Colonial Spanish Mustangs / Law would make breed NC state horse
By Toby Tate
Friday, January 22, 2010
CURRITUCK — Standing before an audience of more than 500 at Shawboro Elementary School on Friday, second-grader Catherine Simila declaredwhy she thinks the Colonial Spanish Mustang should be North Carolina’s state horse.
“These horses have survived the most violent weather, sand, heat and even sun,” she said. “Because of their toughness and iron will, there is no other horse to represent our strong state of North Carolina.”
About 20 state and local officials attended the State Horse Letter Writing Campaign Presentation. The purpose is to urge state leaders to draft legislation to make the Wild Spanish Mustangs of Currituck, Dare and Carteret counties the official state horse.
So far Currituck has amassed about 1,000 letters since the campaign began in June of last year, according to school officials. The letters are part of a state-mandated letterwriting campaign for all fourth-graders in Currituck County, though any student could participate.
Fourth-grader Sarah McClellan gave a brief history of the horses and why they are disappearing.
“The Spanish breed came to the Outer Banks from a Spanish ship that crashed in a big storm before there were any lighthouses,” she said. “About 37 horses got murdered by cars. I really wish for you to select the Colonial Spanish Mustangs as North Carolina’s state horse because they have been through a lot.”
State Rep. Tim Spear, D-Washington, said he was there to pledge his support for the bill’s introduction.
Also pledging support in letters that were read during the assembly were U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.
State Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, said that instead of introducing a separate bill, Rep. Bob England, D-Ellenboro, is allowing legislators to amend his bill, House Bill 1251, which designates June as Cancer Screening Awareness Month.
“We got permission from him to use his bill and we’ve already got it drafted and ready to go,” he said.
Currituck County Commissioner Barry Nelms said the idea is excellent not only for Currituck, but for the entire region.
“The horses from day one have been a major draw and tourism is the mainstay and probably always will be for Currituck, Dare and Pasquotank Counties and the entire region,” Nelms said.
Currituck School Board Chairwoman Pat Stretar agreed.
“I think (the Spanish Mustang) should be our state horse,” she said. “I’m absolutely for it. I think (the entire school board) is.”
Karen McAlpin, executive director of the Wild Horse Fund, who helped organize the assembly, said the letter-writing has snowballed into a much larger project encompassing other counties.
“This is a huge step for the wild horses and they’ll finally get the honor and recognition that they deserve,” she said. “They’re part of our history and culture, not just in Currituck County or the Outer Banks, but they’re part of American History and they’re disappearing.
They’re everybody’s horses, not just our county’s.”
There are currently about 100 wild horses living in a 12,000-acre parcel of land in Corolla, contained between to sound-to-sea fences, according to the Wild Horse Fund Web site.
The state horse designation does not entitle the horses to federal protection, however, according to Owens, who said that Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, may try to introduce legislation to do so.
Also attending Friday’s assembly was a representative of Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare.
Contact Toby Tate at firstname.lastname@example.org