wild horse grazing safe plants

Plants Safe for Horses

One of the most common questions we get from property owners is “what can I plant that is safe for the horses?”

The simple answer is – go native! Native plants are always the best choice for our fragile environment. The North Carolina Native Plant Society has a wonderful resource for this: https://ncwildflower.org/recommended-native-species/ By planting native species you are helping our local wildlife, from deer and horses to pollinators like bees and bats. Native plants are also more guaranteed to thrive in the harsh conditions on the Outer Banks, and help with soil conservation and ground water management.

If you’d like to go a step further and make sure that your yard is horse-friendly, here is a list of native plants you might find in our area that are dangerous to horses: https://onslow.ces.ncsu.edu/2018/05/plants-weeds-toxic-to-horses/ Note that not all of them are deadly, and many of them grow naturally anyway but aren’t really a threat to horses since they rarely eat them. The one native tree that we ask people to avoid planting is red maple – we have lost horses to red maple poisoning in the past. 

One thing to always avoid – oleander. There is oleander all over the Outer Banks, but it is not native and it is highly toxic to both animals and people. There are lots of native shrubs that grow just as well here that aren’t harmful!

As for grass, you can’t go wrong with a local pasture mix. At the farm on the mainland we’ve had good luck with Kentucky 31; it grows well, is hardy, and safe for the horses. Make sure the seed you get is endophyte-free. Tall fescue grass can be infected by an endophyte fungus that is highly toxic and will cause pregnant mares to abort. Ryegrass is ok for horses in moderation but it does contain high levels of sugar and can cause health issues in horses predisposed to laminitis and metabolic issues. Clover can cause a condition called slobbers (excessive drooling) and is also high in sugar and protein; we’ve found that the wild horses don’t really like it that much anyway. Keep in mind that while this grass is generally safe for the horses, not all of it is native to our environment. 

Thank you for helping us make sure the horses stay safe, and continue to thrive in their habitat!

Farewell Finn

This morning (3/12/23) we are sad to announce the death of 11-year-old wild stallion Finn, who we humanely euthanized yesterday due to an irreparably broken hind leg.
Finn had been observed fighting with other stallions on Friday, and then unable/unwilling to move Friday night and into Saturday. Upon closer inspection, it was obvious that his leg was badly broken and under the direction of our veterinarian we captured him so that we could help end his suffering. Finn’s injuries were completely in line with those commonly sustained from fighting, and there is no reason to believe he was injured by human means (hit by a vehicle, etc).
While it is a devastating loss for those of us who cared for Finn and who will miss him dearly, what happened to him is nature in its most basic, wild, and unforgiving form. Finn died as wild as he was born; he lived a truly free life and that is something we should take comfort in.
As we go into spring and summer, Finn’s death should serve as a reminder of how wild and dangerous these horses are. It’s breeding season and stallions absolutely do not care if you are in the way when they are fighting. You will get trampled, kicked, bit, or worse. Stay at least 50 feet away from them at all times and always be aware of your surroundings. Fights can break out in a split second, and their movements can be unpredictable and quick. Please give these horses the respect they deserve – for their own safety and yours.

Junior is home!

Junior is home! He has settled in and seems comfortable and happy. He’s got to stay in a stall for the next 30 days, but we took out a wall so he’d have double the space. He can look out the window at the other horses and can also go for short walks to eat grass every day. We have a live-in caretaker here on the farm, and also have cameras set up in his stall so he is being monitored very closely 24/7. Our vet will be over on Friday (2/3/23) to check in on him and also remove his staples. He is not out of the woods yet, but coming home was a major milestone on his road to wellness.
Fingers crossed he continues to improve every day!

Junior’s Emergency


Report from Meg Puckett, Herd Manager

Last Thursday morning we noticed that Junior was acting a bit colicky. Colic in horses can be caused by any number of things, from stress to gas, bad feed, secondary to another issue, or just about anything in between. Luckily our vet was right around the corner, and already on his way to us for a previously scheduled, non-emergency appointment. When he arrived at the farm he immediately began to treat Junior for colic, which included a rectal exam to check for any blockages or twists in his intestines (neither of which were found), administering pain medication, and giving him fluids through a nasal tube. Junior responded somewhat well to treatment, but within a couple hours was displaying signs of being uncomfortable again. At that point our vet referred us to the hospital at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

We arrived at the hospital around 5:30pm where Junior was admitted and vets worked through the night to stabilize him and try to figure out what exactly was causing the colic. Friday morning they scoped him and found a section of his small intestine that was highly inflamed, and fluid that was collected indicated a very high white blood cell count. Junior was taken into surgery Friday afternoon where vets discovered he had strangulating lipoma. This is when a fatty cyst attaches to the intestine and damages it. The surgeons were able to remove several feet of damaged intestine and repair what was left, perform an abdominal lavage, and administer medication directly into the affected site. Junior did really well during surgery and while recovering from anesthesia.

The days immediately following surgery have been difficult, but Junior has been slowly heading in the right direction. He still has an abdominal drain inserted and is on antibiotics, but yesterday he was taken off IV fluids and pain medication and has handled that well so far. He’s eating a small amount, and the vets hope to increase his food intake little by little every day. Overall he is doing as good as anyone could hope for, but he is still in critical condition. We anticipate at least a ten day hospital stay for him, and then four to five months of recovery at home before he’ll be able to resume a somewhat normal life. He will live with an increased risk of colic and the formation of lesions on his intestines, but all of that is a bridge we will cross when we come to it. For right now we are taking things hour by hour and hoping that he continues to improve a little each day.

Junior has adapted well to being in the hospital and hasn’t shown any signs of stress in that regard, for which we are very grateful. Our vets tell us he’s been an excellent patient and we are just so proud of him for how brave and well-behaved he’s been. He is tough and smart, and as long as he is comfortable and keeps telling us he’s not done fighting we will do everything we can to keep him on the right path. We are going back to Raleigh tomorrow to visit him and plan on posting another update on Wednesday assuming nothing changes in the meantime.
If you’d like to make a donation towards Junior’s substantial veterinary bill you can do so via our website: https://www.corollawildhorses.com/one-time-donations/ Just write “Junior” in the comment section. Checks can be mailed to PO Box 361, Corolla, NC 27927. You can also donate via this post – all proceeds collected through Facebook come directly to CWHF with no fees taken out. Any funds raised that surpass Junior’s veterinary bills will go towards horse care and general operating costs at the rescue farm.
Even if you’re not able to donate at this time, prayers, positive energy, and love directed his way mean the world to him (and us as well).
Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a minute to extend a sincere and heartfelt thank you to our entire veterinary team, both here at home and at NCSU. There is no way to put into words just how grateful we are for everything – not just for the incredible care you’ve provided Junior but also for the support you’ve shown us humans too. This is true in every case, with every horse, but especially so now. Thank you, thank you. 🙏
(Photo is from Friday morning, before Junior went into surgery. He had a nasal tube inserted, which is why he is wearing a basket muzzle.)

Health Update on June

Thanks to everyone who has reached out over the last couple days to check in on June! She continues to do well – our vet is very pleased with how well she’s healing.

Today was a big day because June decided to voluntarily come inside her stall! It was a major show of trust and comfort on her part. We’re so glad she feels safe with us now. She also got to take a little walk around the farm this afternoon to stretch her legs and eat some grass. That will be a daily occurrence for her now – she was so well behaved and really enjoyed it. She’s started to become affectionate with us and seeks out attention, and she REALLY loves meal times.

She got her last dose of the pythium vaccine this week, and will be on antibiotics for a bit longer but overall she simply could not be doing any better! To say we are thrilled is an understatement. All the photos in this post were taken today.

June is Home!

We have some bright news to share on this gloomy day – after 20 days spent in the hospital, June is home! She still has a ways to go before she gets the all-clear from our vets but she is doing very well, and improving every day.

Earlier posts about June’s rescue and hospitalization:

June has been settling in at the farm and we’ve spent the last few days getting to know each other and getting into a routine. She can’t be in the same paddock with other horses yet, but she’s sharing a fence line with Virginia Dare and Buttercup, and Junior and Riptide are about 20ft away from her so she’s got plenty of friends close by. She’s eating and drinking really well (gobbles up her meds twice a day like a champ!) and while she absolutely refuses to stand inside a stall, she’s got the option to go in and out if she wants to. She likes to be scratched on her face, and can easily be caught, led around, and cared for. She’s still a chestnut mare though, and doesn’t let you forget it – iykyk.

She will get her final dose of the pythiosis vaccine this week, and there have been no signs of the infection returning. While there is always a chance that things could go downhill again, at this point there is no reason to think she won’t continue on the right track. (It’s important to note that the vaccine has only been proven effective when administered after infection – it is not a preventative.) The wound on her leg looks fabulous, with lots of healthy new tissue growing every day. She is sound and showing no signs of discomfort.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you again for the support. June’s substantial vet bill is covered because of your generosity – everyone who donated, shared our posts, and wished June well played a large role in saving her life. And not only have we saved June, but hopefully what our vets have learned from her will help save other horses too. So little is known about this awful disease, and other horse owners dealing with it may not have the resources to put into treatment that we do. Vets may not always get the opportunity to follow through from start to finish, but with a case like June’s (and Riptide’s) they are able to learn more and more about the best ways to treat pythiosis. It’s also an incredible teaching opportunity for the NCSU veterinary students.

And speaking of vets and hospital staff, what can we say besides thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are so lucky to have such an amazing team of compassionate, brilliant people working with us. It has been a pretty awful month and a half for our staff and those close to our organization, and your support through June’s recovery and also during the week we were trying to save Ceres is so greatly appreciated. Thank you for the respect and empathy you’ve shown not just the horses, but us humans too.

In case you missed it, we are having an open house at the farm on October 15 from 10am – 2pm. If you are local or happen to be in town that weekend, please stop by and welcome June home! Check out our events page for more info.

Loss of Ceres

We have some devastating news to share this morning. Late last night we made the difficult decision to euthanize 6-week-old filly Ceres due to a very severe case of pythiosis. She was in the same harem as June, the mare who is currently at NC State being treated for the same infection.

Ceres was seen by one of our staff on Saturday, September 10 with no visible wounds and was behaving normally. The following Monday, September 12 at around 8am, staff saw her again and a lesion had developed on top of the coronary band of her right front hoof. We immediately contacted our vet, who confirmed that it was most likely pythiosis, and we spent the entire day coordinating between ourselves and the vets at NC State to come up with the best plan of action. Since Ceres was so young, there were additional challenges that we don’t face with adult horses that require extra planning and logistics. We came up with a plan for capturing her and the hospital in Raleigh was prepared to admit her as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, after Monday the horses disappeared and despite hours and hours of exhaustive searching, we were unable to find them. Finally, this Tuesday one of our staff noticed what looked like foal hoofprints going into some very thick brush where there are no roads. She got out and walked as far as she could and was able to see the horses in the distance. Ceres was up and moving around, so we knew she was still alive and able to walk. We couldn’t get to them, but at least we knew what area to focus on. Then yesterday, the group came out of the deep woods and luck was on our side as we were able to get them all trapped under a house. Under the advisement of our vet, our herd manager sedated Ceres and we were able to safely move the adult horses out from under the house and then get Ceres onto the horse trailer and back to the rescue farm. Our vet met us there around 9pm to examine her and do x-rays.

The damage to Ceres’ hoof and the bones in her lower leg was irreparable. The infection had set into the bone and her hoof was sloughing off. She was in a great deal of pain and while on one hand it is always difficult to make the decision to euthanize, in a case like this we knew there was no other choice and that it was the right thing to do – beyond the shadow of a doubt. Ceres was laid to rest late last night next to the mares’ pasture, so that she’ll always have her aunts looking over her.

The rest of the harem is doing fine this morning. Ceres’ mother called for her during the night, but as of right now they have all settled down and are grazing quietly.

In anticipation of questions we will surely get:
Why did it progress so quickly with Ceres, while June is recovering and responding so well to treatment? Ceres was only a little over a month old when she contracted the infection. Her immune system was basically non-existent, just like with babies of any species. Foals are remarkably tough in some ways, but incredibly fragile in others.

Is pythiosis contagious? Could she have passed it on to her mom or the other horses? No. It cannot transfer between horses, or from horses to humans. There is no risk of the horses passing it on to each other, even with direct contact to the lesion.

Why is this happening?
Where does the pythiosis come from? How do the horses get it? Pythiosis is a fungus that grows on decaying plant matter in water. When we don’t get solid freezes in the winter, bacteria, fungus, and other pathogens can grow rampantly. Unsettled weather patterns (flooding rain immediately followed by months of excessive heat) exacerbate the problem. It enters into the body through an open cut – something as small as a pinprick could lead to the infection. The horses’ habitat is primarily marshy, swampy, wet terrain. There is no feasible way to test for pythiosis and isolate areas where it is present, and there is no way to remove it from the environment. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a very cold winter.

So what can we do? First and foremost, property owners need to make sure there is nothing in their yards that the horses can get tangled in that causes cuts and abrasions to their lower legs. Wire, sand fencing, ropes, other garbage – please, please clean it up. We are seeing an increase in the amount of poorly constructed, unsafe fencing in the area where June and Ceres lived. The horses get caught up in it, walk through contaminated water, and then end up with the infection. If you want to enclose your property, build a solid fence. High-tensile wire can be a death trap. Help us keep an eye on the horses by looking at bellies and lower legs. If you notice a wound, let us know. We are monitoring horses in affected areas very, very closely and the more eyes, the better.

If you’re wondering why it was so difficult for us to locate the horses once they disappeared, this post will help you better understand their habitat: https://www.facebook.com/corollaw…/posts/10160021432653330

There is a lot more that could be said about the disease, management, treatment, and future research, but hopefully that helps answer some common questions. We have an amazing team of vets who have gone above and beyond to support us as we navigate this, and we continue to learn from each and every case. We are grateful for your continued support as well, and appreciate everyone understanding that right now our staff is grieving and heartbroken and may not be able to respond to every comment and question right away but we will do our best.

Media outlets: Photos and information from this post can be shared, credit to CWHF. At this point we have no further comment beyond the information provided in this post.

There are photos of Ceres’ wound in the comments of this post. Please be advised that they are graphic, but it’s important to us that people see the severity of what we are dealing with and also know what to look for in other horses.

Welcome Cosmos!

Welcome to the world, Cosmos!

This colt was born sometime between Thursday night and early yesterday afternoon. He is big, strong, and healthy, and his experienced parents are doing fine too. It’s not uncommon for there to be a couple fall babies born every year – we still have a few months of warm weather ahead of us and our winters are generally pretty temperate. Nothing to worry about there.

Please remember to give foals and their families plenty of space. Mom and baby need time to bond and recover from birth, and stallions (especially this little one’s dad) can be aggressively protective. The herd faces so many challenges that we do not have control over; please do not harm the horses by breaking the rules that are in place to keep you and them safe.

June Treated for Pythiosis

On Wednesday August 31, we got a call from a visitor that June, a 12 year old mare, had a cut on the bottom of her leg near the top of her hoof. After checking it out, we put out word to everyone to keep an eye on her but it wasn’t an emergency situation at that point. However, by Friday the wound had grown and there were indications of underlying infection. The vet was consulted and we decided to continue monitoring her closely for the next couple days to see how things progressed, but start making plans for rescue and removal just in case. By Monday, the wound had grown even more and began to look like what we had been afraid of – pythiosis.

On Wednesday of this week, we successfully captured June and took her to our rescue farm on the mainland. Our vet came over that evening to examine her and take x-rays, and then consulted with specialists at NC State University who told us to get her to the hospital in Raleigh the next day. We arrived in Raleigh around 1pm yesterday, and the veterinary team there was waiting for us so they could take June into surgery immediately. Yesterday’s procedure was successful; they were able to remove the lesion and begin treatment for pythiosis. June recovered well and as of late yesterday evening was comfortable in a stall eating hay. She’ll have a bandage change today and we’ll get another update on how things look. She is still in critical condition and has a long road ahead of her, but yesterday was promising. June will likely be in the hospital for several more weeks and will need multiple surgeries to remove infected tissue. We are hoping that between getting her quickly removed for treatment, the fact that the hoof and bone don’t seem to be compromised yet, and the excellent care she is receiving at NC State she has a chance at survival. But we are very much taking things a day at a time and know from past experience that even with the best, most intensive treatment possible things could go downhill very quickly.

In the wild June was part of a harem that many people affectionately referred to as “the blondes.” She spent most of her adult life with Junior, and after we had to rescue Junior last summer when he choked on an apple, she and the other mare in the group, Anne Bonny, ended up with Scar’s harem. June’s sire was Roamer, and we are pretty sure her dam is Blossom, who is still alive and well in the wild. Through all of this, June has been a shining example of what makes the Banker horses so special. She’s been so smart and sensible about everything, taking it all in stride and adapting to her new circumstances with a grace we certainly don’t take for granted coming from a sick, scared wild horse. We didn’t have much time to slowly introduce her to domestic life, but after only about 45 minutes of practicing leading and being touched, we were able to walk her right onto the trailer yesterday morning. When we got to the hospital, she unloaded calmly and walked in like she’d been doing it all her life. The vets remarked that most domestic horses aren’t that well-behaved when coming into a scary place like the hospital. She is a very special mare.

We appreciate any support you can offer June, whether it’s financial, sharing this post, or simply keeping her in your thoughts. If you donate via the button on this post, 100% of your contribution comes directly to CWHF with no fees taken out. You can also donate through our website – https://www.corollawildhorses.com/one-time-donations/ Any donations received that exceed the cost of medical care for June will go towards the general care and wellness of the horses on the rescue farm.

Thank you for helping us give June the best chance possible at recovery. We will continue to update everyone on her condition and appreciate your support through this very difficult time.

The Secret of Corolla Wins Best Short Documentary & Best Musical Score at Equus International Film Festival in Montana



The Secret of Corolla is the story about the wild Banker horses found only on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and how they have made those islands their home for more than 500 years.

The film debuted in the fall of 2021 and has been making the rounds on the independent film circuit and winning consistently winning awards. The film was selected by three festivals and has won multiple awards. Recent wins include The Foothills Film Festival in Shelby, NC – Award Of Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking, The Equus Film and Arts Festival in Ocala, FL – Runner-Up Best Film Overall, and The Beaufort Film Festival in Beaufort, NC.

These wins were a precursor to entering the most prestigious festival of them all; The Equus International Film Festival in Montana. Upon submitting the film for the festival, the expectations were high, as well as the competition. We are pleased to announce that The Secret of Corolla won multiple awards; First Place for Best Music Score and the crowning achievement and top honor the film has been pursuing of First Place for Best Documentary Short.

The film is a story about perseverance. Not just by the horses but also by the people who call this extraordinary place, the Outer Banks, their home. Jerry Thompson is honored to share the unique culture of the Outer Banks with a broad and international audience.

Through devastating hurricanes, swarms of biting flies, increasingly hot temperatures, and the constant threat of developing the islands into prime vacation property, these horses and the locals continue to share the island. They have found a way to live together in a most uncommon accord and have created an incredibly remarkable and uniquely wondrous place. Jerry Thompson has brought Corolla’s horse/human delicate balance to the silver screen.

“Thank you for giving us this amazing film! You truly told the story of the horses like it was meant to be told. We are so proud of you, Jerry, and the way you’ve told their story to the world.” – Meg Puckett, Herd Manager for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund

Jerry is available for interviews. The website to view the film’s trailers can be found at https://www.thesecretofcorolla.com/, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the film goes to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Access to download the entire film for review will be granted upon request. Additional images are available upon request.

Jerry Thompson
615-627-7010 / jerry@bigdogfilms.com

Kelly Wilkes
Assistant for Press Inquiries
804-921-6147 / kwilkes531@gmail.com