Are there 3 Pony Round-ups each year?
Yes, there are 3 Chincoteague Wild Pony Round-ups each year! The Spring and Fall Round-ups are for vet checks and the one in the last week of July is to cull the herd and to raise money for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. All 3 are open to the public and lots of fun.
The Spring and Fall Round-ups are not crowded and visitors can get up close and be at the corral when the ponies come galloping in. The Chincoteague Fire Department does not have a specific weekend to hold the Spring and Fall Chincoteague Pony Round-ups on, but the July Pony Swim & Round-up is always in late July. There are activities all week starting with rounding up the northern and southern herds earlier in the week, and then the famous Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction is always the last Wednesday and Thursday in July each year.
The Fire Department has permission to keep up to 200 ponies on Assateague Island so they swim all the ponies over to Chincoteague on that July Wednesday and Auction off one half of the new foals at the famous Pony Auction on Thursday. The ponies then swim back to Assateague on Friday and are set free to roam another 51 weeks of the year. You never know where you’ll see them!
There are permanent Carnival Grounds on Chincoteague Island, VA which is only open summer Friday and Saturday evenings starting the last weekend in July and then every summer weekend leading up to Pony Swim week when the Carnival is open all week.
What are some Pony Swim Week Activities and Events?
In addition to the normal seashore activities in other weeks, such as enjoying the beach, visitor centers, biking trails, birding, exploring with rangers on Assateague visitors enjoy the restaurants, shopping, miniature golf, Memorial Park with playground, ball park, pavilions and fishing pier and especially crabbing and boating and relaxing at their accommodates, especially if they are waterfront.
Pony Swim week starts off with the Carnival & Rides & Food along with games of chance on starting on Friday evening and every evening that week, but on Saturday the Southern Herd is rounded up. There is a nice corral on the southern side of Beach Rd on Assateague where folks can park their cars to watch.
Then on Sunday the Northern herd is rounded up. Early Monday morning is the popular “Beach Walk” where the volunteer firemen known as the Chincoteague Saltwater Cowboys drive the herd down the beach on Assateague for several miles. This is often exciting as often ponies will take off over the dunes and go out into a pond or swam where they need to be led back out by the firemen.
On Tuesday the ponies get vet checks and visitors can watch all the activity in the corral.
Then on Wednesday morning at the first slack tide, the ponies swim across the Assateague channel as thousands of spectators watch from the shoreline and docks and from all sizes of boats. Then the Chincoteague ponies run through the streets of the town to the Carnival Grounds …. a route they are very familiar with and know the way very well!
On Thursday morning the world famous Chincoteague Pony Penning Auction is held. Folks come from all over the country to bid on a pony. There’s also organizations bidding such as the worthwhile Feather Fund and those that purchase a BuyBack Pony … one that will be set free to roam Assateague Island the rest of his or her life.
On Friday the ponies swim back and are set free, but that’s not all.
On the next evening, Saturday there’s lots of excitement as the drawings are held for the big ticket prizes such as boats and motors as it’s the final night of the famous Pony Penning Carnival wrapping up a full week of Pony Round-up and Swim activities for another year.
Chincoteague Wild Ponies are on Assateague
How did the ponies get to Assateague Island?
The local folklore on Chincoteague Island for years has been that came from a shipwrecked Spanish warship, La Galga, but after Marguarite Henry’s book Misty of Chincoteague became so popular the National Park Service published it’s research in 1968 hoping to settle it. In 1991 the Journal of Wildlife Management published findings of genetic resemblance between the Paso Fino breed brought by the Spanish. In 2007 John Amrhein published The Hidden Galleon: The true story of a lost Spanish ship and the wild horses of Assateague Island.
Are the Chincoteague Ponies actually Horses?
For most competitions, to be considered a horse and not a pony, it must be at least 14.2 hands (each hand is 4″). The average height of a Chincoteague Pony is 12 or 13 hands. The harsh environment on Assateague Island limits the animals diet. According to Wikipedia, the Chincoteague Pony, also know as the Assateague horse, is a breed of pony that lives in feral condition on Assateague. The National Park service literature refers to them as horses in it’s literature.
There’s a Virginia and a Maryland herd. The NPS treats the Maryland herd as wild animals, and except for contraceptives to prevent overpopulation,