For many years there has been speculation about the provenance of the Outer Banks ponies. Certainly the earliest colonists introduced horses to coastal North Carolina. And, of course, shipwrecks contributed their share of horses and ponies to Ocracoke, Hatteras, Cape Lookout, and Nags Head.
Although the Ocracoke ponies have been crossed with other breeds, Spanish mustangs provided much of the original breeding stock. No one knows how long these horses have been on the island -- maybe for as long as 350 years.
According to Earl O'Neal in his book, Wild Ponies of Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, "Part of the [Spanish] royal credula [of 1493 -- I am not sure what a "credula" is although it is a Latin term from which we derive the English words "credulous" and "creed."]...reads: '...We command that certain vessels be prepared to send to the Islands and to the mainland which has been newly discovered in the Ocean sea in that part of the Indies, and to prepare these vessels for the Admiral Don Christopher Columbus...and among the other people we are commanding to go in these vessels there will be sent twenty lancers with horses...and five of them shall take two horses each, and these two horses which they take shall be mares.'"
So horses have been making the trans-Atlantic crossing for many years. The next time you visit the Ocracoke Pony Pasture keep in mind that those horses are likely descendants of some of the earliest colonial inhabitants.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Project Nutmeg, and how Ocracoke almost became a site for testing nuclear weapons. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042112.htm.