Sojourn’s bike tours in North Carolina give new meaning to the old proverb “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Bicyclists, like horses, will only do what they have a mind to do. Historically, both have been drawn to the Outer Banks.

A look back shows us that the ponies have a leg up on their two-wheeled admirers. The earliest bicycle called the Draisienne or hobby horse, a scooter-like contraption, imagine a modern bike without pedals, dates back to the late 1790’s. Ask a local about the history of the ponies in the Outer Banks and she’ll tell you they’ve been around forever.

In fact, historic reference to horses in North Carolina goes back to Columbus’s first trip to the “Indies” in 1493. There were 25 horses aboard. By 1500, large breeding ranches had been established in the region. In the 1580’s Sir Walter Raleigh sent two separate trips to the New World. The first landed between Cape Hatteras and present day Cape Lookout; the second ran aground at Portsmouth Island, near Ocracoke. Historians say that the horses aboard ship were pushed into the sea to lighten the cargo and potentially free the ship from the shoals.

Excellent swimmers, the ponies made their way to shore along the Core Sound and the National Seashore. On our bike tours, we can often see their descendants in the tidal flats along Shackleford Banks, the uninhabited barrier island between the mainland and Cape Lookout/Ocracoke.

“The Shackleford wild horses are the oldest documented population in North America and they should be managed with the utmost care…The wild horse…is one of America’s most valuable wildlife species…and the Shackleford horses are one of our oldest legacies.” (Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, Director of Science and Conservation Biology, quoted on The Wild Horses of Shackleford Banks)

Sojourn’s North Carolina bike tours will certainly expose you to the magnificence of the coastline and its rich history, but their trip leaders know that bicyclists, like horses, are creatures of their own will. They’ll lead you to the water and the beach, and the ponies of North Carolina; you just need to drink it in…there are still a couple spaces left on our October 30 and November 6 tours.