I had the privilege of visiting Chincoteague Island and Assateague Island, in Virginia, during mid-February ’13. Chincoteague is a quaint, friendly town and Assateague Island was abundant with wildlife. I had my sights set on finding the famous Chincoteague Ponies, known worldwide for the pony swim and penning that occurs yearly on the last Wednesday of July. The ponies are actually feral, most likely left by settlers who moved to the island a few hundred years ago to avoid being taxed on farm animals.
When the settlers left, the ponies were able to survive on their own, and still do, without human intervention. Today, they are still viewed and treated as wild animals but they do receive contraception to avoid overpopulation on the island which would be devastating as their food supply is often scarce. They are also inspected by a veterinarian twice a year as they are sold at auction every July and will be integrated into domesticated herds.
The ponies are smaller in size compared to domesticated horses partly due to their poor diet of salt marsh plants and brush. Due to their high consumption of salty plants, their water intake is considerably high giving them a bloated appearance. The ponies separate into small herds usually consisting of a stallion, several mares and their foals.
The Chincoteague Ponies are now managed by the Volunteer Fire Department of Chincoteague, with the total population of ponies on the island kept to around 150. During the Pony Swim, also known as the Pony Penning, the largest foals are sold at the auction that occurs on the last Thursday of July, with the remainder of the ponies and small foals returned to Assateague Island the next day.
I hope you enjoy my photographs of the Chincoteague Ponies as much as I enjoyed capturing their beauty and unique expressions!
Fine Art Prints or Canvases of the Chincoteague Ponies