This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Chincoteague Wild Pony Swim. Made famous by Marguerite Henry’s ‘Misty of Chincoteague,’ first published in 1947, the annual Pony Swim draws international attention, flooding the islands with tens of thousands of spectators, from around the world, each year.
Southern Herd Round Up – July 25th, 2015
Pony Week 2015 begins with a Round Up of the Southern Herd on the afternoon of Saturday, July 25th. On average, about 150 wild ponies reside on Assateague Island, with approximately 50 of those ponies living on the southern end of the barrier island.
To view the Round Up of the Southern Herd of the famous Chincoteague Wild Ponies, follow Maddox Boulevard on Chincoteague Island over the bridge onto the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island in Virginia. Maddox Boulevard will turn into Beach Road upon entering the refuge. Follow Beach Road past the Herbert Bateman Center (on the left) and the Assateague Lighthouse (on the right), on around until you see a marshy pasture with large clumps of loblolly pines off to the right of Beach Road. You will most likely find vehicles already parked on the side of the road, with spectators waiting in anticipation of that first glimpse of the famous Saltwater Cowboys and the Chincoteague Wild Ponies, kicking off the long awaited Pony Week 2015. Watch as the cowboys steer the herd across the pasture and through the woods into the Southern Corral.
Northern Herd Round Up – July 26th, 2015
About 100 of the 150 Chincoteague Wild Ponies residing on Assateague Island live on the northern end of the barrier island. These ponies will be Round Up by the Saltwater Cowboys on horseback on Sunday morning, July 26th and herded into the Northern Corral.
The Beach Walk – July 27th
My personal favorite part of Pony Week takes place as the sun rises. On Monday, July 27th, at daybreak, you’re going to want to be on Assateague Beach enjoying the sight of the Saltwater Cowboys moving the Chincoteague Wild Ponies down the beach, along the Atlantic Ocean as they gallop through the early morning’s sea mist. It is truly a sight to behold, but you’d better be on the beach by 6 am or you just might miss it. During this time, the ponies will be relocated from the Northern Corral to join the Southern Herd in the Southern Corral on Beach Road. The Southern Corral is where most folks will be found following the Beach Run, viewing the ponies which will be up for auction later in the week.
Pony Check Up Day – July 28th
On Tuesday, July 28th, Dr. Charlie Cameron, the pony veterinarian for over 20 years, and his staff will provide a thorough examination of each of the Chincoteague Wild Ponies. This takes place in the Southern Corral, where the small or weakest ones who cannot make it through the Pony Swim on the following day will be picked out and set up to be transported by trailer to the Chincoteague carnival grounds. These ponies are either too young, too old, or too pregnant to make the swim.
The Pony Swim & Parade to the Carnival Grounds – July 29th
Wednesday, July 29th is a major event for everyone. This is when the Chincoteague Wild Ponies will swim across the Assateague Channel, through the protective guidance of the Saltwater Cowboys, from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island.
While visitors will be up before the sun, trying to beat thousands of news people, pony lovers, prospective buyers and local fans through the marshy muck to see the Chincoteague Wild Ponies swim across the channel, the wait is sometimes quite long for the excitement to begin. The swim will NOT take place until “slack tide,” which is the 30 minutes between the tides, at which time there is no current and it is the easiest and safest time for the ponies to make the swim.
According to Chincoteague.com, “the time of slack tide varies each year. However, the swim generally takes place some time between 7 am and 1 pm. The specific time will be announced at the carnival grounds the week of the swim.” Pony Week is an eventful time on Chincoteague Island and the carnival is open all week from 7 – 11 pm.
The excitement of the swim is led by the shot of a red flare, signaling the take off of the ponies’ progression to the visitors long awaiting on the channel’s edge, on Chincoteague Island. Once the ponies reach Chincoteague Island, they are given a 45 minute rest period before being paraded by the Saltwater Cowboys from the east side of the island, down Main Street and to the carnival grounds, in preparation of tomorrow’s auction day.
The Chincoteague Wild Pony Auction – July 30th
At approximately 8 am on Thursday, July 30th, 2015, the annual Chincoteague Wild Pony Auction will begin at the Chincoteague carnival grounds. Visitors from all over the United States will put bids on the Chincoteague Ponies. Winning bidders must pay for their new foal immediately. After the auction, the ponies purchased may go home with their new owners in an approved trailer. Pony buyers may also hire a hauler to deliver their foal anywhere in the country. The auctioning of the foals keeps the pony population to its allotted number of about 150, and provides income for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company which owns and cares for the ponies.
Here are some helpful tips, learned over the years and provided by Wild Pony Tales staff in relation to attending the Chincoteague Wild Pony Auction:
- Bring a folding chair, blanket, or something to sit on.
- Bring water. Drinks and food will be on sale at concession stands at the carnival.
- Do NOT make any sudden movements with your hands while watching the auction, or you could wind up paying for a pony you don’t want.
- NO registration is needed to bid on the ponies.
- Your transportation home for your new foal (a horse trailer) must be approved by the Pony Committee, and the purchased ponies must be picked up by 5 pm on Friday, July 31st, 2015.
- The only acceptable forms of payment are Visa, Mastercard, and/or CASH. The Fire Department does not accept checks.
- Arrive early to get a good spot. The spaces fill up fast. Many bidders and spectators put chairs out during the evening before the auction to be sure of getting an optimal seat.
The Chincoteague Ponies’ Return Swim Back to Assateague Island – July 31st
On Friday, July 31st, 2015, the famous Chincoteague Wild Ponies, who were not sold at yesterday’s auction, will make the return trip back to Assateague. This is the winning bidders’ last day to get their newly purchased pony and take it home. All of the remaining ponies will be sent back to their corrals to mate and refurbish the herds for next year’s Chincoteague Annual Pony Swim. Spectators have the option of watching the remainder of the herd make their swim back across the Assateague Channel to the barrier island that they call home.
For more details in pertinence to Chincoteague Wild Pony Week 2015’s events, please be sure to visit http://www.chincoteague.com/pony_swim_guide.html and, also, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s website at http://cvfc3.com/.