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#14479 Beachcombers

These four wild horses on the beach walking down to the surf line live in Currituck National Wildlife Refuge just above the end of the road in the Outer Banks at Corolla, North Carolina. From that point, only four wheel drive can take you where these animals roam the dunes as there are no paved roads. You can drive along the beach another 12 miles to the Virginia line, in addition to a few very sandy inroads into the dunes. At both ends there are fences and a cattle guard at the end of the Corolla hard road, to keep them from wandering on the highways to the south and into heavily developed areas.<br />
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How long have the “banker ponies” been here and where did they come from? No one knows, but the two best guesses have the horses as Spanish shipwreck descendants or escaped farming horses and the actual answer may be both and more. They have cousins in groups to the north and south through the Outer Banks region, but the enforced isolation has led to some inbreeding issues, although the animals appear to be healthy overall. They are also entirely solid color or bays here, yet the horses at Chincoteague in Virginia are mostly paints. All the horses at both locations are noticeably short which makes them more accurately classed as ponies.<br />
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In this image of the four beachcombers, a stallion and his harem string of three mares mosey toward the edge of the waves. They've just walked down from the sand dunes behind them. Soon they might form a walking string with the stallion leading to go further down the beach, or gather in a tight group to stand facing the waves where they would simply doze, letting the offshore breeze blow the insects away. I've always enjoyed watching herd behavior sitting on a pasture fence overlooking domestic herds, but here it was very interesting chance to watch these feral horses in their natural setting.