Chincoteague Island Pony Swim Guide 2015
Wednesday July 29, 2015 will mark the 90th year of Chincoteague's annual Pony Swim. The Chincoteague Pony Swim was made famous by Marguerite Henry's "Misty of Chincoteague". Tens of thousands of spectators from around the world gather on Chincoteague Island each year to watch this annual tradition. Scroll down for a complete guide to the Chincoteague Pony Swim. For more information about the Chincoteague Ponies, including their history and origins of the modern day Pony Swim, check out our Chincoteague Pony web page. Click here to see pictures of the event. Click here for a helpful map of Chincoteague Island. Click here to watch an excellent video covering the round-up, swim, and auction.
The Chincoteague Fireman's Carnival (with rides, games, raffles, and lots of good food) will be open each night during pony penning week beginning at 7pm.
The Pony Round Up: July 25 & 26, 2015
The weekend prior to Wednesday's Pony Swim, "Saltwater Cowboys" on horseback will begin to round up the approximately 150 wild ponies that live on Assateague Island. About 50 ponies reside on the southern end of Assateague Island, and will be herded into a southern corral Saturday afternoon. About 100 ponies reside a little further north on the Assateague Island, and will be herded into a northen corral Sunday morning. The ponies can be viewed by the public in the southern corral, which is located on Assateague, just off the road that leads to the beach.
The Beach Walk: July 27, 2015
On Monday, at day break, the Saltwater Cowboys will move the ponies from the northern corral out to the beachfront then south along the Atlantic Ocean, and join them with the ponies in the southern corral. To see the ponies make their way from the north corral to the south corral along the beach, be at the Assateague Beach by 6 a.m.
The Pony Swim: July 29, 2015
On Wednesday, the Saltwater Cowboys will swim the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. The swim takes place at "slack tide". Slack tide is a period of about 30 minutes between tides, when there is no current. This is the easiest time for the ponies to make the swim. The time of slack tide varies each year. However, the swim generally takes place some time between 7am and 1pm. The specific time will be announced at the carnival grounds the week of the swim. The Chincoteague Ponies will swim across the Assateague Channel, just south of Memorial Park (7427 Memorial Park Dr, Chincoteague Island, VA 23336) on the east side of Chincoteague Island. There is no charge to see the ponies swim. However, the ONLY parking at Memorial Park is designated for handicap use. All folks coming in just for the day are encouraged to go to Chincoteague Combined School (4586 Main St. Chincoteague Island, VA 23336) and catch the free shuttle. Those lodging on Chincoteague Island may catch a shuttle bus near their lodging. We recommend getting started early on this day and to anticipate a heavy crowd. Click here to view the shuttle bus map. Click here for helpful information about riding the shuttle to Pony Swim events. The best way to see the pony swim up close is on a Charter Boat. However, spots on these boats for the pony swim are in very high demand, so be sure to reserve your spot at least several months in advance.
The first foal to come ashore will be named King or Queen Neptune and will be given away in a raffle drawing at the carnival grounds later in the day (time to be announced). Tickets are sold each night at the carnival and amongst the crowd while waiting for the swim to occur. You must have a ticket and you must be present to win.
Parade To Carnival Grounds: July 29, 2015
After the swim, the ponies rest for about 45 minutes. Then the Saltwater Cowboys will “parade” the ponies down Main Street, to the carnival grounds where the auction will be held Thursday morning. The parade route is shown on the Shuttle Bus Map.
The Pony Auction: July 30, 2015
The purpose of the pony swim on Wednesday is to move the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island so that the foals can be auctioned. The auction takes place the following day. The auction serves two purposes. First, the auction helps to control the overall size of the herd, keeping it from growing too large. Secondly, the auction is a fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. The Fire Company uses some of the proceeds from the auction to provide veterinary care for the ponies through out the year. The auction begins at 8 am. Auction winners will receive a certificate saying that they purchased a Chincoteague Pony from the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.
The following are tips for those who plan to bid for a pony during the auction:
Each year the Fire Company designates a select few ponies as "Buy Backs". A Buy Back Pony is a foal that is designated by the Fire Company to return to Assateague Island to live out its life there. The Buy Back Pony will be auctioned with the rest of the foals. The winner of a Buy Back Pony will get to name the Pony before it is returned to Assateague. Buy Back Ponies replenish the herd on Assateague. Buy Back Ponies have actually become some of the highest priced ponies sold at the auction.
Proceeds from the sale of one foal annually goes to a regional charity. Past recipients have included Wounded Warriors, Hospice, Palliative Care of the Eastern Shore, and Alzheimer's Adult Care.
Each year the Feather Fund helps deserving children purchase ponies at the auction. The Feather Fund is a charity that was created to honor the memory of Carollynn Suplee, a woman who came to Chincoteague annually to help children buy ponies at the auction until she passed away from cancer in 2003. To learn more visit www.featherfund.org.
The Pony Swim back to Assateague: July 31, 2015
On Friday, the adult ponies will make the return swim to Assateague Island where they will live in the wild for another year.