Back in August I got to check off something on my equine bucket list: Photograph Wild Horses !!!
I had a high school senior session in Corolla NC with my senior portrait business Amanda Delgado Photography and hopped on the chance to see the horses. Brittany of Sunshine Artistry, my AMAZING makeup artist and good friend, came along with me. We woke up at dawn to try to track down the horses.
(PLEASE excuse the pasty barn legs! Ya’ll know what those equestrian tan lines are like! Haha!)
It was GORGEOUS there. We drove all the way to the very end of the beach, a bit confused that we didn’t see any horses yet. So we hopped out of the car and trudged up a sand dune.
This is Brittany! My adorable friend and talented makeup artist I take to my senior photoshoots! She is responsible for all the photos of me in this post! <3
We came up over the top of the sand dune and found a small herd hanging out by some houses! This Equine Photographer was over the moon!
That is my “Oh-My-Gosh-I-Can’t-Believe-This-Is-Actually-Happening” face! Haha!
I just couldn’t believe it! They were so amazing! The horses are protected and I had to stay away 50 feet away from them. I was thankful for my zoom lens! There was a stallion, two pregnant mares, another mare and three foals/yearlings.
I loved the personality of this stallion! He was so funny!
I was blown away by all his battle scars. Being top horse comes with a price!
Later after we were done we visited the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. They are the only ones protecting and fighting to conserve the wild horses.
The herds are wild decedents of Colonial Spanish Mustangs and they roam freely on the Northern Outer Banks near the Virginia boarder.
I loved this mother/daughter pair!
After talking to volunteers at the Corolla Wild Horse Fund (CWHF), I was shocked to hear how people are driving out the horses and mistreating them. It broke my heart!
I LOOOOOOOOOOVE the intimacy between these two! <3
The CWHF began in the late 1990s when the horses kept getting hit by vehicular traffic on Highway 12.
They built a fence to keep the remaining horses on the north beach on 7,544 acres of land. Although it may seem like a lot of land, two thirds of it is private property and development continues to rise.
This momma was SO pregnant! She waddled up the hill! Go girl!
This stud was so relaxed but he looked so tough with all his battle scars!
This little baby butt was swashing away all the flies. It was SO cute!
Did you know that in 2010 North Carolina adopted the Colonial Spanish Mustang as the Official Horse of NC?? How cool is that?!
We drove around the island looking for new herds when all of a sudden a set of three came running towards us over the top of the dunes! Needless to say I threw my car in park and starting shooting!
I later found out that the CWHF has staff on call 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies. If the horses are sick or injured, they try to take care of them in the field but sometimes they have to be taken off site for care. Once they are taken off site and exposed to domestic horses they must stay away from the herd.
They try to employ and encourage volunteering from off duty or retired police officers to serve as sanctuary patrol to protect the horses. While we were there we saw people trying to touch, feed, and mess with the horses and the patrol showed up and and stopped it! It was pretty awesome to see them protecting the horses like that!
Up until this point in the trip, I was so bummed to not see any horses on the beach. I really wanted to get some pictures of the horses on the beach and in the dunes but couldn’t find any. Brittany and I started to make our way back when suddenly horses appeared!
I loved how their red coats contrasted with the blue and teal ocean. How gorgeous are they?! <3
They moved a bit and formed almost a V shape. There were so many people, but I knew if I got the shot right it would be pretty amazing! With some angles and photoshop I got the image that I was looking for! Bottom corner image was the before picture, the one to the right was the final image!
These horses are so amazing and resilient. Their ancestors were survivors, either swimming to shore after a shipwreck or abandoned by colonists.
According to an excerpt from Dale Burrus, the horses were cherished and treated well by the local Native Americans, and the English were surprised how great the horses were. They rarely came up lame or sick, were hardy and had even temperaments. The horses that were brought to mainland had a difficult time adjusting to grass, grains, and stables and often died. This is still a problem today as the horses are used to eating the tough salt grasses and other nourishment from the coastline. Tourists try to feed the horses grain, apples or carrots not realizing the new diet could cause colic.
At this point I may have had a few tears streaming as I took pictures! Haha! I was so awestruck at these magnificent horses. These horses are eligible for registration as Colonial Spanish Mustangs, which has traces of Spanish Barb and Arabian bloodlines.
Although the Outer Banks was home to thousands of wild horses, they now number less than 300 and are considered critically endangered. These gorgeous wild horses face the real threat of extinction despite their rich history and claim to their natural home.
It is so bittersweet to see the horses. I am not going to lie, I cried, smiled and laughed watching the horses. It is magical, yet so heartbreaking.
The Corolla Wild Horses are facing extinction and organizations like the CWHF are advocating for them. CWHF is a non-profit organization that receives ZERO funding from the state or federal government. Yup, they rely strictly on donations. I am just as bummed about it as you are, but there are ways YOU CAN HELP!!
You can DONATE directly to CWHF. Donations are tax deductible!
You can SPONSOR A MUSTANG. These horses were sick or injured and pulled off the sanctuary.
You can ADOPT A MUSTANG. These horses were pulled from the sanctuary and rehabilitated for adoption!
Did you see an image you just absolutely love? You’re in luck! I am selling these images and prints to benefit the Corolla Wild Horse Fund! 50% of our proceeds will go directly to CWHF as a donation. This is a great way to decorate your home AND help out the wild horses of North Carolina. We have digital images, prints, and canvases available for purchase! Don’t worry, the watermark will be taken off with your print or digital purchase.
These horses are truly amazing historical artifacts of North Carolina’s past and equine history. I was so honored to see them and experience why they are so special. I can’t wait for my next trip to see them!