Saturday, May 25, 2013

Assateague Island National Seashore and its Wild Horses

I was a bit skeptical when I heard about the wild horses that inhabited Assateague Island National Seashore, a barrier island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia.  I was skeptical this was a natural habitat for horses, rather than a group of horses penned up in a few acre lot with stands for tourists to climb and get a few pictures.  Boy, was I wrong. 

On the day I visited the park on the Maryland tip, It wasn't more than a mile or two I say the first horse right next to the road (above and below), and I stopped the car to get some better pictures.  

Folklore would have us believe the horses swam ashore after a Spanish ship sank off the coast, but according to the park website it seems more likely settlers in the late 1600's herded the horses to the island to avoid fencing laws and livestock taxation.   In the 1950's there were attempts to build on the island, which was stopped after a storm laid waste to early construction.  Were it not for the storm, this priceless island would be heavily developed like nearby Ocean City, Maryland. 

Above is a horse I followed through the tall grasses and briers to a marsh where he settled and started drinking.  Apparently, their tell-tell pot belly is because of their very high salt content diet.  

Not one of these pictures was taken from behind a fence, or an area designated for tourists.  Had I wanted, I could have walked up to any of these horses and touched them, though ill advised.  These are wild horses. 

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