FAQs

What is the Foster Horse Program?
The Foster A Horse Program was crated in an effort to preserve one of America's most loved wildlife treasures.  To learn more about the program, please click here!
Can more than one person foster the same horse?
Yes.
How long does my participation in the foster horse program last?
One year or you can renew for the life of your horse.
What is the wild horse management program?
What are safe practices for viewing the horses?
How Horses Adapt to Winter
Left to adapt to their environment, Assateague horses must create their own protection, and a horse’s winter coat is a remarkably protective feature. The coat starts to grow long before the cold days of winter. As the days began to shorten and the retinas received fewer hours of sunlight each day, the brain is stimulated to release extra melatonin, a hormone that prompts the hair follicles to produce more hair. You may notice that the horses’ winter coats appear to be fluffy. This is because the hairs lift up to trap warm air, creating insulation, much like a bird creates insulation by fluffing its feathers. Even more incredible…the long outer hairs form channels that help repel water. And if you separate those hairs, underneath there is a layer of dry hair and skin. Pretty Amazing!
Why do foals sometimes have a mask like Batman or Batgirl?
People often ask if there is something wrong with the foals when they have mostly black hair around their eyes, wondering if they have a skin condition based on their appearance. So why do they have those rings around their eyes and muzzle? Rest assured, no skin condition. They are shedding the soft and fluffy foal coat, and the new, sleek adult coat is darker and smoother. They shed around the eyes and muzzle first, and gradually the rest of it will be replaced.
What’s a Kieper Number?
Every horse in the Maryland herd is given an alphanumeric code, such as those of the horses pictures here from left N6BM, N6BMT (Sonja), N10O (Tipperary), N6BMT-F (Jojo) and N6BMT-FO (Margaret’s Thunder Heart).  This image was taken in 2017 and includes four generations!   Notice anything about their codes?  Maternal lineage is just one thing you can discover by looking closely at the horses alphanumeric code. When researcher Dr. Ronald Keiper began studying the Assateague horses in 1975, he developed a system that could identify, and trace the maternal ancestry of, each individual horse. The system of alpha-numeric identification numbers he came up with are now known as "Keiper numbers" In 1975, there were only 44 horses in three harem bands living on the Maryland portion of Assateague Island. A harem band consists of a dominant stallion and his mares and immature offspring. Each of these bands was designated by the letter M, N or T. The dominant stallion of each band was given the number 1, resulting in Keiper numbers M1, N1 and T1 for the stallions. The other horses in each band were numbered consecutively beginning with 2 (M2, M3, T2, etc.). The letters at the end of each horse’s number indicate that particular individual's maternal lineage and their birth years back to the original 1975 study horses. At birth, each horse is assigned a Keiper number created by adding the letter for its birth year to its mother's Keiper number. Birth years began in 1976 with A, B for foals born in 1977, C for 1978, up through Z in 2001. At that point the alphabet was started over with a dash in front of the letter, resulting in -A for foals born in 2002. Accordingly, N6BMT-FN was born in 2015 to N6BMT-F; N6BMT-F was born in 2007 to N6BMT; N6BMT was born in 1995 to N6BM; N6BM was born in 1988 to N6B; N6B was born in 1977 to N6. N6 was present in the herd during the initial 1975 survey and so does not have a birth year letter. She was the sixth horse identified in "N" herd. And the "X" horses? During the 1980s, birth records for the herd were not as closely maintained as they are today. By 1990, there were about 25 unidentified, mostly solid-colored horses living on the island that had been born in the mid-1980s. These horses were designated with an "X" and numbered consecutively. Following a complete genetic study of the horses in 2005, correct identification and parentage for most of these “X” horses were determined based on their genotypes. An example is the mare X13, who was confirmed as being N2BH. Five of these “X” horses could not be positively identified, and so they retained their “X” IDs. However, presumed offspring of the “X” mares living at the time of the genetic study were confirmed as descending from these “X” mares, and so were named according to the same protocol as all of the positively identified horses. The stallion X15NY, for example, was born to X15N in 2000; X15N was born in 1989 to X15, who was one of the five “X” individuals living in 2005 who could not be positively identified. A 1976 B 1977 C 1978 D 1979 E 1980 F 1981 G 1982 H 1983 I 1984 J 1985 K 1986 L 1987 M 1988 N 1989 O 1990 P 1991 Q 1992 R 1993 S 1994 T 1995 U 1996 V 1997 W 1998 X 1999 Y 2000 Z 2001 -A 2002 -B 2003 -C 2004 -D 2005 -E 2006 -F 2007 -G 2008 -H 2009 -I 2010 -J 2011 -K 2012 -L 2013 -M 2014 -N 2015 -O 2016 -P 2017 -Q 2018 -R 2019 -S 2020
Where can the horses be found?

The Assateague Island National Seashore Horse Location Guide, seen here, is to help you identify the various bands on the island, each usually found according to the Stallion. Note that bands often change due to “Stallion Wars,” mares roaming and, well, Mother Nature. To see photos of the horses, please download the AIA Horse ID app. We are in the process of updating the app frequently to help you with identification and will update this page, as well!

This information has been updated as of March 2019.

Always remember to keep 40 feet or more away from the horses (length of a bus) and do NOT feed or pet them. Help us keep them wild, will you?

Northern End of the Island

(Often around 2.5 – 7 km)

Chestnut,M6MS-G (Sorrel Pinto Stallion with white mark on right side)

Bonnie.T6K-A (Dark Pinto Mare with marking on her left side)

Eve,N2BHS-E (Dark Bay mare that hangs in the northern end)

Freedom,M2EINS (Sorrel Mare with strip and snip and a flaxen mane)

Little Paka, M17GMV (Sorrel Mare with an offset tiny star and right mane)

Patricia Irene,N2BHS-H (Bay Pinto Mare w/white marking on neck /white socks)

Rohan, M2EINR-B (Sorrel Mare with tiny star, light backs of hindquarters, left mane)

Shasta,N2BHS-J (Sorrel Mare with large white star on forehead)

N2BHS-JQ (Pinto Filly)

North End above State Park

(Usually can be seen along the bay side across from Casataway’s Campground)

Patches,T3DMY, is a Chestnut Stallion with a long

white marking on his right side

Northern Developed Area of State Park

(Sometimes found along causeway. Please “yield to the horses” and drive slowly.)

Yankee, N9BM-E (Pinto Harem Stallion with white stripe in tail)

Gokey GoGo Bones, N2BHS-A (Chestnut Mare with left hind white sock and hoof, hazy eyes)

Lauren’s Laughter, N6BIRUY (Bay Mare w/sloping narrower hip than usual; a bit of a “yellower” color)

Linda Rae’s Autumn Glory, N2BHS-AP (Sorrel Pinto filly with black mane, predominant white markings including a white tail that is black at bottom)

Developed Area, National Park

Joy, N2BHS-AG (Chestnut Harem Stallion with tiny pink snip in between nostrils; Right mane)

Sarah’s Sweet Tea, N2BHS-O (Unmarked, Sorrel yearling Bachelor Stallion)

Ms. Macky, N2BHS-AL (Pinto bay mare with four white socks)

Connie’s Girl, N2BHS-ALQ (Unmarked Sorrel filly born in April 2018)

Developed Area, North Beach & Oceanside Campground

Delegate’s Pride(nicknamed “Chip”), N6ELS-H (Dark Bay Harem Stallion with tiny star on forehead)

April Star, N2BHS-C (Pinto Mare with star on her forehead; front legs are white)

Johnny’s Star, N2BHS-CK (Pinto Mare, predominantly white with brown spot on middle back with point. Looks like a conversation bubble)

Moonshadow, N2BHS-CKP (Sorrel filly with white hind hooves and socks

Ronni (N2BR) Small star, right mane

Susi Solé,N2BHS-M (Pinto Mare with all white legs and circle on mid-back)

N2BHS-MR (Pinto filly born in January 2019)

Something Special, N9BFNS-E (Sorrel mare with small star, pink snip, white hind socks)

Developed Area, Bayside Campground and Ferry’s Landing

Corky,X15NY (Sorrel Harem Stallion, who is stocky with small, offset white mark above right nostril – about the size of a pinky finger; right mane)

Oversand Vehicle (OSV) Entrance to 7 -18 km / Tingles Island

Bodacious Bob, M6MSY (Medicine Hat Bay Pinto Harem Stallion)

Giggles, N9BM-J (Sorrel Mare, unmarked with distinctly hazy right eye from old injury; light colored mane)

N9BMT-JO, nicknamed “Happy” as the person who purchased naming rights has not yet named him (Sorrel yearling colt)

Billy Bob,N9BM-JQ (Pinto colt)

OSV 18 - 20 km/Tingles Island area

South Developed area during the summer

Fonzi, N9BFNSZ (Sorrel Harem Stallion with long forelock that covers his star. White left front sock and striped hoof; right mane)

Bright Star, N6BIRU (Sorrel mare with narrow white blaze, white hind stockings and flaxen mane)

 

OSV 18 -19 km

Bayberry, N6BIR-B (Dark Bay Harem Stallion with very long, wavy mane and tail)

Aliyana Grace, N6ELS (Sorrel, Pinto mare with blond mane, mostly white body)

Precious, T6M(Bay Pinto mare w/white mane and tail)

Pretty Lass, N2BHS-BJ (Bay Pinto mare)

Miss Priss, M2EINR (Sorrel mare with a white star

Maggie, N6EM (Bay Pinto mare)

Little Dipper, N2BHS-B (Sorrel mare with a few white hairs on her forehead)

Silver Spurs Island Mist, M6IX (Sorrel mare with a long, narrow, upside-down teardrop shaped star)

Spirit, N9BFNS (Sorrel mare, darker than most, mane mostly right)

 

OSV 23 – 27 km

Developed area in the summer)

Assateague Lightning, N6BMT-I (Bay Pinto Harem Stallion pinto with lightning mark on left shoulder and Z mark on right rump. Some now refer to this as his “Harry Potter” marking)

Annie Laurie, N2BHS-I(Sorrel Pinto Mare with predominantly white butt)

Bella-Boo, N6EMSZ (Bay mare)

April, T6CHU(Bay Pinto mare)

Bailey, N9BFQX (Chestnut mare with a small comma-shaped star and white left hind hoof and sock)

Coco, T3DHT (Buckskin mare, only one on record for MD herd)

Gizmo, T3DHT-H (Bay mare who is shorter than most MD horses)

Harmony, N9BFQ-G(Sorrel mare with left hind sock, left mane)

Marina(sorrel with short, thin, white blaze)

Queen, N9BFT(Bay Mare with refined face, split mane)

TommyThunderBolt Nektosha, N9BFQ-GP (Sorrel stallion)

 

OSV 20-21 km (Little Levels area)

Often in the developed area in the summer

General Harker,X16-A (Sorrel Harem Stallion, unmarked, lighter, less red, right mane)

Alexandria’s Angel, N9BFT-KP (Sorrel mare)

Assateague’s Phoenix, N10T-JO (Sorrel pinto Colt w/white marking near his withers)

BJ, N10R (Sorrel Pinto mare)

Jojo, N6BMT-F (Sorrel w/tiny star who has a tendency to wander off on her own)

Ninka, N10T (Palomino Pinto mare)

Princess Minja Shunka, N6BIR (Pinto mare with white left front leg)

Rosie, M6MS (Bay Pinto mare with faint spots, looking like freckles on her body)

Theodore, N6BMT-FQ (Sorrel colt who wanders off with mother Jojo)

OSV 23 - 27 km

Often in developed area during summer

Mr. Frisky Hooves, N9BFQ-GL (Sorrel Harem Stallion with white left hind hoof and sock)

Christina Key, M2EIQ (Chestnut mare with dagger-shaped blaze and white hind hooves and socks)

Mieke’s Noelani, N2BHS-AIO (Sorrel filly with tiny white star)

Tara, T5AR (Sorrel mare with a bit more red, longer mane, often tangled)

OSV 23 to km 28

Charcoal, N9BNZ (Only black Harem Stallion on the island)

Tipperary,N100 (Sorrel Pinto mare; Tipperary looks as if she has an English saddle on her left side. Light colored mane near withers)

N6BM (Sorrel Mare with large star, Right Mane)

Sonja, N6BMT (Bay Pinto Mare with four white stockings, black mane and black tail)

OSV 31 – 33 km to State Line

(Most often in the marshes)

Dewey, N100-J (Bay Pinto, Blue-Eyed Harem Stallion)

N9BFV (Sorrel mare)

Sapphire, T3DH-D (Bay mare)

Sienna Belle, N9BO-A (Chestnut mare with dusty white triangular star)

OSV – 33 km to MD/VA state line

Foxy’s Gift, N6BKOS-H (Sorrel Stallion w/star and white hind hoof and half-sock)

Lion’s Mane, N6BP (Sorrel Mare with/white, wide blaze and light mane)

 
How do the horses weather a storm?
Whenever severe weather threatens Assateague Island National Seashore, we inevitably get asked the question "how will the horses survive the storm?". Generally, the Assateague Horses retreat from the developed areas of the park to spend the cooler months in the bayside marshes where their preferred forage, Spartina alterniflora (Saltmarsh Cordgrass), grows abundantly. And what in the world do they do when a hurricane or nor'easter strikes? Believe it or not, it's not such a big deal to them (especially when compared to the heat, drought andinsects they have to deal with in the summer). During extreme weather conditions they find shelter from high winds and storms by temporarily retreating from the marshes to forested or densely vegetated areas and turning their tails to the wind.  
Help us keep ’em Wild!
Whether you are visiting the island for a short or long visit, we ask for your help in keeping our horses wild.  We encourage you to view the video about the horses and why we ask you to keep your distance.  Take three minutes and watch our Keep 'Em Wild video Remember . . .
  1. Maintain a distance of 40 feet or more. If a horse approaches you, back away.
  2. The park does not advocate your taking initiative in trying to move the horses.  Trying to get them away from your campsite should be left to the rangers and other park staff who have specialized training in wild horse management practices. (If you respond, "I have horses and know what to do" that does NOT mean that you have permission to interact with them in any way). Remember, it's a park law to keep you distance.
  3. Drive slowly and safely. Remain alert. Horses and deer often run into the road, particularly if spooked. Let's have a year with no animals being hit by a vehicle.
  4. Enjoy the park and PLEASE help us keep the horses wild.
Apples and carrots are NOT a treat on the island

While you may think you are giving the Wild horses a treat with apples and carrots, in reality, this is not part of their diet and can lead to a very painful death.

During the winter, the park staff and volunteers find people leaving apples and carrots for the horses, because they "think they are hungry." Unfortunately, these apples can kill a wild horse with colic quickly. Additionally, it teaches the horse bad behaviors, looking toward humans for food, which leads to them hanging out and raiding campsites and "hanging in traffic" (again, leading to possible death). Sadly, Assateague Island National Seashore has had wild horses die for the very reasons listed, eating food other than salt marsh grass and being in the road.

A reminder that feeding a horse and/or approaching to within 40 feet of the wild animal is against the law and you can be fined. Even if you are "familiar" with horses and have them on a farm, it doesn't mean that you are allowed to approach them. Help us keep them wild, will you? If you need more information, please watch the video "Keep 'em Wild."  Please!!! If you see something, say something. 410.629.6603
Curious about Swamp Cancer or Pythiosis?
Many of our Assateague Friends have raised the question about the fungal infection, Pythiosis or "swamp cancer” (not really cancer) in the Maryland herd. There have been no signs of the disease in the Maryland herd and Resource Management staff consistently monitors the horses for any signs and symptoms. Pythiosis thrives in stagnant pools of fresh water and is a naturally occurring pathogen. You may be aware that the two herds of horses are managed very differently on Assateague Island. The Maryland herd is free to roam the entire Maryland section of Assateague and they are able to access many varied sources of fresh water in the back country.  Of note is that many of the freshwater ponds in MD often get surrounded by salt water, thereby potentially minimizing the overall risk of phythiosis. There are approximately 42 ponds on the Maryland portion of Assateague Island, and during a rainy period there are countless ephemeral pools. That is where the feral horses find their water year-round, as well as every other type of wildlife. That plus the smaller size of the MD herd both attribute to a much less hospitable environment for swamp cancer. The Chincoteague ponies are kept in grazing compartments on the Virginia portion of Assateague and there is a physical fence at the state line to prevent the two herds from coming in contact.
 
The National Park service is constantly monitoring the horse population and the horses are managed as a wild herd. If you have questions about this or other items, we encourage you to reach out directly to the Assateague Island National Seashore team.  https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/contactus.htm
 

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