The annual Chincoteague Island Pony Penning is on its way, and this year’s festivities will mark 94 years of wild pony love. The swim was made famous by Marguerite Henry’s book, “Misty of Chincoteague,” but the wild ponies have been swimming between islands for generations. It happens every July, and every year, area locals along with tens of thousands of tourists gather in the small town of Chincoteague, VA. They’re there to watch the renowned pony swim and maybe even take part in the auction that helps manage the population of wild ponies living on Assateague Island. The week-long event is a must-see and a favorite among many horse enthusiasts.
Spring Pony Roundup – April 12 & 13. Visit our web site for details.
This year’s event will kick off at 6 a.m. on July 22nd with the traditional Assateague Island Beach Walk. Then on Wednesday, the “big event” takes place at the earliest morning slack tide. The northern herd of wild Chincoteague Ponies will join the south herd for the annual pilgrimage from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. Charter boats will line the Assateague Channel to create a pathway between the island as saltwater cowboys herd the wild ponies into the water and across the channel. The adult horses and the maturing foals will make the swim and end up on the marshy beaches amidst a crowd of dedicated onlookers.
From there, the ponies will be given a 45-minute rest before they start their “parade” through town toward the Carnival Grounds. The auction will take place on Thursday morning, July 25th, at the Carnival Grounds. Certain ponies and foals will be auctioned off in order to prevent herd overpopulation. Chincoteague Island can only support so many wild ponies, and the auction ensures the future and health of the herd. Proceeds from the auction go to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company to be used to provide veterinary care to the ponies throughout the year.
After the auction and carnival, the event culminates when the remaining ponies swim back to their homeland on Assateague Island. They’ll live wild for another year until it’s time to once again make their grand swim.
Check out the Official Chincoteague Island Pony Swim Guide to start planning your trip to the incredible event.
Featured image via Facebook/Chincoteague