The annual Chincoteague Pony Swim is back! If you haven’t heard of the Pony Swim before, it is an event where the ponies of Assateague Island swim to Chincoteague Island where the foals are then auctioned off. They swim across the Assateague channel at slack tide and then are examined by veterinarians and herded to a corral where they will be auctioned off the next day.
This is not harmful to the ponies because the are really good swimmers, and the younger and older ponies are taken by trailer to the corral. This ‘swim’ helps with overpopulation of the Assateague herd and is also a fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department.
This year the swim will take place between 8 – 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 25. 2018 will mark the 93rd year of the official Pony Swim.
On Wednesday, the ‘Saltwater Cowboys’ will swim the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island and come ashore on the east side of Chincoteague. The main public viewing area is Veterans Memorial Park (7427 Memorial Park Dr, Chincoteague Island, VA 23336), where a large screen will show a live feed of the swim. Seating is not provided. The Town of Chincoteague provides a free Pony Shuttle service, beginning at 4:00 a.m. The Pony Shuttle runs between various locations on Chincoteague Island and Veterans Memorial Park. This is the best way to get to and from the Pony Swim.
The history of this event starts in 1835 when the practice of pony penning began; this is where residents of the Assateague and Chincoteague area began rounding up ponies in order to remove some of them to the mainland. In 1924 the first “Pony Penning Day” occurred, marking the official start of the annual Pony Swim. The Chincoteague Pony Swim was ultimately made famous by Marguerite Henry’s book “Misty of Chincoteague” in 1947. The event is and was held by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, in which the ponies were auctioned off to raise money for fire equipment and has lasted in the same fashion to the present day.
Crowds gather from all around the country and the world, up to the hundreds of thousands, to watch this tradition. For most of them, the last Wednesday and Thursday of July has become an annual event to participate in the tradition of the Pony Swim.
In addition to the swim, there will be the Chincoteague Fireman’s Carnival (with rides, games, raffles, and lots of good food) which will be open each night (Mon – Sat) during pony penning week beginning at 7pm. Misty of Chincoteague will be showing, at 11:00 a.m. daily at the Island Theater during pony penning week (Mon – Fri). Admission is free and is first come, first served.