I fell in love with ponies when I read Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague. Like hundreds, probably thousands, of other pre-teen girls, I wanted a pony of my own. So did every other girl I knew growing up in the 1960s.
The next best thing was seeing the herd of ponies from which Misty came and I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see the wild ponies that roam the salty island of Assateague.
We visited Chincoteague (the neighboring island with the fire company that cares for the ponies) for the pony swim a long time ago, with about 50,000 of our closest friends. It’s an international event. The 89th annual pony swim is tomorrow, July 30.
The ponies are free to roam just about every corner of the Maryland side of this barrier island of Assateague. But they’re a little more difficult to see on the Virginia side, where Misty was born.
On a recent visit to Chincoteague — a wonderful week of ponies, beach time and the joys of a quaint small town — we had lots of time to see the ponies. Far away every day but sometimes, we got a little closer.
Take a look–
My husband and I returned to Chincoteague a month later to re-take the Saltwater Pony Tour. This time we were thrilled to see a foal with its mother at the edge of a marsh. We got close and stayed long enough to see the little pony stand up, nuzzle its mother and stare straight at us. Loved the tour both times.
In the little town of Chincoteague, Misty is remembered in a pocket-sized park.
And you do have an opportunity to see ponies close up — even ride one if you are so inclined — at the Chincoteague Pony Centre. We were delighted to discover it’s perfectly OK to stop by and get to know these big, gentle animals a little better. We spent a long time petting the soft noses of a couple of these famous ponies in the pens by the parking lot.
I’m not ten anymore. But I still love those Assateague ponies.
© Text and photos
Mary K. Tilghman