and the efforts of others like them are critical to offset the bad and the ugly of 2010. The Corolla herd is down to one maternal line and our horses are becoming less genetically diverse with each passing year. Passage of the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act is essential in order to save them from genetic collapse.Wild horses out west are suffering and dying during brutal roundups that strip them of their freedom and relegate them to life in a holding pen – or worse – sold at auction and shipped to Canada for slaughter. Ugly doesn’t even begin to describe it.

When you make your New Year’s Resolution for 2011 – resolve to be a voice for wild horse everywhere. Join us. Save them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Saving the Horses of Kings, One at a Time

On October 15, Herd Manager Wesley Stallings observed a yearling filly that was clearly in great distress. Her body condition was poor and he could see a large wound on the right side of her neck by her jowl. Kimberlee Hoey met him at the site and when I arrived, Wesley slowly moved the filly toward and into a paneled pen that Kimberlee and I created in the yard of a nearby house. Volunteer Todd Zeisloft picked up our horse trailer and brought it to Corolla joined by CWHF Program Director, Amber George and Todd’s friend Patty. Getting the trailer to the filly was no small feat as the roads behind the dunes had many deeply flooded areas from a recent heavy rain. On the way out Wesley saw a rainbow and the filly’s name became “Rainbow.”

Rainbow was in critical condition. Upon closer examination, she had a puncture wound right above her chest, the large wound by her jowl, and another near her poll. The veterinarian and blood work determined that the puncture wound was the original wound. It became infected and the infection traveled up her neck to her lymph nodes and literally blew out a hole slightly smaller that a tennis ball. The dying tissue had progressed to within ¼ inch from her jugular vein. She was a ¼ inch from death.

It is now 5 weeks later. With expert care from Dominion Equine and Wesley, she made it through the first and most critical two weeks. Now that she has turned the corner, our attention has turned to gentling, weight gain, and physical therapy to restore mobility to her neck.

Her initial vet bill was over $1,300. There is more to come. Please know that when you donate to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund – you are helping to save the horses of kings – one at a time. Rainbow thanks you, and so do we.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Number 19

Since arriving in September of 2006, I have experienced the deaths of 19 horses. I have had to hold the tubing with the lethal drugs in the euthanization of three and physically participate in pulling the horse that was shot out of the estuarine reserve. I watched it be hauled out of the bed of our truck by a winch for necropsy. Gruesome to say the least. These images are a permanent part of my memories. For a tender-hearted person, it can be totally overwhelming. I am a very strong woman but the last four years have definitely taken a toll on me.

On October 22nd, a healthy 3 month old foal was found dead alongside an intersection of a sand road in Carova. Necropsy determined the cause of death as a trauma to the cranium. She was number 19. I saw her with her mother shortly after she was born. Each time something like this happens, it is impossible not to relive all the previous events to some extent.

I know that before our fulltime staff came, countless numbers of wild horses suffered and died unnoticed and undocumented. I know that because the strong survive and the weak do not, that is why the wild horses are still here. The strongest are left to carry on. But it is the deaths with no definitive answer as to the circumstances that caused it that haunt me the most, as well as the deaths that we know were caused by individuals and remain unsolved and unpunished.

My only consolation is the successful rescues - Uno, Tresie, Sunny, Hope, Croatoan, Manteo, Pomiac, Suerte, Tradewind, Valor, Barb, and hopefully Rainbow. Without rescue and the highest level of medical care available, they would have certainly suffered and died. There are also numerous horses that have been treated in the trailer or in the field and released and I feel very good about this. I am so proud that we have a herd manager that is as highly skilled and knowledgeable as he is compassionate. It is also so gratifying to have volunteers who are willing to drop everything and help at a moment’s notice.

But sometimes it’s just harder to focus on the good that you know you are doing instead of the frustration caused by what you don’t know. I need some answers and I until I get them, I will always have a piece of my heart that is broken.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Photo by Bob Schultz shows normal, not current, canal level.

Last week we got a call from Jared Lloyd of Back Country Outfitters. He saw a horse lodged in a vehicle rut, on her back, in Wild Horse Estates. This was in the area commonly referred to as the “horse pasture.” We believe that she had probably been rolling and slipped into the deep rut. This was one day before several inches of rain and high winds were expected and in an area that routinely floods. Herd Manager Wesley Stallings was able to get a rope around the mare’s right back leg and right front leg and pull her over. From there, she scrambled up and went on her way. Had she not been pulled out, she would have been trapped with torrential rain falling on her for three days. The area received about 12 inches of rain before the storm finally moved on. Drowning where she lay would have been highly likely.

That same rain event caused a very significant rise in the canals in Carova. Many docks were submerged and some still over a week later. Yesterday, a mare slipped or fell into a canal in an area where there were no breaks in the bulkhead for a significant distance. The water was well over the mare’s head. Although horses are good swimmers, and our horses are exceptionally athletic with a strong will to live, there is definitely a limit to how long a horse can survive in the water.

Fortunately for this mare, Carova Beach Fire Chief Bill Vann spotted her and called CWHF. Wesley was an hour and half away working with our horses awaiting adoption. I jumped in a vehicle and started up the beach to the site (about a half an hour drive). CWHF Board President and Sanctuary Patrol Officer, Kimberlee Hoey, who lives in Carova, was able to get to the mare within 15 minutes. With one her house guests holding her cell phone on speaker and Wesley on the other end giving instructions, Kimberlee singlehandedly saved this mare. In order to do so, she had to run out onto a dock and push the mare to swim around it with a lunge whip, then run out onto the next dock and do the same again, forcing the mare to swim north toward the closest break in the bulkhead. She repeated this process three times. The mare came upon a submerged dock and tried in vain to climb on it but could not. Kimberlee then had to scale two fences and push through heavy brush to keep the mare moving forward. She risked cottonmouths and falling into the canal herself. She was fearless and determined that this mare would not drown no matter what.

I have often said that the wild horses either bring out the worst or the best in people. This was far and away the best. “Thank you,” doesn’t even come close.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What Does the Herd Manager Do?

When we arrived as the first full-time staff in 2006, records on the wild horse herd were few and far between. Other than pet names given to a few, often seen horses, by tour guides and residents, there were no up-to-date or in-depth records on individual horses, harems, health issues, habitats, or herd numbers. We basically started from zero.

Actual day-to-day management of the Corolla herd did not begin until late 2006 with the hiring of a full-time herd manager and an executive director who both had extensive horse backgrounds.
• The first order of business was establishing a baseline study of the herd’s genetic health. This involved the collection of DNA samples via remotely delivered dart. (Both CWHF Herd Managers have undergone the required intensive training to qualify them to safely use the necessary equipment. Accurate records must be kept on all horses that are darted. Training was done on-site in Corolla and at Zoo Montana – all under the auspices of the Humane Society of the United States and Dr. Philip Sponenberg).
• Field work and herd monitoring occur almost daily, covering thousands of acres. A detailed record keeping system has been developed. Records are kept on individual horses as well as individual harems.
• Habitats have been defined, mapped, and correlated with harems and individuals.
• Vegetation within each habitat is being identified and studied.
• Water, soil and plant samples are collected and tested.
• Critical habitat is being defined for future conservation and pasture management.
• The annual aerial herd count can now be correlated with field data.
• Horses with life threatening injuries or illnesses are captured and treated using passive capture methods. Because they cannot be returned to the wild, they must be gentled and trained for life as a domestic horse. This requires several months of effort per horse.
• Thirty six wild horses have been domesticated and placed in loving adoptive homes since 2006.
• Injured horses are treated in their habitat whenever possible and appropriate.
• Rescuing very young foals requires bottle feeding every two hours. The herd manager sometimes sleeps in his truck between feedings in order to accomplish this.
• Staff are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to emergencies.
• Deceased horses are taken to Raleigh, NC (four and a half hour drive) for necropsy to determine the cause of death and for data collection.
• Barrier fences and gates must be constantly checked for breeches and repaired (including ocean cabling) and replaced.
• Thousands of visitors are educated about the wild horses by the herd manager either on the beach and behind the dunes, in the Wild Horse Museum, on a Trip of a Lifetime, or at an off-site event.

This is the “condensed for blog” version. Being the herd manager for CWHF also means long hours for low pay. It means being completely and totally committed to the well-being and long-term survival of the herd. It means your cell phone ringing at all hours of the day, night, and weekends. It means explaining to your spouse why you will be: late for dinner (again); have to change your vacation day; can’t go away for the weekend; etc. It means wearing snake boots and hoping that they are high enough and thick enough. It means caring so much that it makes your heart hurt. It is all of the above – and then some.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The North Carolina State Horse

It was a special day at Shawboro Elementary yesterday (in addition to being Grandparent’s Day)! NC Representative Bill Owens came to present the bill signed by Governor Beverlie Perdue designating the Colonial Spanish Mustang the North Carolina State Horse. Nearly one thousand students, primarily in Currituck County, but also including Dare and Carteret, took part in a letter writing campaign. For Currituck fourth graders, it was part of a state mandated writing assessment on an authentic topic. For other grades and counties, it was a voluntary effort. For all, it was an incredible learning experience.

The project started in March of 2009 with a program at the Currituck County Cooperative Extension Center. Students from every elementary school were bussed in for a power point presentation put together by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and an opportunity to meet a once-wild, rescued Colonial Spanish Mustang. The Fund also provided savings bonds donated by local banks and trips to see the horses for letters judged by teachers to be among the top three from each school. Winning students had an opportunity to read their letters at a Board of Education meeting as well as at another assembly in January of 2010 in front of County Commissioners and many other elected officials and dignitaries.

The designation as state horse has paved the way for further actions designed to protect and preserve the horse on a federal level – H.B. 5482. Both bills present an excellent opportunity for students to have a hands-on learning experience on not only how a bill becomes a law but how they can truly make a difference as a citizen.

We are so grateful to the Currituck County School District administrators, school board, and teachers, our Board of Commissioners; Representatives Owens, Representative Spears, and Senator Basnight, Congressman Walter Jones, Senator Richard Burr and most especially – all the students who wrote such compelling letters.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

Working for a small nonprofit is not something that anyone does if they want to become financially secure. The pay is low, the hours are long, and the frustration can often outweigh the satisfaction. Thankfully, it seems that just when you need it the most, something happens to remind you why you do what you do. Esperanza (Spanish for Hope) is reminding us of that every day that she grows bigger and stronger. Although we know that growing up wild and free is what would be best for her and what we would want - that is no longer possible for her. Our attempts to capture her mother were not successful and after three hours in extreme heat, snake infested habitat, and an extremely aggressive stallion, we knew that she was now our responsibility for the months to come. Without intervention, she would have died.

Through Esperanza, our spirits are rejuvenated and our resolve to always do what is best for the welfare of the wild horses is rewarded. We don’t do it for the money or for recognition. We do it solely in hopes that our efforts will ultimately result in a safe and healthy existence for the Colonial Spanish Mustangs that we are committed to protect. There is no glory in what we do – but thankfully - there is always Hope.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

H.R. 5482 – Our Only Hope

H.R. 5482, the Corolla Wild Horses Protection Act, was introduced on June 8th by Congressman Walter Jones. This bill is the only hope we have to return our wild horse herd to physical and genetic health. Why do we need legislation to accomplish this?

The Currituck Outer Banks Wild Horse Management Plan was put into place in 1997. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund requested a herd size of 100 and United States Fish & Wildlife Service (Department of Interior) requested zero. After prolonged and contentious debate, the herd size was set at a maximum of 60 – a number not based on any existing scientific data but merely a number upon which all parties were finally able to agree.

DNA testing completed in 1992 and again in 2008, by Dr Gus Cothran of Texas A&M, an internationally recognized equine geneticist and expert on wild herds, showed that the Corolla horses have less genetic diversity than any other group of horses and that the horses had now reached a “genetic bottleneck." In view of this current scientific data, the Fund requested a change to the management plan based on Dr. Cothran’s recommendation of a minimum population of 120 – 130. Our request was denied based on the USFWS’ position that a larger number could have a negative impact on the refuge.

It is important to note that the wild horses on Shackleford Banks (protected by the 1998 Shackleford Banks Act, also introduced by Congressman Jones) have been managed at 120 – 130 for the last 12 years on 3,000 acres with no documented impact. The Corolla horses have access to 7,544, 2,500 of which is USFWS property.

A hearing on the bill was held in Washington, DC on July 27th. Both Congressman Jones and Karen McCalpin testified. To watch the proceedings or read testimony, go to . Go the right side of the page, “Recent News,” click on Congressman Jones testimony or the story below to read Karen McCalpin’s testimony.
The entire proceeding can be viewed at:
To just watch Karen’s testimony skip to 40:26.

To express your support, please contact Congressman Jones at:
Congressman Walter Jones
2333 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-3415
Fax: 202-225-3286

Or e mail from his website.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Welcome Amber George

In 2006, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund added its first fulltime staff. By September of 2006 we had a fulltime Herd Manager and Executive Director, and a part-time Office Manager. In the last three and a half years, our budget has grown from in the red to $401,000.

A Wild Horse Museum was opened, two gift shops, and a nationwide membership program that now has nearly 2,000 members. Every Tuesday and Thursday from Memorial Day through Labor Day, we offer creative painting activities for kids of all ages and every Wednesday we bring a gentled wild horse that is now in our adoption program. An adoption program had to be created in 2006 for horses that had to be removed from the beach for one reason or another (36 have been placed from Texas to Maine). Our Herd Manager not only responds to emergencies on the beach, he educates visitors, has created a data base of horses that he regularly updates, takes soil, plant, and water samples, trains the wild horses that have been removed from the beach and attends to their health and farrier needs, takes our members for the Trip of a Lifetime, maintains our vehicles and trailer, takes horses to offsite educational events, and so on and on.

Our wild horses have gone from being demeaned as “backyard ponies gone wild” to registered colonial Spanish Mustangs – historic horses that were recently designated by the North Carolina legislature as the North Carolina State Horse.

In a nutshell – our responsibilities have grown exponentially but the size of our staff has not. We had quickly reached a point at which continued growth of services and programs was impossible without adding another position.

On June 29, we welcomed Amber George as our Program Coordinator. Her key duties and responsibilities include:
1. Oversees the day-to-day operation of programs by ensuring the necessary facilities, equipment, and supplies are in place and program guidelines are followed. This includes but is not limited to the CWHF membership program; children’s programs and activities; sanctuary patrol; volunteers; fundraising activities; adoption program.
2. Participates in the recruitment, selection, scheduling, and supervision of program volunteers.
3. Maintains any necessary financial records and adheres to program budgets.
4. Promotes public awareness of programs and creates support materials.
5. Assists with retail activities on an as needed basis.
6. Updating information and communicating it to webmaster of CWHF website.

Amber is infinitely qualified for the position with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and past experience as a research assistant in a law firm, manager of a large stable in Georgia, and a veterinary technician. She has had extensive public speaking experience and is proficient in several computer applications. Our plan is to move Amber from part-time status to fulltime status in six months.

Amber has made the transition from Georgia to North Carolina with ease and has completely immersed herself in her new position. We are so happy to have Amber George as a part of our efforts to care for, protect, and conserve the wild horses of the Currituck Outer Banks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Our Fragile Home

The horrific oil disaster in the Gulf should be a wake up call for all of us who reside on a barrier island. According the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) geologically speaking, barrier islands are young features; the vast majority are less than 7,000 years in age, and most are probably less than 3,000 years old.

Barrier islands serve two main functions. First, they protect the coastlines from severe storm damage. Second, they harbor several habitats that are refuges for wildlife. In fact, the salt marsh ecosystems of the islands and the coast help to purify runoffs from mainland streams and rivers.

Distinct habitats exist on barrier islands. Generally they include beach, dune, barrier flat, and salt marsh. On our barrier island, we have beach, dunes, dry meadow, wet meadow, maritime forest, and marsh. Each habitat supports a variety of plants, birds, and wildlife.
Our island is unique because it also supports wild horses and has 3,090 platted lots with well over one third of them developed.

What would be the consequences of a similar situation to what is happening in the Gulf to our barrier island home? The economic and environmental consequences would be devastating to say the least. Almost everyone’s livelihood is somehow connected to tourism.

We are the guardians of this fragile land. Although we cannot control what is happening in the Gulf, we can control what happens to our island home. Development is inevitable. What does not have to be inevitable is development that disregards the impact on our ecosystems and habitat. Consideration of the impacts must be first and foremost before the first grain of sand is moved. Size and location must be carefully considered. Construction and the collateral effects such as septic systems and wastewater must be held to the highest standards. Commercial development in the RO2 district should never be considered.

We cannot afford to live only in the moment. What we do today, as well as what was done in the past, affects every habitat, every bird, every wild horse, and every human for years to come. Our island home is still unique and not developed to saturation – yet. It is up to all of us to protect it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The North Carolina State Horse

It’s official! The Colonial Spanish Mustang has been designated as the North Carolina State Horse. These unique horses have been residents of our coast for nearly 500 years. With the help of nearly 1,000 school children from Currituck, Dare and Carteret counties, the wild horses of the Outer Banks and those living as domestic horses after being adopted have been elevated to the status they so richly deserve.

Their story is one of survival against some of the harshest odds. They have persevered through centuries of hurricanes, nor’easters, droughts, and floods. They have silenced their critics who refused to understand and accept the science proving their Spanish origin. They personify the rugged and determined spirit of the Outer Banks and its original inhabitants. The wild horses of the Currituck and Shackleford Banks are living history – a treasure chest of genetic events – an integral part of the history of our county, our state, and our country.

Our special thanks to the administration, teachers, and students of the Currituck County School District for taking an idea presented to them in March of last year and bringing it full circle. Thanks also to the students and teachers in Dare and Carteret County who participated as well.

I will never forget the thrill of reading the legislation for the first time and will be eternally grateful to Representative Bill Owens for taking the lead, and to Representative Tim Spears and Senator Marc Basnight for their support.

Let us all celebrate the North Carolina state horse by renewing our commitment to ensuring that they remain safe, healthy, wild, and free for generations to come.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Remembering Spec

We are fast approaching Memorial Day. At a vacation destination like the Outer Banks, Memorial Day weekend signals the kick off of what is known as high season. It is the return of business to those who depend on visitors for the bulk of their income. It is also the return of thousands of people driving on the north beach. The majority of those people act responsibly but each season the ones who do not, leave a lasting impression.

On May 24, 2009, the day before Memorial Day, a proud and beautiful stallion had to be euthanized after being hit by a vehicle and left to stand for hours with a leg so badly broken that only his skin was holding it on. I will never forget that sight. I will never forget the euthanization process or how hard Spec fought the drugs. I have also not forgotten that no one has been held accountable for their actions.

There is someone who knows. In fact, there are probably a few people who know who was responsible. Do they know or care that Spec suffered terribly and needlessly because that someone was too cowardly to call the Sheriff’s department and report an injured horse? Have they ever imagined what it must have been like for this horse to drag himself almost a mile through the sand and over a high dune in an attempt to get back to his home area?

Whether you drive the north beach daily or you are visiting, I beg you to remember that wherever you go, you are driving where wild horses live. They are on the beach and on the sand roads behind the dunes day and night. They are hard to see in the dark and they are unpredictable.

Please, obey the law. Drive the speed limit. Don’t drive drunk. Take responsibility for your actions and those who are with you. Our herd is already too small and critically endangered. They have managed to survive nearly 500 years of hurricanes, nor’easters, droughts, and floods. However, they are no match for a speeding vehicle with an impaired driver at the wheel.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

HB 4867 - The Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act

On March 17, U.S. Representative Walter B. Jones (NC-3) introduced H.R. 4867, the Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act. The bill would require the U. S. Department of the Interior, the State of North Carolina, the County of Currituck and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund to craft a new herd management plan that would allow for a herd of no less than 100 horses. The current management plan calls for a maximum herd size of 60. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has maintained that if the wild herd were managed at that level, the herd would be highly likely to have a genetic collapse and die out.
A preliminary report completed in the spring of 2008 by Dr. E. Gus Cothran, a leading equine geneticist and expert on feral herds, found high levels of inbreeding and low levels of genetic diversity at a herd size of 90. Dr. Cothran is currently completing more in depth DNA study, including a mitochondrial analysis. What he is finding is disturbing. “The Corolla herd has really low diversity. It is really going to be important that new genes are introduced. There is only one maternal lineage left. The Shackleford herd has 4 different types.”
Congressman Jones sponsored similar legislation that was enacted into law in 1998 to protect the wild horses roaming 3,000 acres of Cape Lookout National Seashore, Shackleford Banks, in Carteret County. That herd is managed at no less than 110 with a target number of 120 to 130. “These beautiful horses are an essential piece of eastern North Carolina’s heritage,” said Congressman Jones. “This bill will help protect the viability of the Corolla herd so people can enjoy them for years to come.”
An aerial count in October of 2009 revealed a herd size of only 88. The recent discovery of a dead stallion brings that official number to 87. According to CWHF Herd Manager, Wesley Stallings, “in addition to the damage done by excessive inbreeding, a small herd size leaves the horses extremely vulnerable to being completely wiped out by disease or hurricane.”
The wild horses of Northeast North Carolina have found a champion in Congressman Jones and wild horses all over the world have benefitted from the work of Dr. Cothran. We hope and pray that the United States Congress will put this bill through in a timely fashion. The lives of the Corolla wild horses literally depend upon it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Horses or Hotel?

On February 9th, the Currituck County Planning Board denied a request by Swan Beach Corolla LLC (owned by developer Gerald Friedman) to rezone 37.36 acres in Swan Beach (the 4 wheel drive area where the wild horses live) from residential to general business. Currently there is no commercial development or businesses permitted in what is known as the RO2 district.

On May 3rd, Mr. Friedman and/or his representatives will present their case to the Board of Commissioners at a public hearing. This is not the first time Mr. Friedman has made this request. In 2004, he requested that 18.88 acres be rezoned to general business. When he was denied the last time, Mr. Friedman stated “The horses have 12,000 acres (actually they have 7,257) and I only have 25.”

What Friedman is proposing for his 37.36 acres is an inn and accessory uses to include a wellness center, indoor and outdoor pools, fishing pier, stores, a helipad, a chapel, fire and rescue station, and most disturbing of all – a corral for the wild horses. The proposal for the inn “limits” the density to 302 units! The proposed name of the inn is Swan Beach Preserve. By definition, preserve means to protect; conserve; safeguard; defend; save; care for. The antonym? Destroy.

Mr. Friedman contends that when he bought the property in 1969, a portion of the tracts were zoned for business. In 1975, the Currituck County commissioners rezoned the entire off road area for residential use only, and now 35 years after that, Mr. Friedman feels that it isn’t fair that he can’t develop his land for business.

The off road area is one of the last underdeveloped areas on the east coast. That doesn’t mean houses aren’t being built, they are. But the north beach is not built to saturation and there is still plenty of land and forage for the wild horses and other wildlife. It is the areas of undeveloped, rugged, unspoiled beauty, frequented by our historic wild horses, that separate this beach from all others. It is up to all of us – residents, visitors, and government to fiercely protect what is left. We must work together to see that every house built is constructed in a manner and size that is respectful of the available resources, eco-system, wildlife, and residents.

A hotel does not belong in the RO2 district. Not now. Not ever. Mr. Friedman has developed a significant amount of Corolla south of the horse fence and still owns a considerable amount of undeveloped property in Corolla. He has made quite a nice living from building hundreds of houses on the northern Outer Banks. When is it ever enough?

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Rightful Place

photo by Rich Sigal

The Horse of the Americas registry says they are Colonial Spanish Mustangs eligible for registration papers. DNA testing supports it – once in 1992 and again in 2008. And now, we are “this close” to the resilient, powerful, intelligent, and athletic horses that grace our northern beaches and Shackleford Banks taking their rightful place as a North Carolina state symbol – our state horse.

On January 22nd, nearly a thousand letters were presented to Representative Bill Owens during a very special event at Shawboro Elementary School. Students from Currituck, Dare, and Carteret Counties asked their state legislators to support their request to designate the Colonial Spanish Mustang as the North Carolina state horse.

In addition to Representative Owens, attendees included Representative Tim Spear; Secretary Dee Freeman (NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources); Katie Hall (for Senator Marc Basnight); Steve Windham, Chairman of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission; Betty Jo Shepheard (for United State Senator Richard Burr); Carolyn Mason and Anita Kimball, President and Vice President of the Foundation for Shackleford Horses; CWHF staff and Board President, Kimberlee Hoey; Currituck County Commissioners and members of the Board of Education. Governor Bev Perdue supports the effort and letters from the Governor, Lt. Governor, and United States Congressman Walter Jones were read.

In March of last year, as part of their state mandated writing assessment, the entire fourth grade in the Currituck County School District participated in an effort to designate the state’s two historic wild herds of Colonial Spanish Mustangs as the North Carolina State Horse. Students in fourth and second grade as well as kindergarten took part in an educational program presented by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund that also included a rescued and once wild horse on site. They conducted research on other state symbols, studied North Carolina and local history, and wrote individual letters based on what they had learned. The program then expanded to include additional grades in Currituck, Dare and Carteret counties.

In her letter of support, NC Governor Bev Perdue wrote, “They have graced our shores for generations, bringing visitors from across our state and beyond, to North Carolina’s outer banks to witness this marvel. We are privileged to have these horses as part of our heritage . . . Long after they arrived in the 16th century, they continue to thrive and inspire writers young and old with their tale of survival.”

We are thrilled beyond description at the prospect of North Carolina becoming the tenth state to have a designated horse – but most of all – that it is the Colonial Spanish Mustang. House Bill 1251 is scheduled to be presented in May.

Whether they are wild or domestic, this is a noble breed on the brink of extinction. Recognition as our state horse will be the lifesaver that they so richly deserve.