Thursday, June 18, 2009

An official state horse?

North Carolina can boast a state reptile, gem, boat, dog, insect, etc. But up until now, there's been (as far as I can tell) very little clamor for a state horse. (After all, our northern neighbors in Virginia and Kentucky seem to hog the equestrian limelight.)

Now some students in Currituck County want to change that by campaigning for the Outer Banks mustang -- the banker -- to be the official state horse [says the Daily Advance].

Fourth-graders in the Currituck County Schools have started a letter-writing campaign to save the bankers — not the Wall Street kind, the equine kind.

Students have already written more than 400 letters to state lawmakers, asking them to make “banker ponies” — as the wild horses of Corolla are sometimes known — North Carolina’s official state horse.

“The marvelous Colonial Spanish Mustang is the perfect fit for North Carolina’s state horse,” writes student Lauren Cutler, in one of the letters. “So if the Spanish Colonial Mustang was our horse, maybe it won’t be endangered anymore.”

The horses, about 100 of whom roam the northern Outer Banks, are believed to be the descendants of the Colonial Spanish mustangs brought to the New World by Spanish explorers nearly 500 years ago. They’re called “bankers” because they live on the Outer Banks and ponies because of their small size — 14 to 15 hands, or about five feet from ground to shoulder.

Advocates for the horses worry about their future, particularly as the Outer Banks becomes more developed and their contact with humans increases. ...

School officials hit on the idea of making the wild herd North Carolina’s official state horse the subject of fourth-graders’ writing assessment this year. Students have to complete the writing assignment in order to pass their grade. ...

To prepare students for the writing assignment, each fourth-grader in the county schools learned about the horses’ history, how they came to the Outer Banks and how the breed has dwindled from human interaction, Jensen said. They also got to meet one of the horses — a tame 3-year-old named Uno who was rehabilitated after being injured, and now lives on a farm in Jarvisburg. ...

According to, 11 states have horses listed as a state animal or honorary equine, but only seven have an official state horse. North Carolina isn’t among them.

Organizers hope the letter-writing project creates more awareness about the wild horses and their place in the history of the Outer Banks, Jensen said.

“People don’t understand or realize about the history of these horses and how important it is to protect the breed,” she said.

Good luck to the students. I hope they are successful.

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