Wild Ponies of Chicoteague and Assateague Islands

I invited a number of buddies to hitch me on this journey. We deliberate to spend sooner or later in Chincoteague and take a ship tour to get higher entry to the ponies. We talked the boat captain of Salt Water Pony Excursions into taking us out earlier than dawn, and I’m glad we did, because the dawn that morning was nothing in need of spectacular! Picture by Shelley Paulson
Chincoteague Island Ponies
A herd heads again to the dunes from the seaside. The ponies typically go to the seaside noon to get a break from the flies. Picture by Shelley Paulson

In recent times, I’ve taken a number of journeys to {photograph} wild horses. These journeys have taken me west, the place horses roam free and cowboys and cowgirls nonetheless journey the vary. However final yr, I needed to do one thing totally different and head east to a spot I’ve solely visited within the pages of a favourite childhood ebook: Misty of Chincoteague. When most of us consider wild horses, we consider the American West, with its iconic herds of Mustangs. However wild horses and ponies may be discovered all throughout the U.S., together with the coastlines of Virginia and Maryland on Chincoteague and Assateague Islands.

Chincoteague Island Ponies
After photographing the dawn, we moved on and located an space the place two herds had been grazing shut to one another. We obtained there simply in time to see and {photograph} a stallion confrontation. The skirmish was pretty delicate in comparison with the violence you see between Mustang stallions, however nonetheless thrilling to look at and {photograph}. The tour information advised us that seeing this sort of interplay is uncommon, which made it much more particular. Picture by Shelley Paulson

These wild horses are believed to have been on a galleon ship, certain for America from Spain. The ship wrecked in a storm, and the horses had been capable of swim to security to the shores of Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, the place they discovered to outlive on their very own. A latest discovery of a shipwreck off of Assateague Island helps this concept.

Whereas they’re proportioned like horses, individuals most frequently consult with them as ponies on account of their small stature, attributable to a less-than-ideal food plan of salt marsh crops and brush.

Chincoteague Island Ponies
These wild ponies are extra accustomed to individuals, so that they had been simpler to {photograph} than wild Mustangs, who typically run after they see individuals. They’re nonetheless cautious, and we had been cautious to maintain a correct distance from them. Picture by Shelley Paulson

Seeing the ponies of Chincoteague and Assateague with my very own eyes was a childhood dream come true. Attending to {photograph} them and are available residence with recollections within the type of pictures was an unforgettable expertise.

Chincoteague Island Ponies
These are colourful herds, with many pinto-colored like Misty and Stormy. Picture by Shelley Paulson
Assateague Island Ponies
Through the vacationer season, the ponies roam the campgrounds, rummaging for meals. We visited after Labor Day, so whereas some ponies had been nonetheless within the public areas, we additionally obtained a particular Over Sand Automobile (OSV) cross, which allowed us entry to the complete size of the seaside to seek for ponies. Picture by Shelley Paulson
Assateague Island Ponies
A foal nurses whereas his mom grazes within the swamp with an egret perching on her again. The egrets have a symbiotic relationship with the ponies, feasting on flies and ticks which might be irritating them and which might be additionally a possible well being hazard. Picture by Shelley Paulson
Assateague Island Ponies
After our time in Chincoteague, we headed north to Assateague the place extra ponies roam an extended stretch of the island. Picture by Shelley Paulson
Assateague Island Ponies
A pony stallion resting within the tall grasses of Assateague Island. Picture by Shelley Paulson
Assateague Island Ponies
Each morning, we’d arrive on the park round dawn and go straight to the primary seaside we may entry to search for ponies. The final morning, this ritual bore fruit once we discovered a lone pair snoozing because the solar rose between the clouds. Picture by Shelley Paulson

Managing The Ponies on Chincoteague and Assateague Islands

There are literally two herds on Assateague Island, that are genetically an identical. The most important distinction between the herds is in how they’re managed. A fence on the Maryland/Virginia border retains the herds separated.

The Virginia herd is managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Hearth Division, who manage a yearly pony penning occasion. A number of the ponies are rounded up, pushed throughout the channel on to Chincoteague Island, and auctioned off to boost cash for the continued care of the herd, whose numbers are stored at round 150.

The Maryland herd is managed by the Nationwide Park Service. They use contraception to handle the herd dimension, which is stored at round 90.

This picture portfolio concerning the Chincoteague Ponies
appeared within the July 2020 problem of Horse Illustrated journal. Click on right here to subscribe!

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Earlier articleRiata Ranch Cowboy Women

Shelley Paulson is an equestrian photographer and filmmaker based mostly in Minnesota. She shares an inspiring take a look at a few of her favourite photographs and the tales behind them in her new ebook, Horses, Portraits & Tales, out there on Amazon.


Journalist specialized in online marketing as Social Media Manager. I help professionals and companies to become more Internet and online reputation, which allows to give life to the Social Media Strategies defined for the Company, and thus immortalize brands, products and services. I have participated as an exhibitor in various forums nationally and internationally, I am the author of several articles in digital magazines and Blogs.

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