Assateague Ponies

Thomas Josiah Chappelle

Oxford, United States

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Picture taken in April 2008 of the famous ponies of Assateague Island

The Chincoteague Pony is a hardy breed that originates on the Atlantic island of Assateague. The breed varies greatly in physical characteristics since there is no true breed standard. Chincoteagues are known for being easy keepers and often do not require shoes. Most Chincoteagues are between 13 and 14.2 hands, but some have been known to reach 16 hands. Chincoteagues come in most all colors and patterns, with pinto being the most popular and the most prevalent. Chincoteagues have excelled in the show ring in a variety of disciplines.

The feral ponies residing in the Maryland side of Assateague are owned and cared for by the United States Park Service. They are referred to as Assateague Ponies.

The Chincoteague Pony Association was established in 1994. All ponies sold by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department are eligible for registration as well as those bred by private breeders. There are a number of Chincoteague Pony breeders scattered around the United States, the Chincoteague Pony Breeders Association was established in 2006. Several of these breeders also breed descendants of Misty of Chincoteague.

[edit] Origins

Chincoteague ponies arriving on the island, July 2007There are two theories of how the ponies came to live on Assateague Island. The legend is that a Spanish galleon wrecked off of Assateague Island and the surviving ponies swam to the island. However, the more likely theory is that early 17th century colonists let their animals loose on the island to avoid the tax on fenced livestock. Whichever theory is true, the free-roaming ponies of Assateague have been living there for hundreds of years.

The Virginia feral ponies are owned by Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. The government allows the fire department to keep a maximum of 150 adult ponies in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island. For over 80 years, on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July, Pony Penning is held on Chincoteague. The herds on Assateague are rounded up, and on Wednesday of Pony Penning week the ponies swim from Assateague to Chincoteague. The ponies are held in a pen at the carnival grounds on Chincoteague until they swim back on Friday morning. On Thursday, an auction of most of the foals is held with a few kept as future breeding stock. The proceeds of the auction are used to care for the feral ponies and finance Chincoteague’s fire department. A second roundup is held in the fall for a vet check, an informal sale of the foals born after Pony Penning, and the foals sold in July that were too young to be weaned are picked up by their owners.

[edit] Misty of Chincoteague

The cover of Marguerite Henry’s Misty of ChincoteagueThe Chincoteague Pony was made famous by Marguerite Henry’s 1947 children’s novel Misty of Chincoteague, and the subsequent sequels Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteague, Stormy: Misty’s Foal, and Misty’s Twilight. The real Misty of Chincoteague was born on Chincoteague in 1946, and her descendants still serve as ambassadors of the breed.

Artwork Comments

  • hilarydougill
  • webbie
  • Dawn B Davies-McIninch
  • Thomas Josiah Chappelle
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