When Cordero, a wild foal, was first spotted on North Carolina’s famed Outer Banks, the tides were too high to bring a trailer. For the four days that followed, Karen McCalpain, director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, and volunteers searched for him through wooded areas and marsh until they happened upon him and his family.

Cordero was born with severe front leg deformities – a result of inbreeding. Sadly, due to the severity of his condition, he had to be euthanized.

“I have been in this position for nearly 10 years, and I have watched the number of deformities in small foals steadily increase over this period,” McCalpain explains. “Something desperately needs to be done.”


A Historic Herd With an Unknown Future


The Corolla wild horses represent one of the oldest and rarest strains of Colonial Spanish horses. They are listed as a critically endangered breed and have been present in the area since the 1500s. They have survived hurricanes, noreasters, and encroaching development, but these cherished horses may not survive the genetic crisis they now face unless legislation is passed to protect them.

An amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act has recently been introduced by North Carolina Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, and could be the solution to securing the future for this historic herd.

The amendment merely seeks to increase the number of horses allowed from the current population of 82 to between 110 and 130 in order to improve the herd’s genetic viability. The Burr-Tillis amendment mirrors the Shackleford Banks Wild Horses Protection Act, which conferred protection for the wild horses at Cape Lookout National Seashore, Shackleford Banks, NC. The Shackleford wild horses have been effectively managed at between a population of 110 and 130 for the last 18 years in peaceful co-existence with the ecosystem and recreational activities in a habitat less than half the size of the Corolla herd’s range.

“A cherished part of our state’s history and an admired attraction, thousands of tourists visit North Carolina’s beaches each year to witness the majestic nature of the Corolla horses,” said Senator Tillis in a 2015 press release. “The legislation I’m introducing will take the necessary and proper steps in protecting the health and safety of the wild animals and their habitat, while encouraging continued tourism and economic investment for our local coastal communities.”

“The beauty of the Corolla horses draws people from across North Carolina and the country to witness these wild animals in their natural habitat,” said Senator Richard Burr in the same press release. “They are one of our many natural state treasures and I am proud to introduce legislation that will provide for the preservation of these wild-roaming horses that have inhabited North Carolina for hundreds of years.”

Similar legislation to protect the Corolla horses, introduced by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, has unanimously passed twice in the House of Representatives but then stalled in the Senate.

The Corolla wild horses are running out of time. The Burr-Tillis amendment represents the last best hope to save this cherished herd and prevent tiny foals like Cordero from suffering as a result of crippling birth defects. 

How You Can Help

The Burr-Tillis amendment may come before the Senate for a floor vote in the next few days. There is not a moment to waste. You can take action by contacting your Senators today. 

All image source: Corolla Wild Horse Fund