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Morning Graze

L_Morning Graze

Morning Graze

Silhouetted charcoal drawing of a horse created with charcoal pencil and charcoal dust using the cotton cloth technique

© 2009

A Bit of History

Most often referred to as Ocracoke ponies, Banker horses have been documented on Ocracoke since the 1730s, although many believe and some evidence supports the popular belief that the horses arrived much earlier with Spanish explorers during the 16th century. Throughout Ocracoke history these small, but sturdy horses have served the residents, the U.S. Lifesaving Service and the U.S. Coast Guard, and their descendents continue to capture the attention of visitors to the island.

In the past, the number of wild horses on Ocracoke reached as many as 300. During the late 1950s, Ocracoke Boy Scouts took care of the horses, having the nation’s only mounted troop. In 1957, when the highway was built, the horses were moved to pens to protect them from injury due to increased traffic and to preserve the small island’s natural resources. In the early 1960s the care of the horses was designated to the National Park Service.

Today, the aging Ocracoke herd is no longer wild, by any stretch of the imagination. The horses are fed twice a day and receive veterinary care. The population of the herd has dwindled to 17 horses due to natural causes and two stallions have been borrowed from Shackleford Banks to try to increase the number of horses.

If you are visiting Ocracoke Island, do stop by the Pony Pen to pay a visit to these deserving descendants of the Outer Banks icons of the past, although do not expect to see horses that appear to running free and wild. On most days, you will be able to see at least a few horses from the National Park Service viewing platform, which is located on the sound side of Route 12 between Ocracoke Village and the Cape Hatteras Ferry.


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  1. Androgoth

     /  August 4, 2011

    First of all let me say that I really like your silhouette drawing of this horse study, actually I am surprised that you have had no previous comments on it, and as a bonus you have also added the history too, which is very interesting.

    It is sad that these horses were taken out of the wild, but this is something that we as humans have been doing all over the world, taking animals and birds, etc out of their usual habitats and re-introducing them into a false environment, it makes no wonder that their numbers have decreased, however after saying that it is nice to know that there are still at least seventeen of these fine horses left from the original livestock.

    Thank you offering this silhouette Deb
    and of course the history of Ocracoke Island…

    Be well my friend…

    Androgoth Xx

    • Well Andro, it was likely because I was not very active back then when it was posted so I was just not familiar to anyone. But since you have found it, and left me such a lovely comment I thought I would feature it on the top of my blog a few days to see what may happen. Then I shall put the lovely little dickens back to gather dust with all the rest.

      I agree now about how terrible it is that we humans take wild animals out of their natural habitat. It is very cruel of us as a people. The good news is they are breeding these lovely creatures as a hope that they will not become extinct on the Island.

      I haven’t been over to Ocracoke in over 2 months, I must get back over there soon. The beach is lovey there.

      Thank you again for your comment, Andro!!


  2. Like your silhouette. Very nice effect. Are these those horses that they made a movie of in the 50’s or 60’s, where they’d round up a few to sell off each year in some sort of fair or festival?

    • These are not those, but what you may be thinking of is the ponies on Chincoteague Island, but am not certain of a movie. I’m glad you like the drawing, and thanks for commenting on it, Binky.

      • Yes, that’s what I was thinking. I looked it up. The movie is “Misty,” a 1961 film based upon Marguerite Henry’s award-winning children’s book Misty of Chincoteague.

      • That’s cool, Binky! I didn’t know that. I just Googled it to check it out myself. Thanks for sharing that with me, Binky!

  3. It took a few art classes in the olden times and in some of them we used charcoal but I have never seen a drawing drawn with charcoal dust or powder. It’s very clean and I really like how the grass and the light effect the drawing.

    • Oh it a wonderful technique. You must give your hand a try at it if you ever choose to pick up charcoal again to draw. The link will tell you how to get the powder without having to buy it that way.
      I’m really glad you like my drawing: it is truly one of my favorite of this medium. Thank you for commenting, Hjortur!

  4. I love the drawing of the horse silhouetted against a night sky, Debbie. I have never heard of the Oracoke horses, so thank you for this information. I have heard about the ponies of Chincoteague. Excellent post so thank you!

    • Well then, on that happy note I am glad I featured this older post; It’s always nice when we can learn something new.
      I’m glad you like my drawing and the post, Leslie!

      • I thought I had seen this before! …but told myself that it must have been one that was similar. I don’t recall you speaking of the Ocracoke, though….. Think I must be getting old. 🙂

    • No, if you are speaking of this piece of art then you very may well have seen it. I posted it in 2009 but Andro was the only one that posted a comment after all these years. So I thought I’d feature it a few days to see if I would get any feedback on it.
      Your not getting old, not yet. lol.
      Ocracoke is a small island off of the Cape Hatteras Island that is reached by a free 30 minute ferry; twenty minutes on a good day. We go there now and then to do our beach thing and make a day of it. Brought Cici there once, and she loved it because the shoreline water is so shallow in the spot we always go to. She can actually go up to the water without fear of it. The trouble with that though is she wanted to drink it…. Cici! No!!! …Ah, I love that little dog…I’ll give her another hug from you, Leslie.
      Also, do forget. I updated some of my posts last year.

  5. I agree with everyone, Debbie, a great technique, and the silhouette looks almost ethereal, and therefore looks so otherworldly beautiful. Man changes so much in this World, and then takes a hand in trying to protect , and in effect something wild and free is gone forever. I always feel a pang, almost of pain, on hearing the stories of dwindling wildlife, we seem unable to live side by side with Mother Nature’s bounty… xPenx

    • The technique is my all time favorite when working with charcoal.

      And I agree with you, Pen. Just as you, my heart feels pain about the issues with our wild animals. If man would just leave them be and work there life around them that would not be destructive to them to begin with they would not have to come up with their failing solutions afterwards.

      Thank you for your comment, Pen!


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