‘Aggressive’ horse from Assateague Island arrives at our sanctuary

By on June 9, 2022 with 26 Comments

Our sanctuary in Texas, Black Beauty Ranch, plays an extremely important and inspiring role for animals who have nowhere left to go.

Take Chip, the horse who arrived at Black Beauty this week from Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. He had to be removed from his home, but through no fault of his own. After years of being fed by tourists, Chip had become conditioned to expect food when he saw people. And when he didn’t get it, he got aggressive, creating a dangerous situation for everyone concerned.

According to the National Park Service, Chip has been involved in more than 50% of all incidents resulting in injury to visitors to the island since 2017. This strong-willed horse also proved resistant to methods used by park staff to move horses out of potentially dangerous situations, “totally ignoring actions which cause other horses to move.”

We are so glad to be able to offer Chip a safe home at our sanctuary. He will spend some time in quarantine on a 4-acre pasture before being introduced to other rescued horses for socialization on the 1,000-acre pasture. We have more than 400 rescued horses and donkeys at Black Beauty, including Fabio, a senior horse who was himself relocated from Assateague Island in 2011.

Chip almost immediately tasted the Texas grass that the sanctuary pasture had to offer. Caregivers weren’t sure how Chip might respond, since he’s used to grazing on the saltier grass of Assateague Island, but his voracious appetite seems to be sated just fine. He’s occupying himself by grazing on all the fresh grass he wants.

Angela Dierkes/The HSUS Chip, who had been having interactions with people that put him and the public in potential danger because he was becoming food aggressive, is enjoying grazing on the fresh grass at the sanctuary.

As happy as we are that Chip has arrived safely at the sanctuary, it is bittersweet since he never should have had to leave his wild home in the first place. When people entice wild animals, like Chip, with treats, they are endangering their well-being and disrespecting the wild nature of those animals. That’s why it’s so important to properly store garbage and always keep a distance from wild animals. People need to respect and appreciate wild animals so that we can safely co-exist with them and ensure that they thrive.

Black Beauty was founded in 1979 in Murchison, Texas, by author and animal advocate Cleveland Amory, and its first residents were equines: 577 wild donkeys whose lives were in danger were air-lifted one by one from the Grand Canyon without a single injury or loss. Those who could not be adopted came to Black Beauty Ranch as the first sanctuary residents. A sign at the entrance of the sanctuary that quotes Anna Sewell’s classic book, Black Beauty, always moves me whenever I visit: “I have nothing to fear, and here my story ends. My troubles are all over, And I am at home.” This is surely true for Chip.

Our caregivers know that in an ideal world, animal sanctuaries like ours wouldn’t have to exist; tigers wouldn’t be kept as pets, chained up in basements and backyards; macaques wouldn’t be bred and used for years for painful research experiments; animals born in the wild, like Eve the black bear and Chip the horse, wouldn’t have to be removed from their habitats because of conflicts with humans.

Until our society learns how to live in better harmony with animals, individuals like Chip will always have a home at places like Black Beauty. To support the animals at Black Beauty, you can send them something from the sanctuary’s wish list.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.

Animal Rescue and Care, Equine, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Karin Erker says:

    Stop die brutalen tierquäler und bestraft diese Menschen. Was sind das nur für physiopaten, die Tieren leid zufügen. ..

    • Thisizwhack says:

      The state places a higher value on tourism revenue($$$$) than on the survival of the wild horses at Assateague Island. Even the wild horses and burros on federal land in and around Nevada are routinely rounded up & sold for slaughter(!) because there’s a pay off from cattle farmers. The system is so corrupt, that it is only thru animal sanctuaries such as Black Beauty and others, as well as the countless hours of dedication by a handful of truly caring individuals that these beautiful animals (& others like them) even get a second chance at life, albeit one that exists away from their families and natural habitat. It isn’t the ‘good stewards’ who cause these problems~it is but the end result of those who are selfish &/or ignorant.
      Social-engineering the younger generations takes precedent over meaningful curriculum in classrooms. So, these stories are generated to inform and so that the necessary corrections might be made in the home.

      I agree that those responsible should be held accountable, but in instances such as this; the damage happened long ago by ignorant/careless individuals. Park rangers and police can only do but so much. And even *if* the guilty parties were caught and/or fined, the damage was already done.

      I am truly grateful to those who possess the ability to offer sanctuary to these beautiful creatures. Horses served as our main form of transportation. They helped settle the West. They’ve played a crucial role in agriculture and farming and sadly, even during times of war in the not so distant past. They’re noble and majestic. And far more intelligent than they’re credited for. Regardless of whether those particular horses in Assateague were brought over by the Spanish or whether they’ve always been there, the fact remains that it’s their land, too(!) I can only hope that the people viewing the article *make* the time to circulate it far and wide, because it’s only thru proper education (the sort that happens outside a classroom) that incidents such as these can or will be avoided in the future. It’s more than a touching story with a somewhat happy ending–it should serve as a cautionary tale of what happens when one doesn’t properly dispose of or store food items or what happens when people habituate wild animals by enticing them with food.

      Our actions and inactions often carry far reaching consequences. Let’s ensure this doesn’t continue by properly educating one another to the dangers of improperly stored foods and or litter as well as (not) habituating wild animals to people. For if we don’t, we’re just as culpable/guilty!

      • Sunny says:

        Agree with you, 1000%

      • Allison says:

        I think you have some misinformation and may have misunderstood some aspects—let me clarify for you, as someone from the island, in hopes to further your understanding.

        Tldr; you have the herds mixed up. There’s two and they’re managed differently by different entities and have different obstacles regarding their care. Fabio and Chip are not from the Virginia herd—they have no involvement with the islands tourism, the fire department, or the auction. Population is managed through contraception and issues with the Maryland herd are frequent due to lack of respect for wildlife from locals and visitors. The Virginia herd is not auctioned to slaughter and has no connection to the blm/nps. If you want to be a voice for humane treatment, you need work to be better informed.

        1. There’s 2 main herds—the maryland herd managed by the national park service and the Virginia herd which is privately owned by the fire department and managed by the saltwater cowboys and fish/wildlife management.

        2. Chip is from the Maryland herd NOT the Virginia herd, as is Fabio. These horses are not rounded up but are managed at a maximum of 100 horses using a contraceptive injection administered by blow dart.
        This means they receive no vet care outside of humane euthanasia of suffering ponies.

        3. The saltwater cowboys managing the Virginia herds are generational—they take the humane care of the ponies very seriously and are the ones carrying on the history and heritage of the island and the ponies. They check the ponies at least once a week year round. The auctions are nothing like a blm round-up/auctions and the blm will never be involved. They don’t go to the meat industry.

        4. The round ups are humanely done and weak/young horses that can’t make the swim are shuttled across not trampled/lost.
        A dozen of the 70-90 or so sold foals are buy backs, meaning they return back to the herd. If it weren’t for the auctions, the herds would have disappeared, permanently, in 1962

        5. In addition to fund raising, the penning is a way to manage and monitor the population of the herd. The fish and wildlife service only permits 150 adult horses on the island to prevent damage to the barrier reef, indigenous vegetation, and the herd itself—these are not native ponies. Pony penning is essentially a yearly vet visit for the herds. The ponies receive an exam, vaccines, dewormer, blood work and medical treatment, all funded by prior round ups.

        6. The horses are well supervised during penning and the fire department does not allow for supplemental feeding of the herds even when penned. There’s cameras and you will be prosecuted and this applies to the entire island/refuge for the most part.

        7. The entire island survives off of tourism/seafood—especially during penning week.
        Without this funding the island would not be able to provide vet care, food supplementation, safety monitoring, dna/ancestry tracking (to prevent inbreeding and maintain historical lineage) of the herd in addition to community education.

        8. The negative occurrences between ponies and humans are occurring on the maryland side due to unsecured/uncleaned campsites and trash bins and a refusal to respect wildlife especially during a development/population boom. Originally problem ponies from the Maryland side were sent to the Virginia side.

        9. If you want to know what the herds would look like without the fire department and therefore without tourist funding look up the “Cumberland herd.”

  2. Mindy McBride says:

    Thank you.

  3. Sue Rogers says:

    I knew Chip from my visiting Assateague Island many times over the years. He left behind a beautiful family whom depended on him for protection and leadership. He loved them and they loved him. If you see him with his mate Susi Sole you’d understand or see him play fighting with fluid sons or playing with his daughter. Since being removed he’s had a son born and his daughter Breezy had her first foal. He didn’t deserve what happened to him. However, I’m glad he was placed is such a wonderful sanctuary. Hopefully I’ll see photos of him from time to time. Send him my love!

    • Irene Simpson says:

      I think that after seeing what happened to chip when you or anyone else should not turn your head when you see people doing what they are not doing as rules say. There pic should be taking and turned into rangers and they should be removed from Park. If we don’t help out with these rule breakers, everything we love will be taken away. Please Help

    • Linda Motschiedler says:

      Chip should not have been removed from the park or his family!! The people who break the park rules are the ones who should have been removed!
      Animals have emotions and feelings and now this family unit has been broken up because of people who have no real understanding or care about the animals who live on the island.
      I am glad that he is at least in such a safe place as Black Beauty Ranch. I am sure his family mourns his loss and it will be an adjustment for them as well as Chip.

      • Sunny says:

        Agree with you, 1000%!

      • Allison says:

        Unfortunately, due to people’s actions, Chips only option was to go to sanctuary otherwise he would’ve had to be euthanized. It’s absolutely unfortunate and if anything we should be pushing for those people to be prosecuted appropriately for their actions. If legislators don’t treat it like the serious issue that it really is then this will just continue to devolve into a worse situation given how quickly the area is becoming more heavily populated and the amount of visitors increases every year. But they’ve wanted these horses removed for nearly the past 100 years—if they let the situation devolve further then they can foster a political climate that fulfills the goal of removing/potentially destroying the feral herd managed by the blm. Personally, I don’t mind if I end up part of an embarrassing viral video for contacting authorities over the refusal to follow such a simple rule.

  4. Susan King says:

    Thank you so much for the update on the much loved Chip. He will live a happy blessed life with you. I am deeply grateful for each gentle gesture of love and care you will give him in his new home until he feels he truly is home.

  5. Mary says:

    Only “aggressive” by human opinion

  6. Mary says:

    It makes me very sad that he will never see his family again or his beloved ocean. I live about 10 miles from the sanctuary. The visitors are often so irresponsible.

  7. Cindy Terry says:

    Thank you for the lovely article about Chip. He was taken before his new colt was born, so sad he will never see him.

    We miss you Chip.

  8. Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for what you are doing for Chip & the other horses. Your foundation is truly beautiful.

  9. Eileen Huettl says:

    This is very good news about Chip and to see him in his new home looking healthy and happy is making my heart smile. Please continue to update us. Thank You.

  10. Ann Marie Simmons says:

    Why, with all we know about separating families was chip removed without his? We have to do a better job of educating, fining if needed, and penalizing humans for being irresponsible.
    You don’t see us feeding wild bears etc.

  11. Catherine Burke says:

    I am so thankful for people like you who dedicate their lives to help these animals who are in such desperate need. Thank you, thank you, May You All Be Blessed for your good hearts and minds.

  12. Charles Wright says:

    don’t forget what’s going on in Asia: elephants are still used for tourism in Thailand

  13. Susan Reade says:

    Beautiful! Thank you.

  14. L. Walters says:

    The visitors are at it again this summer (2022)😵‍💫😭🤬. I have witnessed people feeding, petting and taking photos with these beautiful creatures. What they are doing is ruining the wild nature of the ponies. They ARE wild ponies and they WILL defend themselves when they feel threatened, uneasy or trapped. LEAVE THEM ALONE! My plea to the custodians of the herd and the island is “Shut it down.” Put a halt to swimming, fishing, camping and water travel to the area.” Allow the island and its inhabitants to “reset” and return to natural, uncorrupted beauty.

    And, to the people who visit and act selfishly, and disrespectful – get over yourselves and STOP! The island is about the wildlife and NOT about your self centered desires.

    • Allison says:

      It appears you don’t realize that the ponies are not native to the location.
      Left to their own devices and unmanaged they will destroy all native vegetation and then die of illness and malnutrition in the process they will destroy the barrier reef resulting in a 1 foot increase in the islands water level and the destruction of multiple ecosystems. If it weren’t for the fire department the herd would’ve never returned following the flood of 62 and with the current population level and amount of vegetation destruction as it is—any flood similar to that of the one from 62 could wipe out the entire population and the rising water levels increases that risk considerably. If it weren’t for the fire department—the illness that killed many of the population of the maryland herd would have also killed a significant amount of the Virginia herd if it weren’t for their prompt response and taking the time to vaccinate the entire herd against the illness.

      The herds need humane management if we want to continue the privilege of admiring them down the road. Look up the Cumberland Herd if you don’t believe me. Average life span of 9 years compared to the islands 30 years.

      Please remember that this article is referring to horses involved in the maryland herd not the Virginia herds, again, they’re not privately owned, they don’t receive medical care and they’re not auctioned.

      Lastly, if you’re so concerned about the wildlife, then do something about it. Stop begging for such an important resource to be ended and instead match that same energy and call people out who you see behaving like that. Start pointing them out to authorities, they’re everywhere around the pen for that purpose so you have no excuse, and stop standing idle while people harm wildlife and then ranting about it online. What’s selfish is using these animals as a virtue signal instead of calling out inhumane treatment when you actively see it. These animals deserve to live and not end up like the Cumberland herd.

  15. Edward McCawley says:

    Assateague Island is a beautiful park that nature has reclaimed from it’s once certain fate to become like it’s northern neighbor, Ocean City, Md. The National Park Service along with the Maryland State Park Service are both now tasked with preserving this beautiful island along with all of it’s wild inhabitants, including the Wild Ponies. The political winds that guide these services are constantly changing, not unlike the winds and waves the constantly reshape Assateague. Chip has fallen prey to those political winds as did Fabio in 2011. The problem appears to be the unwillingness of these stewards to enforce their own rules. As many commenters have noted, there are frequent and blatant instances of visitors to the island breaking the rules. It’s a common occurrence to see visitors getting close to the horses to take photos and selfies, feeding, turning on water for them, and of course “petting” them, The rangers who work there and patrol the island are completely aware of this. They will provide various excuses as to why they can’t issue a citation. Excuses such as “I didn’t actually see it”, “it takes a lot of time to go to court”. Speaking up ourselves to the rule breakers often results in verbal confrontations, where the rule breakers become arrogant and aggressive. These kind of confrontations are never helpful. So, the question is: “what can be done to better protect the wild ponies?” It will take some degree of political clout to make meaningful changes. Changes that will encourage the law enforcement rangers to start issuing meaningful penalties to those visitors who choose to break the rules. Perhaps as a group we can help facilitate those changes.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.