Tooling along a pristine beach in a modified Hummer, looking for wild Spanish Mustangs is fabulous fun. The Outer Banks has a herd of about 100 of these wild Spanish Mustangs that have graced these beaches since the early explorers brought them to America by ship in colonial times. It is thought that the horses swam to the Outer Banks after coastal ship wrecks and they have called this beach area home since that time. These Mustangs are now protected and roam freely in the northernmost part of the Outer Banks, in the area just north of Corolla, North Carolina up to the Virginia border.
The herd’s territory begins where RT 12 becomes a sand road along the beach. This is four-wheel drive territory and is popular with fisherman, home owners who really want to get away from it all and, of course, horse lovers. There are a number of thriving businesses who will drive you into the sand, tell you local history & horse lore and try to locate horses. It’s an adventure for the drivers as well as the riders because the horses travel throughout the area, grazing all day long, so everyone is on the lookout for the next group of horses. They can never predict where they will be on any given day, at any particular time – and that’s part of the fun.
When I started researching the different companies, I was pleasantly surprised to see that all the companies had consistently great reviews. That was a great starting point and a testament to the companies that organize these tours – it didn’t look like I could make a bad choice. That being said, I then tried to see how the companies differentiated themselves and found 2 basic differences – the type of vehicle/seating and where they looked for horses. Every tour has access to most of the area and a couple of touring companies have access to private areas. I was intrigued by the ability to drive in the private areas because I thought less “traffic” might yield better horse viewing but I ended up deciding based on the vehicle type and seating. Most of the companies that could enter the private area were reported as having a very bumpy ride and they had bench seats on each side that faced inward so you’d always be craning your neck to see out of the vehicle. I chose Wild Horse Adventure Tours because they had Hummers (the biggest vehicles), had individual seats so you wouldn’t be bounced into each other and “stadium” seating so everyone had a clear view.
We planned our trip when our great friends, Mary Ellen and Lee, were visiting. We’ve been friends for ages, ever since Mary Ellen moved in across the street from us in Willington, Connecticut. They are the best kind of friends – fun, willing to be spontaneous and easy to be with – nothing is a problem and we laugh all the time. I love Mary Ellen like a precious sister and special friend. And Lee is wonderful as well. They moved to Vermont a number of years ago and on some weekends, we helped them build their beautiful house high up on a mountain with spectacular views of the White Mountains. Most weekends, they’d drive up to Vermont by themselves, work like crazy people and drive back lateish on Sunday night. We’d call them about 30 minutes out and tell them we’d have dinner for them when they got home. They’d pull in, we’d unload their truck and while they fed animals, Michael would grill steaks, I’d pull the rest of dinner together and then we’d sit on the deck, have a lovely dinner and hear all the adventures. Those were great times and I’m thrilled that we have been able to keep the friendship alive by trying to see each other at least once a year, hopefully twice. Anyway, Mary Ellen and Lee are “horse people” so we knew they would love this adventure.
We got to the site and I immediately determined that the best place in the Hummer would be Lee in the front seat riding shotgun to the driver and us in the second seat with Mary Ellen at the window and Michael and me in the middle so Michael could stretch his leg out in the extra leg room. The person loading the Hummer was very accommodating and we got to sit exactly where we wanted – YEAH! Off to a great start. Our driver, Maggie, was a cowgirl from Colorado who was working the beach circuit for the summer. She was fun, upbeat and very knowledgeable. Maggie drove us all over and told us a lot of interesting facts about the area, the horses themselves and how they are taken care of. The horses stay in small groups and graze throughout the day all across their territory. This day, they were mostly in people’s yards eating the good grasses and soaking up the sun and the good vibes. Because they are protected and you aren’t supposed to be within 50 feet of them, they are very relaxed and don’t move as you approach them. The people renting the houses looked thrilled to have these special guests in their yards munching away – the kids, as you can imagine, were over the moon. Lee is a Ferrier so he was looking at the horse’s feet to see how they were doing and got into a conversation with Maggie about natural hoof shaping which she also believes in.
We had a great tour and had lots of fun. I wish that we could have seen the horses on the beach or in the forest but, alas, this day they were content hanging out on people’s lawns. We may need to go again to try to get some more pictures in a more “wild” environment. Enjoy the Wild Horse Adventure Tours website pictures below. We’ll post more pictures if we take another tour.