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

Corolla Wild Horses - New Foal - Ceres

Welcome to the Beach, Ceres!

We have a new foal! It’s a filly, and she’s about two days old. Welcome to the beach, Ceres!

Outer Banks wild horse film wins honors at EQUUS arts fest

May 11, 2022

Note from CWHF –

If you haven’t seen “The Secret of Corolla” yet…what are you waiting for?? This film is generating all kinds of impressive and well-deserved accolades! It tells the story of the Banker horses and the people who have lived with them, loved them, and worked tirelessly to protect them for many generations.
The Coast/Virginian-Pilot Online
by Kipp Tabb

Jerry Thompson wasn’t upset when his documentary film about the Outer Banks wild horses, “The Secret of Corolla,” placed second at the 2021 EQUUS Film & Arts Fest.

The winning entry was Robert Redford’s film, “The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses,” putting the second place finish in perspective.

“The Redford film was mostly about the (Bureau of Land Management) ponies out west. So, to come in second place behind a Robert Redford film. I’m okay with that,” he said.

The EQUUS second-place ribbon is not the only winning entry Thompson’s film has had. He also won an Award of Excellence at the Shelby Foothills Film Festival.

The movie, about 30 minutes long, is a beautifully filmed tribute to the four-wheel drive area of Carova on the northern Outer Banks as much as it is the story of the wild horses that roam there. Although he touches on the history of the Corolla herd, by design he does not come to any conclusions.

“I think it was more important to realize what we have, and not make a big deal out of something that’s sort of irrelevant,” he said. “It’s more important that we enjoy it and protect it than it is to win an argument about genetics.

Thompson said the Outer Banks has been a special place throughout his life. He grew up in Norfolk and our strip of the coast was, “…my dad’s absolute favorite place.”

He’s living in Tennessee now, but the Outer Banks still call to him.

“When I had kids we made that our go-to place,” he said. “It’s my favorite place to vacation on the earth.”

While on vacation in Carova in 2016, the idea for a movie first took root.

“We were staying in the 4×4, around 2016. Just looking around, it’s such a peaceful, calming place. I got to thinking, ‘how did this place get like this.’ That was the seed for the idea to do the movie,” Thompson said.

As a professional filmmaker, a movie was the natural outlet for telling the story. His film company, Big Dog Films, had been making movies for schools and corporations for a number of years, but nothing like his award-winning Outer Banks project.

“‘The Secret of Corolla’ is my first film that that I did for me. It’s a challenge and it took us a while from 2016 until 2021. So it was a good four-and-a-half year process of getting through it and I loved every second of it,” Thompson said.

There may be more awards coming later this year. He entered the film in the International Equus Film and Arts Festival in Dillon, Montana.

“The festival is in September,” he said. “I sure would love to go to that. That would be a fun time.”

Welcome Cricket!

May 5, 2022

Our newest foal has made her first public appearance! She was born on Tuesday, and her name is Cricket. This brings the 2022 count to six so far, with five surviving.
(We are still waiting for one more test result from Charlie’s necropsy and then we will hopefully have some answers to share.)
Please remember to give the horses plenty of space! Crowding new mothers can cause stress that may lead to all sorts of complications, including abandoning foals. They need time to bond, rest, recover, and grow. Please stay 50ft (or more!) away at all times.

Hello Charlie!

March 25,2022
Foaling season has officially begun! Welcome to the world, baby number one – a colt we are calling Charlie.
Please remember to give mares and foals plenty of space. We really cannot stress this enough. It’s imperative that they have time to bond with each other, and stress can cause all kinds of issues with both mom and foal. If you are lucky enough to see them, please be respectful and responsible. Do not stop and get out of your vehicle, do not hover on top of them (50ft applies when you’re inside a vehicle too), and definitely do not approach, touch, or feed.

Brio Update

March 14, 2022

Report by Meg Puckett, Herd Manager


It’s been exactly a week since we rescued Brio, and we are happy to report today that he continues to do well! He’s finally starting to act more like a normal 7 month old colt. In the last day or two he’s started showing signs of being more aware of his surroundings and the other horses, he’s laying down and getting good, restorative sleep, and he’s been nibbling on grass. Not quite as “out of it” as he was when we first brought him to the farm last Monday. He’s figured out that humans aren’t too bad, and he really enjoys scratches and his daily walks around the farm. He has a follow-up appointment with the vet on Wednesday, where he’ll also have his feet trimmed for the first time. Overall, we are very pleased with his progress and we’re feeling optimistic about his future.
Still no sign of Brio’s mom, but we haven’t given up on her. Her territory consists of hundreds of acres of marsh and maritime forest that is largely inaccessible to humans, so there is still a very good chance she is fine and will eventually make her way out to an area where she’ll be spotted. We are keeping our fingers crossed and our eyes peeled.
We are so grateful for the outpouring of support for Brio. Thank you for your donations, your well wishes, and your trust in us to take the best care of him. We’ll do another update later this week after he sees the vet!

Brio Removed from the Wild

March 10, 2022

Two Sundays ago (2/27) we were alerted to the fact that Brio, who was born last summer, seemed to be alone. While he was understandably calling for his mother and the other horses, he did not seem to be in any immediate physical danger. Since he was technically old enough to be weaned, we consulted with the vet and decided not to intervene right away, and wait to see if he joined back up with the group that contains his dad Rocky, grandmother, and Betsy, who was also born last year. His mom was nowhere to be found.
Our staff closely watched Brio for a week, and while he did settle down and stop calling for his mom, he never moved very far from the place where he was first spotted. Last weekend Rocky and the rest of the family were within eyesight of Brio several times, and he never showed any interest in them, nor they in him. On Monday morning, just over a week after he was first spotted, we saw that Brio was becoming weak and wobbly in his back legs, was lethargic, and had started to lose weight. It was clear that Brio was certainly not going to thrive on his own, and most likely would not survive. We caught him and took him to our rescue farm on the mainland, where our vet met us immediately. He determined that Brio has pneumonia, and we discovered just how thin he had become (it’s hard to tell under all that hair, but once we got our hands on him we could feel every single one of his ribs and his hip bones). We are hopeful that the issues with his hind legs will be resolved with proper nutrition and corrective hoof trimming.
Brio was started on antibiotics and has a follow-up appointment next week where we will xray his legs if our vet deems it appropriate. Luckily we’ve already noticed an improvement after a few days of careful feeding and we’re hoping this trend continues. Today Brio is finally more alert and aware of his surroundings, and seems to be feeling better in general. He needs to be dewormed and desperately needs a bath (his skin and coat are in really poor condition too) but one thing at a time. We don’t want to overload his already stressed little body. Brio is very small and immature for his age and does not seem to have developed proper social skills when it comes to interacting with other horses. This alone put him at great risk of being injured or killed in the wild. But now that he’s at the farm we can safely introduce him to other horses once he’s well enough and he will have good role models from here on out.
We are not sure what happened to Brio’s mom. They were last seen together just a couple weeks ago and both of them seemed to be in decent shape. It’s possible she weaned him, or left him behind because she could tell he was sick. It’s also possible that she has died. We have been keeping a close eye out for her, but the majority of the area where they lived is very remote and difficult to access. We are incredibly lucky that Brio turned up in a more populated area. Otherwise, we may not have known that he was alone and things could have ended much differently for him.
It’s very hard to lose a horse from the wild, especially a young one like Brio, but there is no doubt he would have not have survived on his own and needs more care than we could have ever provided in the field. We are very cautiously optimistic that he is going to pull through, but these situations can go sideways fast. We are very grateful for our amazing veterinary team and our experienced staff, all keeping a very close eye on him and ready to address any other issues that may arise.
If you’d like to help with Brio’s care and rehabilitation, you can donate directly through Facebook and 100% of the proceeds come to CWHF with no fees taken out. You can also make a donation through our website – https://www.corollawildhorses.com/one-time-donations/ Just write “Brio” in the notes/comments section. We know times are tight for everyone right now, and you can rest assured that every single dollar makes an incredible difference in the lives of these horses. We are so grateful for your support.
We will keep everyone updated on Brio’s progress, and appreciate your good vibes and prayers, your support, and your trust in us to do what’s best for him. He is a fighter, and we will continue to provide the best possible care for him.