Visiting the Wild Horses of the Southeast - Safety Tips

Tips to Keep You and the Horses Safe

Assateague Island Wild Horses

 Michael Rickard / Getty Images

The wild horses of the southeastern United States attract thousands of visitors each year to the few places they have survived along coastal areas of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. If you are planning a visit to see these intriguing horses, be sure to review the following important safety tips for your safety and the safety of the horses:

Maintain a Safe Distance from the Horses

Although at times the horses may appear to be docile, especially when standing around or resting, you must remember that they are indeed wild. Moving too close to them puts you at a great risk for being kicked or bitten. Remember that you are a stranger in their territory and respect their space. If you see a horse begin to back up even slightly because of your presence, you are far too close. In the Corolla Wild Horse Sanctuary, you can be arrested for not maintaining a distance of at least 50 feet from the horses.

Even if not mandated in other areas, this is a good general rule to follow.

Never Feed Wild Horses

Besides putting you too close to the horses, feeding them is extremely dangerous for the horses for several reasons. Foods that are not part of their normal diets, even things that you might know are safe to feed to other horses, can cause serious imbalances in their digestive systems causing severe illness or death. Also, offering food hand-outs from vehicles teaches the horses to come up to the other vehicles on the road, putting them at a great risk of being hit and injured or killed. Finally, even if a horse appears to be hungry and begging for food, giving the impression that it is used to receiving hand-outs, do not feed the horse.

By doing so, you are reinforcing detrimental learned behavior and reducing the animal's wild instincts to find food on its own, thereby reducing the chance that it will survive in the wild.

Drive Slowly and Stay Alert

If you are driving a vehicle along the beach or on roads where driving is permitted, drive slowly and stay alert. Countless horses have been injured and killed by careless drivers. From your point of view, hitting a horse can cause serious injury to you and damage to your vehicle as well.

Prepare for a Long Walk

If you are walking, there is a good chance that you will walk quite a long way before seeing any horses. Wear comfortable walking shoes that can get dirty and muddy and dress for the weather. Becoming overheated in the summer or too chilled in the winter can be dangerous, especially if you have a long walk ahead of you. Also, remember to take along common sense items like bottled water, insect repellent, and sunscreen.

Take the Right Camera

Undoubtedly, you will be tempted to take photographs. If you want to end up with good results, take a camera that has a reasonably powerful zoom feature and avoid any temptation to move too close to the horses for that great close-up shot.

Use Common Sense and Be Respectful of the Horses

This basically says it all. Using common sense, maintaining a respectful distance and following the rules is the best way to have a successful and memorable experience with the wild horses.