This has been a busy week for the people and ponies of Assateague & Chincoteague Islands, Virginia. This week is the 91st Annual Pony Swim and Auction made famous from the children’s novel “Misty of Chincoteague”.
Every year the 200 or so wild horses that reside on Assateague Island are rounded up and swum across the channel to Chincoteague Island. Most of the foals are auctioned to raise money for care and management of the herd and to support the local volunteer fire department. Last year’s sale of 61 ponies netted nearly $170,000, the average price per pony $2780.
The swim and auction have developed into a full week of activities, a carnival, farmer’s market, screenings of the 1961 movie “Misty” at the local theater and of course up close access to the ponies. Tens of thousands will visit the islands during the week, for some families the swim has become an annual event. The channel swim is the headline catcher but there are many ways the public can enjoy the wild ponies.
- Saturday volunteer wranglers known as the Saltwater Cowboys start the week rounding up the two herds of wild ponies, one that lives on the north side of the island, the other typically lives in the south.
- Sunday the north herd is walked down the beach on Sunday morning at sunrise, this is called “The Beach Walk”. The two herds are combined in a large corral where they are examined and tended as needed.
- Wednesday the Saltwater Cowboys drove the ponies to the beach. At slack tide (when the current is most still) the ponies are driven into the channel and swim to Chincoteague Island. Once across the ponies rest in the marshy grass for about 45 minutes then are herded down main street to the auction pen.
- Thursday the majority of foals are publically auctioned.
- Friday the horses swim back across the channel and are free to roam Assateague Island until next year’s round up.
Here’s to a safe week of pony wrangling and congrats to all the families who purchase one of these ponies, truely American treasures!
Photos courtesy Caitlin Faw, Baltimore Sun
Edited from the Following Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misty_of_Chincoteague, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/eastern-shore/bs-md-chincoteague-pony-swim-20160727-story.html , http://www.chincoteague.com/index.html