While there are over 100 wild horses living on the Shackleford Banks in Cape Lookout National Seashore in the Outer Banks, you have to be lucky if you want to see them for yourself. Truly wild, these horses live off the land and avoid humans whenever possible.
They know exactly where to hide in their marshy habitat, and keeping track of the herd is difficult even for trained researchers and park officials. That's exactly why this 20-second video of a wild foal playing around its mother is so special.
A National Park Service volunteer came upon the rare scene and captured the adorable play session using a telephoto lens. Without the lens, the video most likely wouldn't exist. Wild horses in this part of the Outer Banks are notoriously wary of humans, and they don't appreciate being watched or approached.
Thanks to the long-distance lens, we get to see something extremely rare. While Margaret Poindexter, president of the foundation that co-manages the herd, told The Charlotte Observer there are probably around six foals born this spring, the one caught on video is only one of two that has actually been found and observed. The foal was first spotted in late April while its fellow foals remain hidden elsewhere on the island.
In the video, the young colt is seen bucking and frolicking around his mother while she does her best to ignore her energetic offspring. She's more interested in munching on grass than joining in on the fun, but she keeps an eye on him and their surroundings.
All the wild horses are wary of humans, but mothers with new foals are especially protective. If they feel threatened or cornered, they might turn and walk away, but they might also choose to fight by charging, biting, or kicking the perceived threat.
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This is one of the reasons it's a state law that humans are not allowed within 50 feet of the Shackleford Banks wild horses. It's also illegal to feed, tease, or otherwise disturb their natural behavior. The wild horses that call the island home are extremely beloved, and it's a priority to keep them wild and free.