Corolla Wild Horse Fund Farm

 In OBX Nature

A Brumby is a handy Australian term for a Wild Mustang that I’ve personally used for years. But on a farm? Certainly, a contradiction in terms! Domestic farm with wild horses? But this seeming contradiction is a proud reality in Grandy, NC, as retirements happen and illnesses occur from the remaining ancestral herd of approximately one hundred Colonial Spanish feral horses of Corolla.

Roaming free in the dunes and forests of the Currituck Banks, these wild horses are descended from those brought to this area by European explorers in the 1500s. DNA testing has confirmed their blood link to the Spanish line of horses imported by Spain’s explorers over five centuries ago.
Not only does the Corolla Wild Horse Fund provide care for the viable, wild, dynamic herd, it also provides care for the individual animals as they grow ill and can’t survive the herd life, or become too old to remain with their viable herd any longer. Then those horses go to “The Farm,” located in Grandy.
This is where Meg Puckett comes in. She is officially the Herd Manager for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, and as such, is responsible for the administration of the herd and its members; in other words, she directs who goes where and why.

corolla wild horse captain

When a wild horse can’t keep up with the herd’s approximately 10 miles per day roam and forage ranging, they often become ill or undernourished, and a decision must be made to let nature take its course or to cull the horse from the herd and take it to The Farm in Grandy. These decisions do not happen in a vacuum, nor at the spur of the moment. Much thought and deliberation occurs before removing any horse from the wild. The CWHF veterinarian is consulted, the charity’s board of directors is notified, and protocols set forth in the Wild Horse Management Agreement are adhered to and followed. The CWHF Trainer and Herd Manager have nearly 70 combined years of experience working with horses and herds. Should additional experts have needed areas of expertise, in North Carolina or other locales, the group never hesitates to contact other wildlife professionals for input and advice.

Even during an intense emergency situation, these calls are made and proper procedures are followed, at all times.

Removing a horse from the wild is not a decision that is taken lightly. It’s the final option and the decision is only made when it’s clear the horse is suffering from a catastrophically fatal injury or illness that prevents it from keeping up with its family group, traveling to freshwater, and/or eating. If the condition is being caused by end-of-life complications (failing teeth, arthritis, etc.) all efforts are directed to best monitor the horse, but also to allow it to live out its life naturally.

One of the major things I learned while writing this article was the answer to “why can’t a horse be returned to the wild once it’s removed?” Actually, it’s very simple. The Corolla herd is not vaccinated. Due to the isolation of the herd, it is naturally protected from disease spread by domestic horses. No domestic livestock are allowed into the wild horses’ habitat. Once a horse is put on a trailer and taken across the cattle guard, it is no longer considered wild; it is domestic livestock, by that action.

Once at The Farm, the horse is exposed to vaccinated horses. Even though horses are quarantined for 30 days, disease can still spread, and it could potentially pick up something easily treated in captivity. An upper respiratory infection, for example, would be devastating

corolla wild horses field
Trainer Nora

should it spread to the wild herd. Horses removed from the beach are vaccinated as soon as it is safe to do so. Brumbies that have been removed from the wild require intensive, hands-on treatment and receive a crash course in domestication at The Farm’s facilities. It begins with things as simple as petting, scratching, and brushing, feeding and watering by human hands, and just getting the horse used to being around people. It may look like a full-grown adult horse, but the training is the same as you would do with a young foal…getting it accustomed to being handled by humans.

corolla wild horse care
Meg Puckett and Staff

It is also important not to anthropomorphize wild animals. They do not process emotions in the same way that humans do, and assuming so can be very harmful. Horses, like most animals, are very good at living in the moment as long as their basic needs are being met. It is also important not to anthropomorphize wild animals.

They do not process emotions in the same way that humans do, and assuming so can be very harmful. Horses, like most animals, are very good at living in the moment as long as their basic needs are being met. A healthy, enriched, horse is not standing in the field longing for its days in the wild. It is the care-givers’ responsibilities to make sure the horses’ needs are being met in captivity, and this includes not only the basics like food and water, but also physical and mental activity, companionship, and a living environment that is as close to natural as possible.

Every horse is different, and no case will ever be the same. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund team learns from each removal, birth, death, and emergency, and then applies that knowledge to the next situation. With fewer than 100 of these horses left here in the wild, it’s critically important that each and every one of them is given the chance to contribute their genes to the herd. Lengths are taken to prevent losing a valuable member of this highly threatened breed when it can be removed and potentially save its life.

We strive to do everything possible to keep them wild, in the place where they’ve lived for the last five centuries. But when that’s not possible, we will provide them with a safe home for the rest of their lives where they will continue to contribute to the conservation of the herd in many different ways. It’s an excellent example of the wild horses adapting their diet over the five centuries they have lived here, without depending on humans.

corolla wild horse paint

To stay warm, the horses’ coats have natural oils that fend off moisture. The coat gets thicker as daylight shortens.

Their hair stands up more in colder temperatures making the horses look fluffier as it traps air underneath. Strong north winds and cold rain cannot easily penetrate. Snow sits on its coat like it would on the roof of a snug house. “They are very well insulated,” Puckett stated. “If you see a wild horse with snow on its back it means it’s warm.”

Are you inclined to support the Corolla Wild Horse Fund in some way? There are many choices for support of this indigenous Outer Banks treasure of our amazing ancestral wild mustangs. Go to the website corollawildhorses.com and read up on these four-legged marvels of equine history!

Rebecca Orr
Author: Rebecca Orr

Rebecca is a recent Iowa transplant to the Outer Banks and spends her days enjoying the beach and seafood, and her nights contemplating the sea and the stars. It has been her long-held dream to be a writer.

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