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March 2017

Horsing around on Assateague Island

I have been fascinated with the horses that live on Assateague. My husband and I visited once during a trip to Ocean City, but we didn’t see any horses.

That was back in 2001. I had always wanted to go back, but it just never happened. After we moved to Delmarva, I knew I would have to take the kiddos. My daughter absolutely loves horses. She would be beside herself seeing the wild horses up close.

We took the back way from our home in Delaware to Assateague. It took, maybe, an hour to get there. We went during winter. We had Assateague to ourselves. If you haven’t already picked up on it, winter, fall and spring are the perfect times to visit some of Delmarva’s other attractions. You do not have to sit in traffic. The prices are lower.  You also pretty much have the places to yourself.

For me, it is a win, win, win. If my kids act up, well, there are not a whole lot of folks around to see. It is also generally cheaper for our family of five, which is always a plus.

We always pack a picnic or snacks when we hit the road. We have also started to stop at Royal Farms for slushies. Royal Farms are all over Delmarva and the kiddos like the slushies. So that is kind of our thing when we go exploring.

I would definitely recommend you bring snacks if you plan to visit Assateague in the off-season months. The concession stands are closed during the winter.

We hit the beach first, thinking the horses would be running along the shoreline. I am not sure why we thought that, but they weren’t. The kids ran along the beach and got their feet wet. It could be 10 degrees outside and, if we visit the beach, the kiddos are going to get their feet wet.

I didn’t bring shovels, pails or chairs. I now keep most of those things in the trunk of my car in case we take an impromptu trip. If you spend any time on Delmarva, you will know that there is always a Dollar Tree somewhere nearby to get some of your beach essentials without breaking the bank. If you are the type of mother who plans ahead, God bless you, there is always Amazon. Here is what I would recommend: a beach umbrella, cooler, sunscreen, chairs, pails, shovels, raft, binoculars and a good camera.

Anyway back to the story. After running around the beach and picking up shells — We have amassed quite a collection — we decided to explore the park. We turned down a side road as we headed away from the beach and there they were. I believe there were about four or five horses all munching on the brush. They were completely unphased by the intrusion of strangers.

We pulled our minivan off to the side of the road and just watched. The brown horses just kept on eating. They could have cared less that we were there. My window was rolled down and the kids were just giggling; they were so excited to see the horses.

Across the street was a brown and white horse. The horse picked up his head from grazing on the brush and started walking across the street toward our minivan. He looked directly at us. Surely, he will not walk right up to the car I thought. As he kept approaching, making a straight line for the car, I have to admit, I got a little scared. The kids were thrilled.

I rolled up the window and wondered what I would do if he decided to attack the car. He didn’t. He walked down the side in front of the car, checking us out. My daughter was convinced that he walked across the street to say hello to her.

Although not a big deal for us because we did not camp out at Assateague, we know a lot of people do, and the horses are not to be trifled with. When we went back during the summer to visit family who were camping out, there were signs averywhere showing visitors who had been bitten by a disgruntled horse. They are wild, after all, so be careful if you go.

Well, we had enough excitement, so we headed to the visitor’s center.

The visitors’ center is a great place to learn more about the horses on the island and just to relax. The center also has bathrooms.

Assateague is a great place to camp, picnic and just to hang out. My kiddos love it, so it is on the short list of places we love.