Rest Easy, Caroline

We are sad to report tonight the death of 12-year-old wild mare Caroline.

Around 5 pm this evening, witnesses observed a stallion aggressively chasing her and trying to breed her and then saw her fall to the ground and die nearly instantaneously. Our veterinarian performed a field necropsy and found that Caroline’s neck had been broken. No abnormalities or injuries were found internally. Blood was taken and will be processed, but we do not anticipate finding any abnormalities there either. Her injury was in line with the behavior reported, and while it is a devastating loss, it was the result of natural wild horse behavior.
Caroline’s death should serve as yet another reminder of just how truly wild and dangerous these horses are – especially when hormones are involved.

Another boy!

May 3, 2023

Our weather was very unsettled on Sunday and we had a feeling a foal or two may make an appearance because of it, and we were right! This colt was born late Sunday or early Monday morning. His name is Drake. 🦆 That makes 3 for the season so far! Two colts and a filly.

Welcome to the 4×4, Drum!

April 23, 2023

Introducing foal #2 for the year – a colt named Drum. 🐟 This big guy isn’t brand new; he’s probably a couple of weeks old. His mom has been keeping him back in the marsh but decided to parade him around a bit today for everyone to see.
Remember to please give foals plenty of space! Crowding them can lead to habituation, and it also stresses the parents out. You must stay at least 50ft away at all times, and this goes for when you are inside your vehicle too. Every single one of these youngsters is critical to the long-term survival of this endangered breed. They face many natural challenges that we have no control over, so please do not add to those challenges by ignoring the laws that are in place to keep them safe.

Dove has arrived!

Spring is here, and so are the foals! This filly, named Dove, was born in the last week and appears to be thriving. Her mother is in excellent condition too. Dove is extra special to us because her grandfather is our dear Amadeo, who passed away in 2020. 🕊️
We know that foals are very exciting, but please remember they are also very fragile and need plenty of space. It’s illegal to approach, harass, or entice the horses and you must stay 50ft away from them at all times. We also ask that people not park and sit right on top of them, and do not circle around and around them. Definitely do not get out of your vehicle! Take your photo and move on. Crowding them stresses out the adults and it habituates the foals during a very critical time in their development. The adults can also be very territorial and protective, and by getting too close you are putting yourself in serious danger.
Our herd count is less than 100 right now; we cannot afford to lose horses due to human-caused problems. They face so many challenges to their survival that are beyond our control (remember, last year we lost two foals to natural causes), so please do not make things even more difficult by not following the rules and behaving disrespectfully. Your actions have serious, long-lasting consequences and every single person who visits the 4×4 needs to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Please help us keep these horses safe, treat their habitat with respect and care, and speak out when you see others not following the rules.
If you witness someone bothering the horses or breaking the law, please immediately call the Currituck County sheriff’s department at 252-453-3633. A deputy will be dispatched, and they will also contact CWHF so that we can send our staff over as well. We can’t do anything about it if you call or message after the fact, so please don’t hesitate if you see something! Photos, video, and license plate numbers help too.
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: 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: 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: 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.