There seems to be one thing he loves more than those horses - the USA. When fighter jets from the nearby Air Force base flew overhead, he stopped talking, pointed at the sky and asked us, "Y'all know what that sound is?". Then he'd yell on the top of his lungs, "That's the sound of FREEEEEEDOM! HOO-RAH". In fact, he used "HOO-RAH" at the end of most thoughts. He had a fantastic southern accent, which he claimed was "gin-u-wine" (and I would never challenge him on that point). I'll share some of John's stories below so you can see what kind of character was guiding us through the dunes. I suspect all this is why his co-workers back at the tour shop dubbed him "Crazy John". I've been on a lot of tours and tour guides can definitely make or break your experience. In this case, John definitely made it special - he was funny, informative and incredibly unique!
Driving In The Sand
The Moving Dunes
Horse Overboard: How the Horses Arrived in OBX
So how did they get here? There are many theories but one of the more common beliefs is that they came from early Spanish settlers, since they have many of the same characteristics as domesticated Spanish horses. As the early Spanish explorers and settlers came to colonize the new world, many of them arrived at the Outer Banks first. Unfortunately for the explorers, there are a lot of sand bars off the coast which cause many a shipwreck. If a ship hit a sandbar and didn't unload weight quickly, it became permanently stuck. When the ships hit shallow water, they unloaded as much weight as possible, and often times that meant the horses. Since horses can swim, many made it safely to shore and learned how to live on their own.
Fast forward to the 1980s and people began developing the land in the northern Outer Banks which resulted in many horse deaths. The National Park Service, State of North Carolina and several other private organizations now manage and protect the horses and their habitat. Currently there are fewer than 400 wild horses spread across the islands. Here are a few that we encountered on our tour:
Shhh...Don't Offend the Mule
If you are ever in the Outer Banks and are looking for something a little different and I recommend Carolla Jeep Adventure's Horse Tour. Make sure you request John as your guide!