Each year the Assateague Island Alliance (AIA), a 501c3 friends group created to support Assateague Island National Seashore, holds various contests that give the winner the privilege of naming a wild horse. The contests act as fundraisers for the group and give people a chance to have a true connection with one America’s most treasured breeds – the ponies on the island of Assateague.
When born, the foals are given a number by the National Park Service that helps keep track of lineage and ancestry of the horse, which sub-herd they belong to and even which every the island they inhabit. These numbers were developed by Dr. Ronald Keiper and are therefore called “Keiper Numbers.”
Only two or three foals are born a year on the island, so the right to name one is special, and usually auctioned off on ebay in a “Name That Foal” contest.
In addition to the foals, adult horses that have not been previously named are also spotlighted in a “Name that Horse” contest. This year, one of the horses to be named was a sorrel mare, numbered M2EINR-B.
The honor of naming the mare was chosen by random draw. The contest was held at the Visitor Center from April through September 2015. There was a kiosk with a poster of the mare and envelopes to enter the drawing. A $5 donation was suggested, but not necessary, to enter.
“AIA was able to raise close to $1000 this summer though the contest which directly benefits the wild Assateague horses,” Ashlie Kozloskie, AIA Outreach Coordinator told iHeartHorses.com. “Walsh’s envelop was drawn from all the entries by a 4 year old boy visiting Assateague on October 1, 2015.”
Kristina Walsh won the naming rights to this mare and picked a name that not only fits the mare, but is in honor of a very special boy:
“I chose Rohan because of a little boy I heard about named Ronan Thompson who died of cancer. Taylor Swift wrote a song about him. I want to dedicate Rohan in his memory. If possible I would love to find a way to let his mom know about it and actually give up my right to the foster parent in lieu of his siblings being the honorary foster parent of her.”
Do you happen to know the Thompson family? Walsh is hoping desperately to get in contact with them and to allow them the right to care for the mare she named in honor of their son. You can help by sharing this story or contacting the Assateague Island Alliance on their Facebook page if you know the family.