Man rides wild horse at Assateague. He could spend 6 months in jail, officials say

A beachgoer faces a fine or jail time after allegedly riding a wild horse at Assateague Island National Seashore, news outlets report.

Park officials told news outlets that a man could be fined up to $5,000 or spend six months in jail for riding on one of the seashore’s protected horses, the Salisbury Daily Times reported.

On Wednesday, a person who frequently visits Assateague said he warned a group of men who were petting two stallions that the horses can be dangerous, according to The Dispatch.

“One of the young men reportedly said he worked on a ranch and knew how to handle horses,” the news outlet reported. “The visitor left the area and returned a short time later to find the ‘ranch hand’ riding on the back of one of the stallions.”

Officials did not give the man’s name or say what he might be charged with, according to the Associated Press.

Assateague Island National Seashore is a 37-mile-long island on the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. Most of the shore is managed by the National Park Service. The island’s horses are well known but should be admired from a distance, according to NPS.

“Assateague’s horses are beautiful, tough, and wild,” the National Park Service said. “They have learned to survive in a harsh environment. Feeding and/or petting them is detrimental to both visitors and horses.”

Last week, law enforcement was notified of a video circulating on social media of a woman smacking one of the wild ponies with a shovel, McClatchy News reported. The horse kicked the woman, knocking her to the ground.

“It’s their beach,” one Facebook user said. “You are the visitor. We camp there every year. It’s a beautiful place. If you don’t like the horses, what are you doing there in the first place? It’s people like this that make it hard for others to enjoy the park! She should be fined.”