Assateague Island- Best Time To See Horses
Seeing horses in Assateague Island
The horses continue to graze beside the roadways and hang out in the parking lots when there are less people and bugs around. Although you usually won’t see the horses swimming in the ocean since the water temperature drops below 45 degrees, you may sometimes spot them wandering the beach, particularly in the park’s OSV (Over Sand Vehicle) area.
Get an OSV pass or get in touch with us to schedule a tour if you’re going to Assateague in the winter. The majority of horses have completed their winter migration and are now in their usual ranges, where they spend most of the year. More than half of the 80+ horses on the Maryland side are situated in the OSV area of the park. Additional permissions, taxes, supplies, and a car that can drive on the beach are needed for this segment. All of our trips visit this area of the park, and since we are familiar with the horses and their grazing grounds, we make every effort to locate them there.
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Getting the most out of horse seeing
Check the wind and weather predictions! The wind prediction, more than the chilly temperatures, determines what actually transpires on the island. To find out when the winds will be the least intense during your visit, check the weather channel’s hourly prediction for Ocean City, Maryland. The most enjoyable activities will be hiking, strolling along the beach, and just hanging out. The slower wind speed and direction may also make the horses more animated.
Purchase a pair of rubber hiking boots! Since salt marsh cordgrass serves as the horses’ main source of food in the winter, they are often seen grazing in the marsh rather than on the beach or dunes. Put on a pair of knee-high rubber boots and enter the swamp to reach these places! Since visitors must stay on the hiking trails and paved sections in the developed region as of 2022, this is only feasible on the OSV part or north of Assateague State Park.
Continue driving while strolling around the hiking paths! If you can just visit the park’s built portion, drive around many times since the horses often appear on your second or third visit. They move around all the time! Visit the three hiking paths that are in the developed area as well.
Assateague Island best time to see horses
On Assateague Island, January and February are the two coldest months, with highs of 28 to 49 degrees Fahrenheit. 65 percent humidity and 2.74″ of precipitation on average During this time of year, Nor’easters, which are significant and powerful winter storms, pass over Assateague while bringing strong winds, rain, and sometimes snow. But once they do, there is often a time of sunlight and west breezes.
What is the horse’s fluffy coat that you can see?
Did you know that although the Assateague horses do have a winter coat throughout the winter, it’s really the shorter days and less sunshine that are to blame?
As the daylight hours shorten, some horses begin to grow their winter coats as early as August or September. A horse’s coat begins to thicken as a result of the light loss, giving it that thicker or fuzzy appearance. This growth is accompanied by a rise in the hormone melatonin. When the days begin to become longer at the end of the winter, the horse’s melatonin levels drop, which causes them to slough off the winter coat.
Horses in the north generate more melatonin due to the shorter days and less sunshine, so theoretically they should grow a thicker coat. Horses living south of the equator have longer daylight hours throughout the year and have lower melatonin levels than Assateague horses.
What additional animals might we expect to observe in Assateague during the winter?
A lot of creatures visit the barrier island during this time of year, in addition to the horses, deer, seagulls, dolphins, and other species that live there year-round. Right whales, migrating birds, and seals are a few of them. A unique goose known as the brant, which spends its summers up north in Canada, may be visible to you in particular. Also sometimes seen are Snowy Owls. While visiting the park, keep in mind to keep a safe distance from any species. Keep these in mind and see horses without thinking twice.