Since 1925 The Chincoteague Island Pony Swim has been the centerpiece for life on this tiny island off the coast of Virginia. Much of Chincoteague Island’s business community was destroyed by fire in the previous five years. The Fire Department needed to raise funds for new equipment and decided to hold a Firemen’s Carnival that July, featuring the first Pony Swim and Auction. Fifteen pony foals were sold and a new tradition was born.
Word spread over the years, and in 1947, Marguerite Henry released her soon to be classic book for children, called Misty of Chincoteague. Learn more about this book by clicking here: Misty of Chincoteague information.
With the Town’s permission, the Chincoteague Fire Department assumed ownership of the wild Chincoteague pony herd on Assateague Island. The herd numbers around 150 ponies and has become quite accustomed to the annual roundup. This is where the Salt Water Cowboys come into play. This elite band of experts guarantee the safety of the Chincoteague ponies during drive and then lead them to the Carnival ground corrals where there are examined by a veterinarian before the auction the next day.
Phase two of the world-famous Chincoteague Pony Swim happens on Friday, when the remaining stallions and mares swim back across the channel. Mares with very young foals will remain on Chincoteague Island until later in the fall season. The Salt Water Cowboys take them back to Assateague in October when the entire herd gets a thorough veterinary examination.