Posted: January 12th, 2017
Chincoteague’s annual Pony Swim attracts nationwide attention. The swim and auction take place on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July each year. This year, 2017, will mark the 92nd anniversary of the world famous event.
Did you know that the Saltwater Cowboys round up the Wild Ponies on Assateague at two other times of the year? The first roundup is April, and the last roundup is in October. The Wild Ponies are rounded up into corrals on Assateague Island for an overall health check by a Veterinarian. The vet gives the Ponies inoculations against the West Nile virus and to prevent Equine Encephalitis. The vet also checks their hooves and teeth.
About 50 adult wild ponies live on the Southern End of Assateague Island, in an area visible from the main road of the refuge. The main “beach access road” is the one that leads to the beach. On a Friday afternoon, starting at around 4 pm, the Saltwater Cowboys will begin rounding up the “Southern Herd” from this area and will lead them into a corral located along the main road. This round up usually takes a couple of hours. Spectators are able to view the Ponies in the corral after the round up. This corral along the main road is located next to the Woodland Trail (see map below).
Saturday morning the Saltwater Cowboys begin rounding up the 100 or so additional adult wild ponies that live in a much larger area further North on Assateague Island. The “Northern Herd” is rounded up into a corral which is about 3 miles up the Service Road. The northern end round up takes about 5 – 6 hours to complete because there are more ponies and more land to cover. This area is not as easily accessible to the public because it requires a three mile walk up the service road. This road is called the Northern OSV Service Road. Private vehicles are not allowed on this road. It is also the same road that the Refuge Trek uses on its tour. The public is allowed to walk up the Service Road to the cattle grate (just south of the corral) at any time of the day. Please be aware that this requires a three-mile walk one way (6 miles round trip) on a gravel road. Access to the corral and farther north will be permitted after round up activities are completed.
There is a chance that an early born foal or two may be included in the herd during the Spring round-up.
The Spring and Fall round-ups provide an excellent opportunity for the public to view the Wild Ponies up close, without the enormous crowds that are present for the Pony Swim in July.
Park in the Woodland Trail Parking Lot to access the Southern Corral.
Sara Daisey authors the Chincoteague.com Blog. She resides on Chincoteague Island with her husband Ted and three children, Garrett, Morgan, and Jenna.