Shackleford Banks at Cape Lookout

CALO-Shacklefordbanks horses

You’ve heard the joke that ends in “With all that poop, there’s got to be a pony somewhere.” At Shackleford Banks at Cape Lookout National Seashore, it’s literally true. Follow the poop and you might see horses.

Shackleford Banks is an island in the National Seashore to the west of Cape Lookout lighthouse. You can’t go from one to the other, unless you swim. Today, I took a ferry from Beaufort to Shackleford Banks.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. You could swim in the Sound or collect shells but I really wanted to see the horses. About 110 horses are spread over the nine-mile long Banks. They are the descendants of Spanish horses that were brought over to the U.S. and somehow were thrown overboard or escaped. No one is really sure how they got to the Banks.

The ferry captain gave us some tips. “Walk up about a half-mile and look for a water hole. They should congregate there.” Great advice but no one told the horses. Once I got to the water hole, I had to cut cross-country through the trees and grasses.

I got steered right by a young family who had seen them. And the horses were there, munching the new green grass. These feral horses are organized into a harem of 4-6 females. I didn’t know when the male was. As they say, “you don’t want to get between the man and his woman.” I stayed a respectful distance away, so the pictures are not that great.

I am still amazed by what the National Park Service protects. These horses are wild. They are not fed or given any medications but some males are on birth control. Unlike the horses on the Appalachian Trail, these horses do not come up to visitors and nuzzle them. These Banker horses ignore you.

I’ve now seen all the National Parks in North Carolina.

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