The Spanish Mustangs left behind during early colonization efforts of the 1590’s have become one of coastal North Carolina’s finest attractions. Roaming the sandy dunes of places like Corolla and Shackleford Island, the “Banker” horses are both beautiful and magical, and certainly a rare sight to see.
These docile horses are small in stature with rough shaggy coats and beautiful long manes and can often be seen grazing along the beach, or relaxing back in the dunes. Guided tours are available throughout the summer allowing guests to view these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. Taking a tour is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the history of these horses, as well as the opportunity to go to some of the far-reaching pockets of the Outer Banks.
As the northern areas of the Outer Banks gained popularity, the horses have retreated to less populated areas. While visitors may still see the horses in crowded areas, the best way to spot the wild ponies is to take to the sand roads into more desolate areas to go exploring.
Before you can hit the beaches on a horse viewing expedition, you need to be prepared with a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, or find a local tour guide. (When driving on the beach be sure to take air out of your tires to ensure that you won’t get stuck in the soft sand, lowering them to approximately 15-20 psi, and when you return, you can stop at local convenience stores to fill your tires back up to their normal level.) The ride can get a bit bumpy and it’s best to go when the tide is right so there is enough room to drive.
Remember that the horses move in packs and are territorial. It’s a good idea to appreciate the horses from a safe distance. Also, the horses graze on whatever they can find, but they should not be given any unfamiliar food, even a typical horse treat like an apple, can cause harm to a wild horse.
The good news is that the wild horses are never too far away, running down the beaches, or perhaps grazing behind a sand dune – just as they have done for hundreds of years. Next time you’re out, be sure to take an extra look around, you just never know what you might find.