Monday, June 27, 2011

Wild Horses

We just returned from our family vacation to Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. The highlight this year was a trip over to Shackleford Island. We decided to take the ferry over because we heard there was a clear and calm sound of water perfect for the little ones to swim in. We also knew of the wild horses that roam the island but didn't expect to see any. After the kids got settled in the water, I told my husband and cousin that I was going to go on a hike to find the horses. My cousin actually laughed at me. I wasn't nervous because the island is only 9 miles long and I figured I couldn't get too lost. I started along the coastline and eventually headed into the brush. After a while I spotted a golden shape in the distance. I moved slowly and quietly towards it. Then--4 more golden spots! I got closer and closer until I was a few feet from these amazing creatures. I stood watching them for a long time, nervous to move any closer but equally nervous to walk away. They had the most beautiful manes--long and speckled with vibrant highlights from the sun. They were big and strong and yet they felt very calm. There was one that kept inching closer and closer until my fear took over and I moved away. I walked back through the brush and when I hit the sand, I marked my initials then ran to get my family. They followed me back and we returned to the spot to find all 5; it was as if they were waiting for me. It was an amazing moment to watch my kids reactions. Laine got so close it scared me. I swear that child has no fear. We talked a lot about these horses on the rest of our trip and why they are so special. They have lived by the edge of the sea and beaten the odds for more than 350 years! These 16th-century horses first came to the Outer Banks by swimming ashore from wrecked or sinking treasure ships. I think of all the hurricanes that have swept through and the lack of shelter and vegetation and I am just in awe. After seeing them up close; I had so many questions. How do they get fresh water? Our Ferry Driver told me that they can smell fresh water a foot or two below the surface and therefore know exactly where to dig. And what about food because nobody is allowed to feed them? They survive on dune grass and sea oats. And disease? They receive vaccines the only way a wild horse can--they are shot from a distance with a medicated dart. There is a foundation that protects them and I am grateful because I think they are a huge and valuable part of our country's history. I will never forget my encounter with these independent, strong and free creatures and I hope you get to see them one day too!

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