Assateague Island is a 37-mile (60 km) long barrier island located off the eastern coast of Delmarva. The northern two-thirds of the island is in Maryland while the southern third is in Virginia.
For Assateague Island visitors who want to learn more about the wild horses there: there’s an app for that.
The Assateague Island Alliance debuted the Assateague Horse Identification smartphone application last week. Free to use, the app allows users to identify each of the horses by taking a photo of it with their phones.
“I’m really excited about it, since we often get questions on social media from people that’ll post a photo of a horse and ask for more details,” said Ashlie Kozlowski, outreach coordinator for Assateague Island Alliance. “This is a way to answer those questions and engage with a younger audience.”
Kozlowski pitched the idea for a smartphone app in 2013 to the parks staff and the alliance board of directors with two goals in mind: getting the younger generation more involved with Assateague Island, and tracking the horses’ movements.
The app was shelved until parks Superintendent Debra Darden began promoting the idea and applied to Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council for grants. This year, the Assateague Island Alliance was awarded $4,000 in two grants, which were used to develop the app with D3Corp.
“It’s a very user-friendly and educational,” said D3 account management manager Lisa Thornton, who spearheaded the Horse ID’s production. “I learned so much I didn’t know about the ponies while working on this … this will be a valuable resource for people to get out there and see the horses at a safe distance.”
After a user snaps a photo through the Horse ID app, he or she will be asked several questions about the horse — its color, the way its mane falls and its markings. The northern herd of horses on the island numbers about 100, so these identification markers would help narrow down the candidates.
From that list, the user can find the horse they saw and read its biography. The app also features a guidebook to keep track of the horses spotted.
The Horse ID can be used like a catalogue as well, so people can learn more about the different horses out there.
“You can use it and peruse the horses and learn about them that way before going out in the field,” Kozlowski said.
The Horse ID app also links to the Assateague Island Alliance website, so users can upload their photos with a GPS tag to report sightings and leave comments.
Through the website, app users also may join the Foster Horse Program, which allows people to “adopt” a horse for a donation. The donation will be used for contraception and health vaccines for the ponies.
“It’s a perfect gift for the holidays or a way to have a connection with a horse that wandered in and out of your campsite,” Kozlowski said.
Before using the app, users need to create an account, read the rules and agree to a safety disclaimer. Although the horses are used to people driving past them, they are not tame. Assateague officials ask visitors to stay at least 50 feet away from a horse at all times.
The Assateague Horse ID is free, and available for Apple and Android products.