It’s Assateague Island, a barrier island to the more familiar Chincoteague Island, Virginia… of Misty of Chincoteague fame. (If you’re a horse lover and/or a book lover – which I am both – you may have heard of this island).
As a second grader, the story of Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry absorbed me. Wild horses, according to legend, shipwrecked and abandoned on a wild island. Roaming free for years. One day, a wild horse births a special foal. And two children are determined to rescue this foal, Misty, they called her.
After reading this book, and all the sequels, I begged and begged my parents to take me to this island. I wanted to see the Wild Pony Penning, watch the horses swim the channel and walk up Main Street. Mostly, I wanted to win a horse in the raffle before the auction! (I never did!).
I don’t know what made my parents listen to me (I mean, they hadn’t bought that pony I asked for each Christmas!) but they took us on vacation one hot July to Chincoteague Island, Virginia. There, we biked and hiked all over Assateague Island, often spotting herds of wild ponies munching salty marsh grass. Sometimes getting close enough to touch them, but we didn’t, because the signs warned: “Wild ponies bite and kick.”
We rose early one hot, sticky morning and crowded the water’s edge with thousands of others, watching the ponies swim the channel from their island to ours. You could just make out their pointy ears bobbing along. Then after a rest, the horses paraded down Main Street proudly for the annual Fireman’s Carnival. It’s during this time (and several others during the year) that the herds are inspected for health, treated for illnesses, and the one-year-olds auctioned off to help maintain the herd population.
The wild island of Assateague drew me in. Long stretches of beaches, stamped with running hoofprints. Miles of marshy grasslands, undulating in beach breezes. But mostly, the beautiful freedom of horses running wild! I’d squish my toes into the sand, letting the waves suck my feet deeper, and pray to return again and again. And I knew I would. Because legend has it that once the sands of this island get between your toes, you’ll always be back.
I’ve returned to Assateague many times over the years. With my family, with my husband, and someday, I’ll go with my children. I’ve still got sand between my toes…and the sound of wild horses’ hoofbeats drumming in my ears.
I suppose my love for those wild horses is what draws me to the cause of the Saving America’s Mustangs. The stories seem similar, wild horses yearning to run free. But the similarities end abruptly – the plight of 30,000+ mustangs is more dire than the few hundred Chincoteague ponies that are rather well-kept in their natural island preserve.
Wild horses are a living symbol of our American heritage and freedom. These Mustangs must be protected. Businesswoman and philanthropist, Madeleine Pickens, is committed to this promise. Through her Foundation, citizens from all walks of life are uniting to create a permanent home, a Sanctuary, to save these magnificent national treasures.
When I think of the American Mustang, I’m reminded of our freedom as Americans, of adventure, of discovery as families moved West to new beginnings. As our freedoms need constant protecting, so do those of the beautiful wild American Mustang. The American Mustang faces many issues:
- government roundups, which involve low-flying helicopters that race the horses into roundup areas
- removal from free-ranging lands,
- corraling into holding pens due to over-population of herds from inappropriate management,
- and worst of all, being sold to killer buyers who slaughter these horses for financial gain!
Those who know me well, know that I hate waste in government, or life in general. It’s senseless that millions of dollars in taxpayer monies are being wasted through mismanagement: directed more and more into feeding penned up horses than into properly managing herds on free-ranging lands to begin with! The impact on the American Mustang is clear to see – fewer wild horses, and more penned up ones. This should not be!
Pickens seeks to create Mustang Monument, a wild horse eco-preserve that offers a place for currently penned horses to thrive on free-ranging land. The sanctuary will give these horses back to America as a “patriotic place” where people can stay on the land, observe the horses in their natural habitat, learn about the history of the Mustang and take part in creative writing, photography and other workshops. To me, this sounds like a wonderful place! Families can vacation here for a truly American and educational experience; artists can recharge and grow, and through these recreational experiences, monies will be raised to preserve the mustangs’ habitat. Generations to come will have a hands-on part in saving these lovely animals.
Saving America’s Mustangs is about more than saving wild horses, it’s also protecting our American Heritage. There used to be over two million wild mustangs … now there’s under 30,000 free-ranging mustangs, and about 35,000 in holding pens. It’s tragic to see an integral part of our history edged out of their lands and poorly treated. You and I can help by spreading the word about this cause to save horses, and save a way of life.
Pinterest Party Alert! August 10-24, 2012. Pin for a cause! Join us for the #SaveAmericasMustangs Party on Pinterest! We’re giving away (2) $200 prizes. Stay tuned for more details!
DISCLOSURE: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Saving America’s Mustangs. #CBias #SocialFabric. All opinions are 100% my own.