The ponies are the star attraction here. Made famous by Marguerite Henry's bestselling book "Misty of Chincoteague", they make their home on the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, which is the Virginia side of nearby Assateague Island. Credited with being the only wild herd of horses east of the Rockies, they are a beautiful breed, descended, according to local legend, from horses shipwrecked when a Spanish galleon sank just off the coast. This has been given credence recently by the discovery of wreckage purported to be from the La Galga (circa 1750) and the Juno (circa 1802) in local waters.The ponies are the property of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company whose famous "saltwater cowboys" round up the horses annually during the Pony Penning on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July. Started in the 1924 as a fund raising event, it now also serves to keep the population of the horses down to the 150 adult animals that the Fish and Wildlife Service deems appropriate to protect the island habitat from overgrazing. The ponies are driven across a narrow part of the Assateague Channel at slack tide on Wednesday, corraled and auctioned off on Thursday.This "pony swim" is the highlight of the summer season.
Visitors can see the horses year round on the Refuge. Just take Maddox Blvd over the Assateague Channel bridge, pay a small fee for a park pass. You can take the Wildlife loop or continue on the main road through the Refuge. There are also a number of establishments on Chincoteague where the ponies can been seen up close, petted, hand-fed and even ridden.
Submitted by: jmb