Ponies Stranded On Island Due To Government Shutdown


From RedOrbit
By Michael Harper

Wild horses living on Assateague Island cross the channel

Wild horses living on Assateague Island cross the channel in an annual event

A newly developing story details yet another event that will be suspended due to the government shutdown, which is now heading into its second week.

Every fall the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) rounds up a herd of ponies living across the channel on Assateague Island. As a nationally registered wildlife refuge, however, Assateague Island is closed to the public, therefore putting a severe damper on the annual festivities. The volunteer fire department, which under normal circumstances tends to these herds, shared on its Facebook page in no uncertain terms why they were canceling the round up. Originally, this event was scheduled to take place this weekend, October 11-13, 2013.

“Fall Round Up has been cancelled due to the childish, idiotic actions of our government. We will let everyone know when we reschedule,” reads a recent post on the volunteer fire department’s Facebook wall.

Later the same day the fire company offered a brief update:

“Rest assured that this shutdown will NOT, and I mean NOT interfere with the health and well being of our beloved ponies. Yes, we have cancelled the round up but if any issue or issues come up at all with any of them until we can do the round up, it will be taken care of!!”

The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, and indeed the city itself, rely heavily on access to these ponies. Each year the department sponsors the Pony Penning, an event where the Ponies are auctioned off to benefit the fire department. This tradition originated in the 1920s when the fire company first began. More than a way for the CVFD to raise money, Pony Penning also brings in tourists from all over the world who want to experience this one-of-a-kind event. This Penning and the subsequent Pony Swim (how the Ponies get to the island) were made famous by the 1947 novel by Marguerite Henry, “Misty of Chincoteague.”

The ponies, guided across the channel during low tide by self-proclaimed “Salt Water Cowboys,” are then checked by veterinarians, allowed to rest, and then led to a corral at the town’s carnival grounds for the next day’s auction. Pony Penning and the Pony Swim aren’t just ways to earn the fire department some extra money; the herds must be kept below 150 so they can be allowed to graze on the national wildlife refuge.

The ponies are vital to the entire town. The community’s largest events are centered on the ponies and, like many other beach towns, Chincoteague heavily relies on tourism dollars. Without access to Assateague Island, some of the town’s busiest weekends could fall flat.

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AUTHOR: Posted by Habitat for Horses Calaway
  • Sandra

    Well the annual round up is in July, third week of July to be exact. So I dont know what this October round up is about.

    October 8, 2013
    • timo

      The ponies are rounded up every Oct to remove foals that were too young to leave in July and to check the herd out before winter. They are rounded up in the spring as well mostly to vet out any that need attention. The July gather is for Pony Penning Week and it is only then that they are swum across to Chincoteague. The fall and spring round ups take place totally on Assateague.

      October 14, 2013
  • MorganG

    Glad to know these dedicated individuals will make certain these horses are safe no matter what our imbecilic govt decides. You close stores, not governments.

    October 8, 2013
    • sherriey

      if they ever agreed on anything, i’d pass out from shock!

      October 9, 2013
  • Margaret

    These ponies are rounded up several times a year to be wormed and medicated. They arent exactly “super wild” like the Pryors–but you definitely don’t want to touch. Chincoteague ponies will bite and kick like any wild horse.

    What the fire department does is start at the northern end of Assateague and gradually work the horses down to the corrals. There whatever needs they have are addressed.

    Pony Penning Day–youngsters are “sold” to not only keep the herd numbers in check but to also make money for the fire department. It’s a whole lot different than BLM roundups. They use cowboys on horses–not helicopters. And if someone can’t swim they aren’t forced to.

    I went to Chincoteague about 20 years ago and learned this. Since it was about the only herd of wild ponies that I ever knew of (at the time)it stuck. Of course in the past few years I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about government ignorance and intolerance.

    October 9, 2013
  • Beverley hughes

    Auction? You “protect” them, then auction them off to who? Kill buyers to ship them to Canada or Mexico to slaughter? Do you allow kill buyers at your auction?

    October 14, 2013