Horse News

New guide reveals the secret to petting wild horses on the Outer Banks

By Mark Price as published on  the Charlotte Observer

Where’s that special sweet-spot?  NOWHERE!!!”

The official “Wild Pony Petting Chart” shared by the National Park Service. FACEBOOK SCREENSHOT

The wild mustangs that roam North Carolina’s Outer Banks have long enticed tourists, many of whom can’t resist the urge to try and pet the horses.

It’s with those people in mind that the National Park Service posted an official “Wild Pony Petting Chart” on Thursday, revealing for the first time where exactly the animals can be touched without risk of getting kicked, bitten or trampled.

What’s the secret spot?

Well, close inspection of the tongue-in-cheek guide reveals there isn’t one. Each of the horse’s body parts apparently comes with its own warning label, particularly the rump which is guaranteed to result in an “extended hospital stay.”

The point is essentially to show how dangerous they are, even to the most well meaning of tourists.

“For your safety, as well as that of the horses, stay at least a bus length (50 feet) away from the horses at all times,” concludes a post of the guide by Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

More than 200 wild horses roam the barrier islands off North Carolina. The herds are both a tourist attraction and a notorious threat, with a propensity to turn violent as the stallions fight over turf or mates.

However, warnings to stay clear of the horses are frequently ignored, in spite of laws and $500 penalties.

On Saturday, the nonprofit Foundation for Shackleford Horses posted an alert of one such incident, asking for help finding the culprit.

“We have received a report of a foal being harassed and corralled by a visitor on Shackleford within the last 30 minutes,” the post said. “If you observe someone harassing horses… please take photos of the incident. If the visitor has a boat, pictures showing the registration number of the boat are particularly helpful.”

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has shared similar alerts this summer, which recently attracted the attention of the Currituck County Sheriff’s Office. The department announced Aug. 5 that it was cracking down on the problem, taking a “no warnings” approach to issuing tickets to offenders, OBX Today reported.

“If this keeps up someone is going to get hurt, and/or horses will have to be removed from the wild,” said Corolla herd manager Meg Puckett in a Facebook post.

“That’s why it is so important that we bring attention to the situation and ask that people understand why approaching, petting, and feeding is harmful.”

5 replies »

  1. The attraction between horses and humans is deep and strong, and undeniable. Most people rarely (if ever) get to see a live horse anymore and it is natural to want to reach out to them. Of course we need to leave wild animals alone, but rather than endlessly punish people and drive them even further from valuing live horses, why not acknowledge it and perhaps have a place on the Outer Banks where a tame horse or two could engage the public — the park could let people caress and engage with some tame animals and also have a great opportunity to explain why the wild ones need to be kept wild, and perhaps inspire some adoptions from this and the Chincoteaque herds.

    In other words, why not turn the endless negatives (including policing each other) into something positive for both species, especially in a National Park where people are already looking for good holiday memories?


  2. Good point IcySpots. There is something in most humans that makes us want to touch and connect with animals whether they are domestic or wild. Most understand and respect the difference BUT.some.people still feed the bears in Yellowstone visitors feed the wild burros in Oatman which puts them at risk of becoming “nuisance” burros.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I live in an area increasingly dependent on tourism, with little common sense when it comes to our local wildlife. This has led to the death of many bears, for example, as they become habituated to humans and then become repeat offenders visiting trash cans, breaking into cars etc. I’m not sure why we think animals need us to feed (bribe) them, but maybe it’s just to get them closer to us. Where it makes sense, like in a National Park, maybe there are some alternative approaches. The history of feeding bears in Yellowstone is long and was originally intentional, with a large dump site made to attract them and then paying tourists. But over time more natural management approaches have been implemented, which allow wildlife to be more or less naturally behaving and humans simply observing.

      I’m not sure about wild burros in a much less constrained situation though. Maybe emphasize the “stompy” and “chompy” bits more!

      Liked by 1 person

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