Corolla-Wild Horses Outsmart Fence Looking for Greener Pastures

Corolla Wild mustangs grazing in the 4WD area for Carova.
Corolla Wild mustangs grazing in the 4WD area for Carova.

The Corolla Wild Horses have gotten themselves in the news again. It seems the herd has figured out that the fence meant to keep them in the 4WD area of the Currituck Banks is damaged. The fence runs from  the Currituck Sound to the Atlantic Ocean.

Reports seem to indicate the horses like the lush green lawn of the Whalehead Club, although they’ve been seen grazing in a couple of areas. The folks from the Corolla Wild Horse fund have been doing a remarkably effective job of rounding up the escapees and getting them back north of the fence.

The damage is on the ocean side. There are plans to fix the fence, but the contractor is waiting for a west wind to make the surf a little more manageable. 

It’s a fun thing to think about in the winter of the year—the horses running free…people trying to round them up.

But there is a serious side to it.

Between 1985 and 1996, twenty horses were killed by cars. That’s when that first attempt to build a fence—in 1996—and round up the herd up and move it north happened. There were a lot a lot of problems with that fence and it was rebuilt in 2004 and has been fairly effective.

There’s a good reason to preserve the Corolla Wild horses. Along with the Shackleford Banks herd, they are the last remaining true Spanish Mustangs in the world. The mustangs of the American west, that are often thought of as the classic example of the breed, have crossbred with other horses so much that they are not considered a genetic example of mustangs.

Genetic testing has established that the Corolla herd are direct descendents of the horse of the Spanish Conquistadores. 

A visual study of the horse also confirms that they are unlike any other breed of horse and have the physical characteristics history has said the horses had. 

They are somewhat short and stocky with narrow but deep chests. They have shorter backs compared to their body than other breeds. They are a small breed of horse—700-900 pounds. The smaller ones are barely bigger than a pony.

They are also known to be very intelligent and very determined.

A Lot of Theories But Nothing Confirmed

How they got here is a bit of a mystery.

A shipwreck, perhaps. A wonderful thought—the horse escapes sure death and swims to its safety. It is, however, very unlikely.

At the time, the thought was that a horse’s legs could not handle the movement of a ship at sea, so they were suspended below decks in a harness. To survive a shipwreck at sea, someone would have had release them from their harness, which seems improbable if the entire crew was on deck fighting to save the ship.

It’s more likely that the Spanish explorers left their mounts behind for one reason or another. We know that the Spanish were very active in exploring the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. That is one of the reasons why Queen Elizabeth I granted Raleigh a royal charter to form a colony—as a counter to Spanish efforts.

There were also a number of unsuccessful attempts by the Spanish to establish colonies in the Southeast. When the Spanish left, it is very doubtful that they would have taken their livestock, including the horses, with them.

An interesting theory on that is somewhat plausible is the mustangs came with the ships of the doomed Lost Colony.

Spain and England were at war or on the verge of war in 1585 when Sir Walter Raleigh outfitted his second expedition to Roanoke Island.

Led by Sir Richard Grenville, the expedition stopped in the West Indies to buy livestock, including stallions and mares. 

Approaching Roanoke Inlet from the south, the flotilla’s flagship Tiger, ran aground, probably around Ocracoke Inlet although Diamond Shoals off  Buxton is a possibility. Because it was the largest ship, it was carrying most of the supplies for the colony  including the recently purchased livestock. Attempting to refloat the ship much of the supplies, including the livestock was thrown overboard.

If the livestock were survived, over time they could easily have migrated to the north. At the time that the Tiger ran aground, neither Hatteras Inlet nor Oregon Inlet existed. Those did not open until an 1846 hurricane. Although inlets opened periodically for the most part the Outer Banks was a continuous strand of sand from Ocracoke to Roanoke Inlet, directly across from Roanoke until about 1820 when Roanoke Inlet closed permanently.

That explanation does leave a lot unexplained. As an example, the Banker Horses as they became know, were common throughout coastal North Carolina from the Core Banks to the south to the Currituck Banks and Virginia by the 1700s.

Ocracoke Inlet, separating Ocracoke from Portsmouth Island, has been a wide, navigable inlet for as long as European explorers first marked it in the 16th century. Horses are good swimmers, but it would still have been a difficult crossing.

At one time there were a few thousand Banker horses roaming the Outer Banks. The story of what became of them is somewhat sad and involved and we’ll save that for another day.

But remember, when a stallion and his harem (that’s what it’s called) are lazing on the Carova beach in the summer, what you are seeing is a living piece of the history of the United States. 

And please, do not feed them and keep at least 50’ away.

There is so much to learn about the Outer Banks. Spend a fascinating week or two in a Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates home and discover a place like no other.

Hello to Mustang Rock & Roast, Goodbye to TS Michael

Mustang Rock & Roast poster

Hurricane Michael will be just a memory by Saturday and Sunday, but as it leaves the Outer Banks it’s dragging some awesome weather behind it.

Actually by the time it gets to the Outer Banks, it will be Tropical Storm Michael and after looking at every weather forecast we can find, it looks as though Thursday and early morning Friday are going to be wet and windy days, but nothing that would raise concerns on the Outer Banks.

What that means is for anyone who had plans for the upcoming weekend, don’t change those plans.

The big event of this coming weekend is the Saturday and Sunday Mustang Rock & Roast, combining great music with food. It’s hard to imagine anything wrong with that combination.

Six bands will take the stage on both days, and one of the best features of Mike Dianna/Bearded Face Production is the continuous music through the use of two stages. As one band is playing, the next one is setting up, and when the fist band’s set ends, the music begins immediately

It creates a great day of music.

This year though, Mike is taking it one step farther by combining fun food with the festival.

Saturday its steamed oysters—that’s the Rock—and Sunday there’s a barbecue showdown. That’s the Roast.

The headliners for the festival, Big Something on Saturday and Pink Talking Fish on Sunday will be capping two days of great music.

And the weather will make this an even better event, with daytime temperature hovering around 70 and bright sunshine.

Proceeds from the Mustang Rock & Roast supports two fantastic causes—the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and the Mustang Outreach program that helps to supplement the music programs in local schools, teaching kids about music and performance.

The Mustang Rock & Roast is just one of a number of great fall events on the Outer Banks. Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates has the perfect accommodations and great rates for an autumn getaway.

Mustang Spring Jam Highlights Great OBX Weekend

The Marcus King band coming to the Mustang Spring Jam this Sunday.
The Marcus King band coming to the Mustang Spring Jam this Sunday.

Two Great Events Highlight Spring Weekend

Spring on the Outer Banks is a remarkable time and this coming weekend is what it’s all about. It’s a weekend with two great events—the 3rd Annual Shredfest on Saturday at the Nags head Event Site and on Sunday it’s the 7th Annual Mustang Spring Jam in Corolla.

Shredfest is all about if it has wheels it can shred, but there’s some great music as well. Personal favorite is The Ramble taking the stage at 4:00.

If music is the theme, though, nothing quite matches what Mike Dianna and his Bearded Face Productions does with the Mustang Spring Jam. Six bands will take the stage over the course of the day. Well, seven, because the Mustang Music Outreach kids always kick things off and they are really worth checking out.

There is a great local band in the mix—Sensi Trails. Featuring some tight reggae arrangements with very good musicianship, it’s a group that’s a real pleasure to watch.

The headliner, though is really gong to be exciting. The Marcus King band has been wowing audiences wherever they play with their eclectic blend of southern rock merged with psychedelic. Great musicians playing music the way it’s supposed to be played.

One of the features of the Mustang music festivals is the use of multiple stages so there is no gap in the music between groups. When one band wraps up the next is ready to go immediately.

The Mustang Spring Jam raises money for two great organizations. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has been protecting the Corolla Wild Horses for the past two decades and through their efforts the herd may yet survive intact.

The Mustang Music Outreach teaches kids about music and performance. It’s a great program; the kids learn a lot and music director Ruth Wyand makes it all fun.

Need accommodations for the weekend? Check out our rentals at Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates.

Exec Director of Corolla Wild Horse Fund Retires


Measuring the impact that Karen McCalpin, the Executive Director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, has had on the Outer Banks and Corolla in particular is tough. Not because there hasn’t been any, but because the impact is so huge.

For the people who have gotten to know her and the passion and love for the Corolla Wild Horses it’s tough to imagine what it would be like without her. But that reality is coming to pass.

After 10 years, Karen is retiring. Her last day will be December 31.

Karen McCalpin.
Karen McCalpin.

She’s moving back to her native Pennsylvania. Most of her family is there…grand kids, children and a husband who has commuted for most of her time at the CWWF.

The CWHF was 10 years old when Karen took over and under her leadership it has become a dynamic advocate for the Colonial Spanish Mustang. Before she came on the scene, there was some doubt about the genetic pedigree of the Corolla herd, with many horse experts believing the Corolla herd was a mixture of American breeds and at most there was a little bit of mustang in them.

Karen wanted to know. She insisted on working with the best genetic experts and having the herd examined by some of the most respected members of the Horse of Americas Registry and the American Livestock Conservancy—two organizations that determine the lineage of horses. What she found was, yes, the Corolla Wild Horses are a direct genetic link to the mustangs the Spanish explorers brought to the New World.

Having the Colonial Spanish Mustang designated as the North Carolina State Horse was a result of her outreach to school children.

There was a side to her that was tough and unyielding—qualities she needed when she went toe to toe with USFW over the size of the herd that would be allowed in Carova—a herd that would have been so small if USFW had their way that it is doubtful if the horses could have survived.

And this is just a partial list.

So…yes, Karen will be missed, but she is one of those luck few who can look back on something an know their legacy will live on.

She will be moving on to another position. Somehow it’s not surprising what she will be doing next. She will be the executive director of a therapeutic riding center in Pennsylvania.

Mustang Spring Jam-Great Music in Corolla

Last Days of May in performance. (LtoR): Gracie Deichler, Joe Sawin, Jonah Wills-drums, Jacob Mandis, Sam Wills.
Last Days of May in performance. (LtoR): Gracie Deichler, Joe Sawin, Jonah Wills-drums, Jacob Mandis, Sam Wills.

The music at Mike Dianna’s Mustang Music Spring Jam—or his fall Mustang Festival—is always great, but honestly the highlight may very well be the kids of the Mustang Music Program who kick things off.

Yes—People’s Blues of Richmond, the headliner for the day, is an amazing band . . . so good that they may be on the cusp of hitting it big. Their sound is a hard driving blend of blues, rock and psychedelia performed by three remarkably talented musicians:  Tim Beavers on guitar and vocals, Matt Volkes on bass and drummer Neko Williams rocked the house.

But there is something so special about the kids in Ruth Wyand’s Mustang Music Program and the joy they bring to performing classic rock songs that lights up even an overcast cool day like it was today in Corolla.

The No Clue band, which are the beginning students, were remarkably tight throughout their set and brought an energy to the stage that set everything up for the day.

The older kids, especially Last Days of May, are performing at a level that is almost as good as professional performers and in some cases as good as almost anyone locally.

Sam Wills rocks on guitar—and his 12-year-old brother is no slouch on drums. Kaman Blake, Joe Sawin and Gracie Deichler have become very talented vocalists, and Gracie in particular really knows how to sell a song.

The weather wasn’t so great today—chilly, drizzling a bit with a northeast breeze, but somehow that all gets overlooked when the music is this good.

Proceeds from the Mustang Music Spring Jam benefit the Mustang Music Program and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

#joelamb, jr. #mustangmusic