Monday, January 25, 2010
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.