The Ponies of Assateague Island

Bristolero

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My wife and I recently made an extended trip to the US, mostly coastal California and the desert Southwest. Just prior to our return to Alaska, we flew across the country to visit our youngest daughter and her family, who live near Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Many of us in our youth enjoyed Marguerite Henry's book "Misty of Chincoteague", written about a foal that came from the famous herd of small horsed that live in the area. The ponies actually reside on nearby Assateague Island, a 37 mile uninhabited National Wildlife refuge and park. We visited the island several times to enjoy the beach with the grandkids, to bird, and to photograph its equine inhabitants.
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Two herds exist on the island, separated by the fence which divides the Maryland and Virginia parts. We observed the souther herd which consists of about 130 animals in total.
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Since their main food source is the tidal grasslands, the ponies have a somewhat more rounded look from all the fresh water they drink to dilute the excess salt from their diet. All ponies looked healthy and fairly relaxed around people, whom they are used to seeing in large numbers, especially during the summer months.
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Much of the existing southern herd was sired by the famous Surfer Dude, a dark brown stallion with a stupendous blond mane. Surfer Dude passed away in 2015, but his bloodline is continued by his son, Riptide, who is the dominant stallion in Virginia herd.
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Riptide is a splendid animal. We saw him several times, rolling, galloping around, always impressive in his attitude and appearance. Here, he comes galloping by, reminding me the benefit of a zoom lens!
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Growing up in remote Alaska, I've never really been a horse person. That said, I really enjoyed these ponies and the scenic seashore environment they inhabit.
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Twice yearly the souther herd is checked by veterinarians. Late July sees the famous Swimming of the Ponies, where a group known as Saltwater Cowboys swims the herd across the channel to nearby Chincoteague, runs them down a raceway through the town and into large holding pens. The ponies are vaccinated against disease and then surplus foals are auctioned. Since Assateague will only support a certain number of animals, the herd must be kept at a stable population, hence the auction. Surprisingly, the northern (Maryland) herd has no roundup or auction. Instead the population is checked by the administration of contraceptives, thus reducing herd fertility.
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One final image of Surfers' Riptide calmly munching some roadside greens.
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And strutting his stuff near the Assateague pony pens.

Chincoteage and Assateague are really worth visiting. The birding is supposedly excellent, although, I would advise you--unlike us-- to avoid March:
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I know we will be back to this wonderful area: birds, ponies, seashore, neat Chincoteague town, and our own special kind of beach wildlife!
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Great photos. I certainly read the books when I was young. I thing it's great that their lineage seems well documented. I don't think there is as much concern put into the wild horses in my area.
 
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Bristolero

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Alaska/New Zealand
Great photos. I certainly read the books when I was young. I thing it's great that their lineage seems well documented. I don't think there is a much concern put into the wild horses in my area.
Thanks Harvey,
I think these ponies are so well known that they have to be well cared for. My son-in-law is the CO of the small boat USCG station and responsible for keeping order during the pony swim. He says tons of people and boats. Sounds like a fun experience, but one I will never see as long as the salmon keep running in the summer.
BTW, where do you live in Utah. We took that crazy road up the Mokai Dugway by Mexican Hat, through Hite(spectacular country), Hankville, Capitol Reef, Escalante, and on towards Zion, which was flooded and the road closed. Souther Utah--da**ed impressive!
 
Joined
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What Is Real Anyway?
Thanks Harvey,
I think these ponies are so well known that they have to be well cared for. My son-in-law is the CO of the small boat USCG station and responsible for keeping order during the pony swim. He says tons of people and boats. Sounds like a fun experience, but one I will never see as long as the salmon keep running in the summer.
BTW, where do you live in Utah. We took that crazy road up the Mokai Dugway by Mexican Hat, through Hite(spectacular country), Hankville, Capitol Reef, Escalante, and on towards Zion, which was flooded and the road closed. Souther Utah--da**ed impressive!
I’m mostly west of there, only 50 miles east of the Nevada border.
 
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May 12, 2014
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Benton Harbor, Michigan
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Tom Remisoski
My wife and I recently made an extended trip to the US, mostly coastal California and the desert Southwest. Just prior to our return to Alaska, we flew across the country to visit our youngest daughter and her family, who live near Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Many of us in our youth enjoyed Marguerite Henry's book "Misty of Chincoteague", <snip>
Thanks for posting this! I think I read every one of those books when I was a kid. I'm glad to see these beautiful animals are still thriving.
 
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