Love Those Wild Ponies!

Lawton and Maya being adorable.
Lawton and Maya being adorable.

Jocelyn Wright contributed this update on the Ocracoke pony herd.

Jocelyn is Ocracoke's lead biotechnician for the National Park Service. 

Learn more about the ponies at the NPS summer programs. Meet at the Pony Pens on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 am. Check out the "In The Park" newspaper, available for free at the Visitor Center, for other summer programs and activities.  

The ponies have experienced a lot of changes in the past six years.  Laura Michaels became the full time Wrangler in 2008 after volunteering with the ponies for seven years.  Bill Caswell, who cared for the ponies for several years, retired in 2009 and Kenny Ballance retired in 2012.  The ponies have been managed by law enforcement, maintenance, and most recently, I became involved when resource management became the managing division at Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CAHA).  Each division has accomplished different goals for the ponies and we’ve been able to make several positive changes since November 2012.

I began working with Laura Michaels and the Ocracoke ponies in November 2012. After moving to Ocracoke Island in 2008 I volunteered with the ponies but it has been a totally different, and wonderful, experience to work closely with Laura in the day-to-day care of the ponies.  There has been renewed interest within the community and we wanted to share some of the changes that have taken place, as well as some plans for the future.  

The pony management plan is currently being revised, which includes all aspects of caring for the ponies from daily care and feed, to a breeding program. Monthly conference calls have been established with headquarters. Two volunteer meetings have been held and it is expected that volunteer meetings will occur quarterly.  Daily communication occurs between Laura, myself, and the volunteers through phone calls, texts, and e-mails. This communication has made a more cohesive team.  The much-needed sand has been delivered and more is on the way soon.  Four large manure clean-ups took place over the winter with the help of volunteers and park staff.  Fencing has been repaired – a never ending project – and various maintenance projects have been completed.  

Ponies everywhere! From left to right: Maya, Spirit, Lawton, Luna, and Lindeza.
Ponies everywhere! From left to right: Maya, Spirit, Lawton, Luna, and Lindeza.
Photos courtesy of Jocelyn Wright and NPS

Partnerships with Cape Lookout National Seashore, Foundation for Shackleford Horses and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund continue.  Two stallions were on loan from Shackleford and produced two foals; Paloma in 2010 and Rayo in 2012.  Two mares from Shackleford, Jitterbug and Sacajawea, have become permanent members of the Ocracoke herd.  A Corolla stallion, Alonso, was the father of our herd’s newest member, Captain.  

With Captain’s arrival on May 9th the Ocracoke pony herd now numbers 17 ponies.  The oldest pony, Okie’s Rainbow, is 34 years old.  The others range in age from 31 years old to 1 week old.  Laura spends about six hours a day, five days a week caring for and working with the ponies. Along with performing basic maintenance at the pony facilities, Laura coordinates feeding schedules with the volunteers, hay and grain deliveries with contractors, and health services appointments with veterinarians and farriers.

The park could not maintain this level of care without the help of volunteers.  The pony volunteers are the some of the most dedicated and hardworking volunteers in the park.  Some of them have been with the ponies for more than twenty years!  And we thank all of the volunteers for their dedication. They assist with feeding the ponies in the heat, rain, bugs and wind, and communicate issues or concerns with Laura.  

Jitterbug and Captain are housed in an area to the left of the main viewing stand and could be visible – depending on where they hang out.  They are being kept separate from the herd so they can bond and rest.  Mother and foal are both doing great and Captain is learning something new each day.  He is nursing but mimics all of his mother’s behavior such as eating hay and drinking water.  Keep your eye out for them on your next visit to the pony pens.

All adoption donations are used exclusively to help defray the costs of care, feed and hay, or to assist with repairs of the pony pasture and fencing.  If you are interested in supporting the Ocracoke pony herd please consider adopting a pony!  This can be done in person at the CAHA Ocracoke Island Visitor Center.  Adoption forms can also be found at the pony pens and online at  (Captain is not posted on the website yet but is available on the adoption form) In return, you will receive an 8”x10” photo of the pony you are adopting along with a certificate of adoption with the pony's name, age, and description.  All this comes in a presentation folder suitable for gift giving or display.  The park requests a $25 donation ($27 if you request shipping of the certificate) per pony adoption.  Please mail adoption forms to:

Attn: Adopt A Pony

National Park Service

Ocracoke Ranger Station

PO Box 340

Ocracoke, NC 27960 


Comments powered by Disqus