The Wild Horses of Assateague Island, Maryland
Posted by Jody on March 7, 2012
A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves – strong, powerful, beautiful – and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.~Pam Brown, author
The wild horses of Assateague Island National Seashore are descendants of domesticated horses brought to this beautiful, barrier island over 300 years ago.
This hardy herd has adapted to life on the sandy shores and marshes of Assateague Island. According to the National Park Service’s The Wild Horses of Assateague Island Brochure, “Horses tough enough to survive the scorching heat, abundant insects, stormy weather and poor quality food found on this windswept barrier island have formed a unique wild horse society.” Today’s Assateague horses are short of stature due to hundreds of years of grazing on the nutrient-poor beach grass, saltmeadow hay and saltmarsh cordgrass.
The horses on the Maryland side of Assateague Island National Seashore are owned and managed by the National Park Service. Wild and roaming freely, they might be seen anywhere in the park. “During the summer months many bands can be found on the beach. You can often see the horses and other wildlife by driving slowly along park roads.”
…Cooler fall weather and fewer insects allow the bands to move from the beaches back to the marshes and their abundant grasses.”
When visiting, it is very important to respect these coastal residents as wild animals. They are fascinating to watch and photograph, but only do so from a distance. Every year, there are visitors who get a beating for getting too close (by the horses, that is). It’s also a harmful mistake to feed the horses. They can become sick from human food, and if they learn to beg for food by the road, they are likely to get hit and killed by a car. Be sure to read the National Park Service’s brochure on Viewing the Assateague Horses Safely for more information.
What a great day at the beach: surf, sand, sunshine and wild horses!