The Coastal Virginia - Eastern Shore region is home to a most unusual pony event that's famous around the world. Come, see this decades old tradition unfold!
Every year on the last Wednesday of July the wild ponies from Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island make the swim over to Chincoteague as part of the small town’s annual Chincoteague Pony Swim festival and fundraiser. A team of volunteer firemen round-up the ponies and herd them across the channel during “slack tide” (between 7:30 and 10 a.m.). When the ponies emerge from the water, they graze and rest before parading down Main Street to the carnival grounds. The first foal to emerge from the water is named King or Queen Neptune and will be given away via raffle at the carnival that night.
On Thursday the annual auction is held to sell the current years’ foals. The ponies have been cleared by a veterinarian and may be transported via approved horse trailer anywhere in the United States. Arrive as early as 8 a.m. to position yourself for bidding.
On Friday the remaining pony herd will swim back to Assateague Island.
If any of this sounds familiar, perhaps you read Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague as a child. Henry traveled from her midwest home to attend the annual pony penning where she was inspired to write the book, based on a real pony named Misty. Misty of Chincoteague was published in 1947, and Misty the pony found a new home with Henry.
Today you’ll find Misty’s ancestors at the Chincoteague Pony Centre. The Centre is the oldest established breeder of Misty family ponies. The kids will enjoy a pony ride while you browse the gift shop.
Last Updated: 1/21/2020