Delmarva Peninsula – Delaware – Maryland – Virginia
Play Misty for Me
I somehow was never introduced to the children’s book Misty of Chincoteague. The book that recounts the story of a wild pony that was purchased from auction by a young brother and sister. The children had raised money by harvesting clams to purchase the pony with the unique marking of a map of the USA on her side. When I heard the story of the Chincoteague pony swim, I just knew it was something I had to see. The Pony Swim is an annual even held on Chincoteague Island, Va.
The Pony Swim has occurred since 1925. During the brief 3 minute pony swim event, the wild horses swim across the Assateague Channel when the tide is “slack calm” so the young ponies, which are born during spring or early summer, are safe from any strong currents. An auction takes place before the ponies swim back to Assateague Island.
The Wild Pony Swim is visited by over 40,000 spectators. If you go, be prepared to go before sunrise and to wait long hours in the hot sun with intense mosquitos. I would suggest booking a charter service months in advance; I used Assateague Explorer. This will give you a closer up view of the approximately 150 Assateague Ponies that make the historic swim. It is a chore and commitment to see, but worth every bit of it. The sound of the horse is just moving. It might even make you cry.
Many of the Chincoteague local firemen that “round up” the wild ponies for the Pony Swim, have participated in the event most of their lives. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Dept. began to hold it’s annual carnival in 1925 with an auction of some of the wild ponies after the pony swim. At the carnival, some of the foals & yearlings are auctioned off before the wild ponies swim back to Assateague Island a couple days later. The tradition began when the town of Chincoteague found itself in need of fire equipment in order to protect itself. Several devastating fires had occurred during the early 1900’s, and since Chincoteague Island was isolated from the mainland with no bridges, the town needed protection. Today, most of the proceeds go to the fire dept. for new equipment. The Annual Pony Swim at Chincoteague is now become a national treasure, and a great addition to any bucket list.