The Wild Horses of Corolla (Part 1)

Vimo Horse by Karen McCalpinBeautiful, majestic, unforgettable-the Corolla wild horses are an extraordinary part of the Outer Banks experience. Yet, although they run free, there is considerable work that goes into keeping the herd healthy and vibrant.

That became very clear this year when a colt was born with a birth defect. Two days after Vivo was born, it was apparent to monitors from the Corolla Wild Horse Fund that the colt was walking entirely on his back toes, a condition that, in the wild, would wear his hoof down to the soft hoof wall, leaving him crippled and unable to survive.

Vivo’s birth defect is characteristic of genetic inbreeding. Currently, all of the horses in the herd are descendants of the same maternal gene line. Adding to the problem, the herd’s population today stands at 101. According to CWHF Executive Director Karen McCalpin, “That’s not sustainable.”

The decision was made to remove Vivo from the herd, and because he was only two days old, his mother Mimosa accompanied him to a rehab facility.

The early reports are the Vivo is doing really well. McCalpin says, “He’s just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.”

Vivo’s condition is very treatable in a domestic situation, and by all accounts he will grow to be a healthy and thriving mustang. He will not, however, be allowed to return to the herd. A horse that is taken from the herd cannot return to the wild.

Vivo and Mimosa are not the only Corolla Spanish Mustangs that have been removed from the herd. In 2006, a stallion was rescued from the surf. Blinded in a mating fight, Amadeo, who is now 24, will live out his days in an equine facility where he has room to roam. He has been adopted by Felix, who seems to enjoy his role as a seeing-eye horse. Felix was two years old when he ate some fishing line that would have killed him without emergency surgery.

Horses that have been removed from the herd are often adopted or sponsored. As Vivo grows to become a stallion, there may be a family or individual who would like to add him to their family. Amadeo is being sponsored by a donor, but because he is blind he must be monitored by a vet at all times.

A recent agreement with a supporter of the CWHF to lease a 30 acre facility on the mainland in Currituck has the organization’s officers hopeful that they can give better care to sick and injured horses from the herd. The farm, though, will need some work to bring it up to the necessary standards to care for the animals.

“We’re in the process of restoring it right now,” McCalpin says. “We’re building a nursery and fixing some damage that was done to the property.”

As for the larger problem of the horses all being linked to one mare, the CWHF is hoping to introduce mares from the Shackleford Banks herd—also genetically linked to the Spanish Mustangs of the Conquistadors. US Fish and Wildlife, who manages the Shackleford herd, is opposed to the transfer, citing environmental concerns about the damage a larger Corolla herd could do to the environment.

No matter what the outcome of this debate, it is obvious that many people care about the fate of these amazing creatures and will do their best to continue to help them thrive.

*UPDATE*

From the Corolla Wild Horse Fund – “Vivo is a very handsome colt! He will soon be able to play with some of our geldings awaiting adoption.”