There's something magical about wild horses. I'll never forget watching them gallop between islands as the sun set and the tide rushed out more than a decade ago when I studied marine biology in Beaufort, NC. (Did that really happen? It sounds like a dream...) That summer I also had the pleasure of visiting them at Shackleford Banks.
But last week was the first time I laid eyes on the wild Spanish mustangs of Corolla on the Currituck Banks. (Above: A 2-month-old colt grazes in the dunes. Image available for purchase here.) Historical records, along with plenty of shipwreck lore, indicate wild horses have lived on the Outer Banks for nearly 500 years. Development has pushed them north, and this population now resides in an 11-mile-stretch ending at the Virginia border.
I imagined we'd see the horses frolicking in the surf on the beach, but that afternoon they were back in the dunes. (I shot this photo looking west towards the ocean.)
Our guide told us the sea oats and other vegetation growing on the dunes aren't nutrient rich, so the horses need to spend 85% of their time foraging. You'll notice a common theme among these photos; the horses are eating in every single one.
They live in family groups called harems, which include a stallion, several mares and possibly a yearling colt or filly and other non-dominant "bachelor" stallions.
Despite a lack of roads at the northern end of the island, there are plenty of houses built in the dunes. The horses spend a lot of time grazing on private land (or private sand, as the case may be). The horse below is wild but taking advantage of grass growing on private property.
Have you been to the Outer Banks? The dunes are breathtaking. On our next visit, I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of the horses while they're enjoying the sea breeze from atop the dunes.
Planning your next adventure? Click here for some ideas.
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.