Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pony Penning Day

When Annika found out we were going to be on the East coast in July, she talked us into attending Pony Penning Day. At first, the other kids thought we were going to Pony Petting Day, so they weren't overly excited. But the actual event was very cool, and we thoroughly enjoyed it along with 50,000 other tourists. (I'm not kidding; there were probably more.)
So, a little background . . . .
Pony Penning Day is held every year on the last Wednesday in July on Chincoteague Island, VA, with this year marking its 83rd annual celebration. The ponies are rounded up earlier in the week on nearby Assateague Island where they roam free. On Wednesday, they are herded across the channel, swimming about 4 1/2 minutes, and then are placed in pens on Chincoteague. The following day some of the ponies are auctioned off, with proceeds benefitting the volunteer fire department who owns and manages the herd. Since Assateague Island can only support about 150 ponies, the auction serves the dual purpose of protecting the environment and funding the fire department.
How in the world did we find out about this event? Thank Marguerite Henry who wrote Misty of Chincoteague in 1947. This just happens to be Annika's favorite book!
Here's what they don't tell you in the book: You've gotta get up dang early to get a good spot to view the swim!This shot was taken with a telephoto lens, from the closest spot we could find. We left our hotel at 5:30 am. Apparently, you have to arrive at about 3:30 am to be decently close to the action, or you have to hire a boat. If you look closely you can see the heads of the ponies in a line in front of the boats.
Once the ponies reach land, they take a 45 minute breather, then are herded by Salt Water Cowboys down the streets of Chincoteague to the pens at the fairground.

These ponies are now safe in the pens.

This guy was very protective of his mares.
When they wandered a little too close to us (on the other side of the fence, of course) he came charging up and gave us the evil eye. I have to say it was more than a little intimidating!

This little guy was all tuckered out!

I couldn't help but note the similarity . . . .

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