The Ponies of Assateague

Ponies browsing along the Chincoteague Channel shore line

Ponies browsing along the Chincoteague Channel shore line

My daughter saw Misty at the Museum of Chincoteague. The pony lives on, thanks to  the art of taxidermy (Photo by Gina Truitt.)

My daughter saw Misty at the Museum of Chincoteague. The pony lives on, thanks to the art of taxidermy. (Photo by Gina Truitt.)

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–

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The sculpture by Brian Maughan  was installed in 2006, the 60th anniversary of the publication of Misty of Chincoteague.

The sculpture by Brian Maughan was installed in 2006, in time for the the 60th anniversary of the publication of Misty of Chincoteague in 2007.

Not Misty, but this foal is awfully cute. We got a chance to see it on our second trip.

Not Misty, but this foal is awfully cute. We got a chance to see it on our second trip.

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.

Say hello to my new equine friend. They aren't shy.

Say hello to my new equine friend. The ponies at the Chincoteague Pony Centre aren’t shy.

I’m not ten anymore. But I still love those Assateague ponies.

© Text and photos
Mary K. Tilghman

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