North Carolina's Wild Horses

The Ocracoke "Banker" Ponies (cont'd)

     With so few horses on Ocracoke, the Park Service brought in two horses from the Shackleford herd to add to the blood lines. Managing the population on Ocracoke is important since there is only so much room available within the fenced pastures. The Park Service never wanted the horses to stay on the island in the first place since they were not a "native" species. However, since their historical and cultural significance was an integral part of Ocracoke, and indeed the entire Outer Banks, these horses were kept. The same is true of their nearest neighbors, the Shackleford Banks herd, which is also under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

     Ocracoke residents used to round up the island horses yearly for Independence Day. They would brand the new colts since the last roundup, and often buyers from the mainland would come to buy some of the horses.

     Historically, the horses were used by Ocracoke residents for riding and work. The Lifesaving Service used the "Banker" ponies to pull rescue carts and for riding patrol along the beaches. In more recent times the Coast Guard also rode them on beach patrols. In 1956 the first mounted Boy Scout troop in the nation was formed on Ocracoke, and the scouts rode Ocracoke "Banker" ponies which they trained themselves. This didn't last long though because the National Park Service took over most of the land on the island in the '60s, and the N.C. Legislature passed a law to forbid horses running free on the island. The cost of keeping and feeding their horses instead of letting them graze free soon spelled the end of the mounted scout troop.

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