A Delmarva Tradition: the Chincoteague Pony Swim

Aerial photo of a past Chincoteague Pony Swim. (File photo: Chopper 16)

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. - It is a Delmarva tradition that attracts visitors from far and wide. After events were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chincoteague Pony Swim is making its return Wednesday morning.

With an expected start time of sometime between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., the famed Saltwater Cowboys will herd an army of approximately 150 wild adult ponies across the Assateague Channel from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. The route is just south of Veterans Memorial Park, where spectators can see the ponies swim. Tens of thousands of people are expected to be on hand to witness the spectacle. 

The annual event, held by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which manages the herd, always takes place at "slack tide," which 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 across the channel.

Following the swim, the ponies will rest for 45 minutes. Then the Saltwater Cowboys will "parade" the ponies down Main Street, to the carnival grounds where the foals will be auctioned off Thursday morning.

Some of the proceeds from the fire company's fundraiser will be used to provide veterinary services for ponies throughout the year.

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.

On Friday, the adult ponies will make the return swim to Assateague Island where they will live in the wild for another year.

Click here for more details about Wednesday's event.  

And be sure to visit the WBOC News app or the WBOC Facebook page for live coverage of the pony swim.

Kye Parsons is the editor of WBOC.com. He came to WBOC with several years experience as an award-winning journalist on Delmarva. Prior to entering the world of multimedia, he worked as a newspaper editor and reporter. E-mail him at kparsons@wboc.com .

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