Local News

Fans of Wild Horses Win One in Washington

Posted July 9, 1998

— It's believed that wild horses have roamed Shackleford for hundreds of years, and for the past few years, some have feared they might disappear forever. Now, thanks to the efforts of some hard working people on Harkers' Island and in Washington DC those horses should be on the Banks for years to come.

"There's something about looking at a horse ... out there ... totally free ... no fetters ... fending for itself," said area resident Margaret Willis.

"They are the descendents of horses that swam to the banks of Shackleford after Spanish galleons wrecked off the coast." said 3rd District Representative Walter Jones.

"It's an irreplaceable part of North Carolina history. Wild horses navigate this island the way locals navigate the backwaters of Beaufort, but recently this paradise had to play politics. Some of the horses were sick and had to be put down. the U.S. Park Service wanted a smaller herd. Animal lovers said that fewer horses would lead to extinction.

The story of these horses is a fascinating part of North Carolina history. One that has gotten the attention of a lot of people. Who would have ever thought 100 horses on a small island off our coast would have caught the attention of the U.S. Congress? But they did.

Congress listened because of some Harker's Island residents. Margaret Willis, who's ridden horses most of her life, and Carolyn Mason, who's never ridden a horse, were determined to fight the park service and keep the herd viable. They sought help from Jones.

"The park service did not seem to want to be helpful and work with me, so we decided to put this piece of legislation in," said Jones.

The President signed the bill Thursday. The herd will remain with at least 100 horses the number veterinarians say is need to sustain this part of North Carolina history.

"The horses were here before people were," said Willis. "The people developed with the horses. The horses helped build the area."

"When people strike out to preserve things like the lighthouses that's great," said Mason. "But that lighthouse has only been there a couple of hundred years. The horses have been over there closer to 400."

Mason, who's a librarian at Cherry Point, said she had always believed that democracy works, but that she how has proof.

Everyone is hoping the Park Service and the locals will work as a team to protect the horses.


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