Having seen them ride out yet another monster hurricane, we’re left with a renewed sense of wonder for the wild horses that roam our barrier islands.
From the famous ponies of Assateague Island, to the untamed beauties of Cumberland Island, Georgia and all the Outer Banks herds in between, the wild horses of the Southeastern seaboard are one of our nation’s finest natural treasures.
And now, having seen them ride out yet another monster hurricane, we’re left with a renewed sense of wonder for the wild horses that roam our barrier islands.
For the residents of these coastal areas, these majestic animals are simply their neighbors. But for visitors, many of whom travel great lengths to catch a glimpse of them, wild horses are an attraction—a living, breathing spectacle.
But don’t let them fool you. Even though they resemble their domesticated brethren physically, wild horses are above all, wild. They rely on each other and their instincts to keep them safe, and most have limited interaction with people. Even their dedicated human caretakers know the best approach is a hands-off one, preferring to let them fend for themselves, just as they have for centuries.
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In a blog post for Photofocus.com, wildlife photographer Doug Daulton outlined how to handle coming across a horse in the wild.
Maintain a Safe Distance:
First and foremost, Daulton urges visitors to maintain a safe distance. “This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people ignore it,” he writes. “When presented to a whole herd, with no barrier between you and the animals, things can get dangerous very quickly.” Hooves can start flying at a moment’s notice, and you and your family will want plenty of distance between yourselves and the herd. Experts advise staying at least 50 feet away at all times.
Talk to Them:
Horses can be flighty, and you never want to surprise them. Instead, let them know that you’re not a threat by talking to them first. Approach them slowly with a “Hey fella”, “Whoa girl” or something similar in soft, soothing tones.
Never Approach Directly from The Front or Rear:
Because a horse’s eyes are on the side of his head, when you approach directly from the front, he cannot see you until you are about six inches in front of his face. Same goes for a direct approach from behind. He won’t be able to see you without turning his neck. In both instances, Daulton says you’re asking to get kicked.
Pay Attention to Body Language:
A horse with his head low and ears back should not be taken lightly. These outward signs of aggression mean give me some space.