Assateague – Chincoteague Pony
Assateague & Chincoteague ponies are essentially the same animals, they inhabit the island of Assateague off the coast of the Maryland – Virginia border.
There are several theories as to the origins of these animals, however their existance on the island has been documented back to around 1631.
In 1639 horses were imported to the colony, which was encouraged by local government until the sheer numbers became a burden on the local habitat. In 1669 horses were taxed by the local government & owners were required to pen them during late summer & early fall.
It was this taxation which created the Assateague – Chincoteague ponies. Planters began to take their horses to nearby islands to avoid the cost of taxes and fencing.
Too Many Mouths to Feed
By 1671 importation of horses to the local area was forbidden by law for three years & the unwanted horses were turned loose to live in the island marshes. Often domesticated animals were branded & turned loose with the herd to graze as well.
The herd on the Maryland side is managed by the National Park Service & the herd on the Virginia side is owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. They are permitted to graze on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
Pony Penning Carnival
Every year during the last week of July the ponies are rounded up for their famous swim to Chincoteague for the Pony Penning Carnival. During this week young, strong animals are auctioned off with proceeds going back to care for the herd. The remaining ponies are returned to Assateague. This practice keeps the pony numbers down & increases quality of life for the herd.
Through the years, storms & natural events have threatened this breed of pony, so today’s ponies have been influenced by the blood of other animals
Average height 12 – 14 hands in the wild, when domesticated they can grow up to 16 hands
Independent & hardy through natural selection
Legs are slim, strong with good joints & hard feet
Head is small & refined with widely spaced eyes
Much of their diet is salt-rich marsh grass, because of this they drink twice the water of normal animals. This can cause them to look rather bloated.
Independent & hardy
Friendly when domesticated
Light farm work
Assateague/ Chincoteague Pony Products
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National Chincoteague Pony Association
Chincoteague Pony Penning
Chincoteague Pony Centre
Annual Fireman’s Carnival Pony Swim & Auction
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge