Sea those ponies swim!

Despite what you may think, the success of the 91st Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim was neigh-ver in doubt
Assateague ponies The wild ponies of Assateague Island aren't afraid of a swim. Every July, they swim across a channel to nearby Chincoteague Island. (© Stephen Bonk |

We don't normally think of horses as swimmers. They're trotters, gallopers, and leapers, majestically gliding across the ground with manes flowing and hooves thundering. As for ponies, we think the same sort of thing...only with less majesty and speed. But still...swimmers?

Okay, maybe we're exaggerating here. After all, we do know that horses and ponies can swim. I guess we've always just thought of it as a real last-minute resort thing. You know, like...

Horse 1: "OMG, that meadow looks so good. I would just love to run around there. I would, like, run there all day long!"

Horse 2: "I know. Me too. But it's all the way across that river."

Horse 1: "Sigh. Why are all the good things in life always across a body of water!"

Pony: "Hey, guys. Whatcha lookin' at?"

Horse 2: "Oh, hey Pony. Just looking at that meadow."

Horse 1: "So good."

Horse 2: "But so far."

Pony: " That's a nice meadow, alright. But, if you wanna go there that bad...we could just swim across..."

Horse 1: "What?! You're one CRAZY pony, Pony!"

Horse 2: "Yeah, that's the...*pauses*...Assateague Channel!"

Pony: "Okay, okay! Just gonna go and eat some grass over here..."

The point being...?

Sorry, yes. The point being, it's easy to think of horses swimming in water as being more of a desperation measure. But as it turns out, horses and ponies are quite capable swimmers. And there's no greater proof of that than the Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim.

Horse 1: "What the heck are you talking about?"

Oh, hey, Horse 1. That's just this event every year where 200 ponies swim across the Assateague Channel...

Horse 2: "Hold on. The Assateague Channel?!"

Uh...yeah. The Assateague Channel. They swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island and...

Horse 1: "OMG."

Horse 2: "What?"

Horse 1: "Look over there...on that beautiful meadow. Is that...

Horse 2: "Pony."

Pony: "This meadow is amazing! And the swim was pretty fun, too..." *gallops off*

A long tradition

In case you're wondering what to believe at this point, believe this: there really is an annual event where about 200 wild ponies swim from their home on Assateague Island, Virginia, across the Assateague Channel (about a 1/4 km or 1/8 mile swim), and on to Chincoteague Island. The latest swim happened yesterday on Wednesday morning.

The ponies are rounded up by a local group known as "Saltwater Cowboys" from their home where they have roamed wild for hundreds of years. Once on Chincoteague Island, the ponies are auctioned off to benefit the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. These firefighters own and care for the pony herd (as well as offering emergency services to this part of Virginia). The money that they raise doesn't just go to maintaining the fire company — some is also donated to organizations like the Special Olympics. Auctioning off some of the ponies to other owners also helps keep the size of the herd on Assateague Island under control (it's not a very large island, after all).

The actual auction happens today. All ponies that aren't chosen in the auction have nothing to worry about. They just head back to Assateague Island where they'll go about their lives. Until next July, of course.

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  1. I’ve loved these ponies since I read ”Misty of Chincoteague”, and I think these hardy little guys deserve everyone’s awe!!

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