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Chincoteague Island Pony Swim Guide 2015

Jun 26, 2015

Pony Penning is a longtime Chincoteague tradition with roots dating back to the 1700s. Modern day Pony Penning has taken place since 1925, when the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company held the first Fireman's Carnival during the Pony Penning to help them raise funds for fire fighting equipment. More than a dozen colts were sold to benefit the fire company, the carnival was a huge success, and Pony Penning as we know it today was born.

Pony Penning is an annual event on the last Wednesday and Thursday each July, in which ponies swim from Assateague Island across the channel to Chincoteague to be sold in an auction to benefit the fire department. Wednesday July 29 will mark Chincoteague's 90th Annual Pony Swim, followed by the auction on Thursday. Every year, more than 40,000 visitors gather on the shoreline to watch the world-famous Pony Swim.

Here is a quick guide to the Pony Swim and its surrounding events:

The Chincoteague Fireman's Carnival will be open each night during Pony Penning week beginning at 7 p.m.

Pony Roundup - July 25 and 26
The weekend prior to the pony swim, Saltwater Cowboys will round up the approximately 150 wild ponies that live on Assateague Island. 50 ponies who reside on the southern end of the island will be herded into a southern corral Saturday afternoon, and 100 ponies on the northern end will be herded into a northern corral Sunday morning.

Beach Walk - July 27
Monday morning, the Saltwater Cowboys will move the ponies from the northern corral down the beach to join the ponies in the southern corral.To see the ponies make their walk, be at Assateague Beach by 6 a.m.

Pony Swim - July 29
The Saltwater Cowboys swim the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island during slack tide - a period of about 30 minutes between tides when there is no current. Slack tide, which generally occurs sometime between 7am and 1pm, is the easiest time for the ponies to make their swim. Click here for more information about where and how to view the Pony Swim.

After the 5-10 minute swim, the ponies rest for about 45 minutes before they are paraded down Main Street to the carnival grounds for the auction Thursday morning.

Auction - July 30
The day after the swim, the foals are auctioned. The auction, set to begin at 8am, serves both to keep the size of the herd from getting too large and as a fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. Last year, 54 ponies were sold for a record-high average cost of $2772.

Each year, a few foals are selected to be buybacks, which are auctioned with the stipulation that they are donated back to the fire company. The winners of the buyback ponies get to name them before they are returned to Assateague Island to replenish the herd and live out the rest of their lives.

The day after the auction, Saltwater Cowboys swim the remaining ponies back to Assateague Island where they will remain until next year's Pony Penning.