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Outer Banks wild horses kick and bite in vicious brawl amid vacation homes

Kimberlee Stevens Hoey took this photo Sunday of horses fighting in Carova Beach, N.C. Photo by Kimberlee Stevens Hoey
Kimberlee Stevens Hoey took this photo Sunday of horses fighting in Carova Beach, N.C. Photo by Kimberlee Stevens Hoey

A photographer captured the rarely publicized violent side of North Carolina’s beloved wild horses Sunday, as she watched two stallions on their hind legs, punching, kicking and biting each other amid Outer Banks vacation homes.

One of the photos was posted on Facebook by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, which used it to remind island visitors of why it’s illegal to approach the horses.

“This is why the 50-foot rule exists - for their safety AND yours,” said the post.

Kimberlee Stevens Hoey took the photos from the deck of her home in Carova Beach, the northern-most community on the Outer Banks. A group of mares also stood by in the yard and watched, she told the Charlotte Observer.

“It can be frightening because of the wild violence that takes place,” Hoey said.

“When a horse back kicks or bucks into another horse you can hear the sound of the hooves pounding into the other horse’s body. It is a loud, frightening sound. ... The entire fight lasted probably about 15 minutes as neither horse was backing down.”

In the end, one horse fled and appeared uninjured, she said. However, Hoey said she has seen other battles in her neighborhood where horses came away with severe wounds.

“There is absolutely a danger getting too close,” she said. “These horses are wild and unpredictable.”

Hoey is board president of the nonprofit Corolla Wild Horse Fund, an organization created to protect the herd from growing development on the Outer Banks. Historians believe the wild mustangs arrived nearly 500 years ago, and descend from Colonial Spanish Mustangs brought to North America by early explorers.

Meg Puckett, who manages the herd for Corolla, told the Charlotte Observer the fight likely involved a battle over territory or mares.

“When they are fighting for territory, they do not hold back,” Puckett said. “It’s completely natural and a behavior that we like to see. It means that the herd dynamics are healthy. ... Wounds from fighting are just part of a stallion’s life.”

There are nearly 100 horses in the herd living at Corolla, the Observer reported this month. A herd of more than 100 lives to the south on the Shackleford Banks, cared for by the Foundation for Shackleford Horses.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.