Experiencing our nation through its environments, animals, people and history.

Galatians 5:1

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chincoteague Ponies

Right outside our hotel was one of the ponies from Assateague Island. The island has two herds of horses: an northern Maryland herd, maintained by the National Park, and the southern Virginia herd, owned by the volunteer fireman of Chincoteague. Every year the fireman swim the herd across the channel and auction off the ponies. It's called Pony Penning Day or Pony Swim.

There are ponies all over Chincoteague. At Pony Penning they auction off the young ones, since they can be tamed (and they also have to make sure the island doesn't get over populated.) Then the herd swims back to Assateague and lives on their own for another year. An interesting note: the northern Maryland herd population is maintained by birth control, they shoot antibodies into the Mares that make them not able to conceive. Apparently they used those horses to test the antibodies that are now used all over the world, in zoos, African Elephants, etc.

That was a baby outside another hotel. Did you know horses can walk minutes after they are born? Then they stay close to thier mama's and nurse up to five times an hour.
On Saturday morning, Shayna and Mom went out to Assateague to see if we could find some of the wild bands of horses. On the way out to the trail we found lots of other critters!

These are Sika deer, which are actually a type of small oriental elk. They were released on the island in the 1920's.
The baby is cute! And curious of our car!!
We also saw an Egret walking along side the road. Egrets are common on the island, they are marsh birds and they also like horseback riding. Horses let them eat the bugs off of 'em and give them a free ride!

We didn't see any wild ponies down on land, so we decided to hike up the lighthouse and see if we could find any from there.

Here is the view out toward Chincoteague. See the brown and white dots between the trees?
Its a band of wild ponies!!
We were having a hard time getting the camera to focus with that much zoom, but we were happy to see that all this pony stuff wasn't a fairy tale!! By the way, horses travel in bands, which are made up of one Stallion, his mares, and their young. They stay close together, and when the "Saltwater Cowboys" come to round them up on Pony Penning Day, they just need to round up the Stallion and the Mares and young will follow.
Here is the view across the channel. This is where the ponies swim every year. We're going to spend the afternoon on the other side at Memorial Park, so we can say we swam where the ponies swim!! (We do see more ponies over the weekend.) Want more info? check http://www.chincoteague.com/pony/ponies.html

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