CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (WJZ) — Tens of thousands of spectators from all over the country, and all over the world, gathered to watch wild horses move from Chincoteague, Virginia to Assateague, Maryland in The 94th annual Chincoteague Pony Swim Wednesday morning.
It’s an annual tradition that has taken place the last Wednesday in July, and for some, it’s a life-long goal to be there.
“I can’t wait to see them swim in and come to land and see how they react and how they look,” one spectator said.
You can thank Marguerite Henry’s classic book “Mistery of Chincoteague” for making this tradition a destination.
“My daughter read it when she was nine,” one attendee said.
Then, they’re spotted. One of two herds of Chincoteague ponies that live on Assateague Island. This herd must not exceed 150 animals, so each year, the town’s volunteer fire department brings them to land and auctions off the average 70 new foals.
“It’s really a treasure and it’s really the only place in the world that they actually do this.”
It is also the only place you’ll ever see Chincoteague ponies. They are a registered breed with short and stocky legs, a thick mane and large, round bellies.
This pony, and the entire herd, are descendants of the first who came ashore. Some believe it happened 300 years ago when a Spanish galleon broke apart at sea.
Their diet is mostly saltwater cordgrass. After a brief graze, they’ll next be walked to the carnival grounds where the auction will take place, to cull the herd and raise money for the volunteer fire department.
The pony auction will begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday. If you’re going to bid, you’re encouraged to show up early. The average price for a foal is around $2,600, but some have gone as high as $11,000.
Over the centuries, these ponies have adapted beautifully to a harsh life on Assateague Island. Friday, they will swim back to their home in the wild where they will live free for another year.