Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (2022)

The sun was out as thousands gathered to watch the Chincoteague ponies glide across the Assateague Channel for the 97th annual Chincoteague Island Pony Swim on Wednesday, July 27.

“There’s the sunshine everyone’s been praying for,” said the announcer, who had added that the swim start time was likely to be at about 9:30 a.m. The window changes with the tide.

“Please bring your patience. Did y’all bring your patience?” said the announcer. “Hang tight and enjoy the morning.”

Pony fever reaches an all-time high each year as Pony Penning week kicks off. Hordes of onlookers make the trek to “rekindle, reconnect, and recharge with family and friends” during the island’s celebration.

Pony Penning 2022 returned to its full glory after a two-year COVID-19 in-person hiatus. The nearly 100-year tradition includes the Pony Swim on Wednesday and Pony Auction on Thursday. The auction is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which manages the wild pony herd on Assateague Island.

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On Wednesday, charter boats and kayaks filled with spectators lined the Assateague Channel, creating a pathway for the ponies as they make their yearly swim from shore to shore. The town of Chincoteague provides a large Jumbotron located at Veterans Memorial Park to help with viewing.

Find out which pony will be named King or Queen Neptune (the first to make landfall) by following along with Delmarva Now. This live report will update throughout the day, following the Pony Swim, rest period and parade.

Meet the 'Marsh Queen'

With her pink sash on and plastic tiara atop her head, Kim Fromal, 60, is soaking all the Pony Penning excitement in.

Fromal who has dubbed herself the "Marsh Queen," says she has been attending for 34 years now and is always the "first to arrive" on Pony Swim day.

Her secret: “We just know the tricks,” said Fromal, laughing.

If you point to a horse, she'll know it by name.

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (1)

This year’s Pony Swim lived up to her expectations —as it does every year.

“Always,” said Fromal. “It gives you chills. It’s just amazing.”

After the ponies complete their swim, the rest for about 45 minutes before being paraded to the carnival grounds, where they spend the night ahead of Thursday's auction.

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (2)

King Neptune crowned

The first foal to come ashore is named King or Queen Neptune. This year, King Neptune is No. 19.

He will be given away in a raffle drawing at the carnival grounds later in the day.

According to the auction website, No. 19 is the colt of Tawny Treasure, and is a bay pinto.

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (3)

And they're off

The red flare was set off at 9:04 a.m. signaling the start of the swim.

“They’re on the move, coming around the marsh line,” said the announcer.

By about 9:12 a.m. ponies could be seen in the water from the marsh full of onlookers who were eagerly anticipating their arrival.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin hypes up the crowd

Gov. Glenn Youngkin addressed those gathered for the Pony Swim early Wednesday morning, praising the nearly 100-year tradition.

"Let's just make sure that we cheer for them, because this is tough swim for all of them." He thanked everyone for coming, saying "Virginia is for pony lovers," playing off the state motto.

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Friendships form

Chincoteague ponies can be the foundation of a friendship for those young and old.

Twins Marie and Layla Nelson, 6, of Baltimore met Eleanor "Ellie" Onisick, 7, of Philadelphia while waiting for the swim.

Their respective grandparents Diana Call, 60, and Dave Mease, 65, accompanied the girls and said they were fast friends, bonding over the ponies.

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (4)

The twins want to buy a pony, and are desperately clinging to their purchased tickets for the King Neptune raffle.

“I’ll keep it in my room!” exclaimed one twin.

“Uh, it’s gonna stink," said the other.

Mease has been to the Pony Swim about 10 times. He and his wife recently bought a house nearby to bring their grandchildren.

Call was to the event one other time, 30 years ago, when her parents brought her and her two daughters. Now, she's happy to do the same with her husband and granddaughters.

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (5)

Grace Johnson and Veruca Schweiger, both 10, of Wilmington, Delaware, are members of the Wilmington Hobby Horse Club.

First-timers to the Pony Swim, Grace said she has read her 1940 edition of "Misty of Chincoteague" book "over and over."

First-timers 'in their own backyard'

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (6)

Jason Graves, 47, and Donna Graves, 52, traveled across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel for the first time to the Pony Swim even though they’re from Virginia Beach.

According to the couple, they’ve been to North Carolina to see the wild ponies of Coralla, but felt that it was finally time to attend the big event that’s held, practically, right in their own backyard.

PONY AUCTION: How much does a Chincoteague pony cost? Top bids by year

Donna said doesn’t mind the mud at all.

“I got my shirt dirty,” she said, showing off the muddy-stained T-shirt tied around her waist. “I did it on purpose,” she joked.

'Horse girl' might just be a 'pony girl' now

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The Brandy and Doug Farrell had planned to come to Pony Penning in 2020, but their trip from Canada was deferred to now. COVID-19 hit that year, closing the boarder, and the in-person event was canceled until this year.

Brandy Farrell, 55, has been a “horse girl” her whole life. She read the Misty books when she was 8 or 9.

“Ever since I was a kid and read the books, it was like a fantasy. You know, you dream when you’re a kid. I’ve always wanted to come here,” said Brandy Farrell.

The sun’s starting to shine.

“There’s the sunshine everyone’s been praying for,” the announcer said just before 7:30 a.m.

And a 9:30 a.m. swim time is anticipated at slack tide.

Riptide the pony is a legend

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (8)

Jeff and Lisa Bogaczyk of Wisconsin have been coming to Pony Penning for 30 years, but, not wanting to fight the crowds, haven’t been to the Pony Swim in 25 years.

Wanting to give 10-year-old Gili Kuert of Minnesota, the full experience, the Bogaczyk and Kuert families went with the tide of visitors to see the swim. Gili is most excited to see the ponies Riptide and Chief after her parents took her to the vet check earlier in the week to see the Chincoteague ponies.

Of Riptide, father Jon Kuert, 48, said “Who is this guy? Must be a legend!”

By 7 a.m. the crowd was growing, becoming more congested along the edge of the water. There are muddy feet galore.

From mainland to mud

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (9)

Dana Bennett, 49, is originally from mainland Virginia. Now living in North Carolina, she brought her two daughters, Kali, 18, and Megan, 21, to Pony Swim.

“We normally sit over at the park, over on the ground and watch it on the big Jumbotron. We’re trying to get up close and personal this year so we decided to come here, put on our boots, and stand in the marsh,” said Dana Bennett.

It is the family's third time to Pony Penning, and their companion Nicole Mitchell's first.

“I loved them," Mitchell, 18, of North Carolina, said of Marguerite Henry's Misty books. "I read the first book, then read everything else she wrote, then looked up the Pony Swim.”

Last-minute trip for a lasting memory

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (10)

For two New York children, a surprise car trip brings to life the island of Chincoteague that Mya Conroy learned about in school.

Sister Ava, 14, and her watched "Misty" the movie during the car ride as mom, Kiera Conroy, 40, teased what was to come at their final destination.

What's newA new Chincoteague food truck

“Miraculously, Saturday, I see that they’re doing the Pony Swim on Wednesday. We drove this morning, 10 hours,” said Kiera Conroy, already planning a return trip.

Who snagged a front-row seat?

Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 returns to full glory. 'It gives you chills' (11)

Four sisters had been up since 4 a.m. Wednesday and catching the sun rise.

"We’ve been dreaming about this since we read 'Misty' as little kids. About two years ago, maybe, we started really talking about it and decided we’re going to do this. About six months ago, we bought our airline tickets and booked our hotel,” said Mona Hamblen, 64.

The Hamblen, along with Barb Jensen, 66; Debbie Porter, 68; and Patti McCarthy, 61, had attended Monday's pony Beach Walk. McCarthy is from Montana, while the others are from Oregon.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOWChincoteague Pony Swim and Auction returns for its 97th year

Weather in Chincoteague

A slight chance of showers, with thunderstorms also possible after 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. It will be partly sunny, with a high near 87. West wind 6 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

What is slack water or slack tide?

The Pony Swim takes place at the earliest morning slack tide, expected between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. this year. Slack tide is the time when the tide is neither coming in or going out, making it easier for the ponies to swim. Slack tide lasts for about 30 minutes.

This article originally appeared on Salisbury Daily Times: Chincoteague Pony Swim 2022 updates as horses cross from Assateague


What is the purpose of the Chincoteague pony swim? ›

The purpose of the pony swim on Wednesday is to move the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island so that the foals can be auctioned. The auction takes place the following day.

How much do Chincoteague Ponies sell for? ›

2019 - 57 ponies sold, average cost $4,767, high bid $17,500, low bid $1,400, total sales $271,700.

What is Pony Penning Day? ›

Pony Penning is an annual event held in Chincoteague, Virginia on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department conducts the event and it consists of a Pony Swim on Wednesday and a Pony Auction on Thursday.

How did the ponies get on Chincoteague Island? ›

Legend states that Chincoteague ponies descend from Spanish horses shipwrecked off the Virginia coast on their way to Peru in the 16th century. Another story holds that they descend from horses left on the island by pirates.

What do Chincoteague Ponies drink? ›

The Chincoteague Ponies find fresh, or brackish, water in low lying areas of Assateague Island that collect rain water. They also drink from Vernal Pools (link to Wikipedia) found on Assateague Island. Needles from nearby Loblolly Pine Trees collect in the Vernal Pools.

Is Assateague or Chincoteague better? ›

Assateague Island National Seashore is 37 miles long and renowned for its wild horses and sandy beaches while Chincoteague is only 7 miles long and better known for its marshes, dunes, forests, and more.

How long do Chincoteague ponies live? ›

There is also evidence that the birth control has helped the horses live longer. In 1990, hardly any horses lived past 15; now, the horses are living to 30 and older. The mares, or females, in the herd receive the vaccine starting when they're 2, but then go off of it when they're 4 until they deliver a live foal.

Do they sell Chincoteague ponies? ›

Each year about 60 foals are born on Assateague Island, VA. In order to keep the overall herd at a sustainable size, most of the foals are sold at the auction.

Can you touch the horses at Assateague Island? ›

Petting or feeding the wild horses may seem like a harmless and fun thing to do, but the consequences can be terrible. For your safety and the safety of the horses, please obey park regulations and do not approach, touch or feed the Assateague horses.

What is the best time to see the horses on Assateague Island? ›

The best time to see the Assateague Island horses is from late April through mid-October. 300 ponies live on the island. Sometimes the ponies are far away out in the marsh, so it is a good idea to bring a good pair of binoculars with you.

Is the Chincoteague pony swim humane? ›

Both the Pony Penning and the Pony Swim are anachronisms that have long compromised animal welfare and safety. The HSUS can say little in favor of the fundraiser or the claim that it supports a viable population management plan for the horses at Chincoteague and Assateague.

What time do the ponies swim back to Assateague? ›

Carnival – 7pm – 11pm. Rides, games, food, live music, Bingo, and raffles. On Friday morning, the adult ponies make their swim back to Assateague Island where they will live…

Is Misty of Chincoteague a real horse? ›

Misty of Chincoteague, a 16-year-old palomino mare, was the best-known member of the herd of wild ponies. She catapulted to fame 14 years earlier, when children's book author Marguerite Henry wrote Misty of Chincoteague.

How did horses end up on Assateague? ›

The most plausible explanation is that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock.

What is a group of wild horses called? ›

Life in the herd

Mustang horses live in groups called herds. A herd consists of one stallion, and around eight females and their young, though separate herds have been known to mix when they are in danger, according to the Humane Society.

Can you drink on Assateague Island? ›

Assateague Island, Maryland

Except for the 2-mile stretch of beach that's part of Assateague State Park, because alcohol consumption's strictly prohibited there. So just, y'know, don't drink there.

Where do Assateague ponies go in winter? ›

Majority of the horses have done their winter migration, traveling to their normal territories they spend most of year. Of the 80+ horses on the Maryland side, more than half are located on the OSV section of the park.

Can you drive from Maryland to Virginia on Assateague Island? ›

Driving on designated sections of the beaches in both the Maryland and Virginia units of Assateague Island National Seashore is allowed by permit only.

Can you drive from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island? ›

By Vehicle

The south entrance is at the end of Route 175, two miles east of Chincoteague, VA. There is no vehicle access between the two entrances on Assateague Island. Vehicles must return to the mainland to access either the north or south entrance.

Are Chincoteague Ponies good for beginners? ›

The good news, however, is that once they are successfully domesticated, Chincoteague ponies are friendly, easy to maintain, and easy to keep as a family pet. These ponies do quite well as show horses in a wide range of disciplines, but they can also be used for pleasure riding and driving.

Can wild horses drink salt water? ›

They do not drink brackish or salt water. Fresh water is found under barrier islands in wide, deep lenses which fill surface pools, seeps and digs.

What does a pony eat? ›

Horses and ponies are herbivores and mainly eat forage, based on grass, hay and haylage.

What is a buyback pony Chincoteague? ›

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.

How much is a pony? ›

The Cost of Ponies

Ponies might be smaller in stature than horses, but that doesn't mean their purchase or upkeep costs are proportionally smaller. The cost of a good pony can be the same or higher than a horse. Expect prices for suitable first ponies to be about $1,000 and upwards.

Are Chincoteague Ponies branded? ›

Did you know that every Pony on Assateague Island has a registered name? The Chincoteague Pony became an official registered breed in 1994. Every spring approximately 60 to 70 foals are born on Assateague Island. In July, the foals are auctioned off at the carnival in Chincoteague.

Are there sharks at Assateague Island? ›

A massive, 3,456-pound female great white shark has been pinged inside Assateague Island National Seashore near the Maryland-Virginia line. The shark is being tracked by OCEARCH and initially showed up shortly on Sunday, May 3. Earlier, she pinged just off Ocean City.

What time of day are horses most active? ›

It turns out that horses are far more active at night than they are during the day. No matter if we're talking about our two-year-old fillies, ten-year-old geldings, or 30-year-old mares. It's the same. During the night they all eat, roam, and drink water constantly!

What time of year is best to see wild horses? ›

That being said, spring through summer is the best time to view the wild horses, as it is their most active time of year. How exciting that it also just so happens to be our tourist season as well! Foals of 2020 as of 4/28.

Is the Chincoteague pony swim humane? ›

Both the Pony Penning and the Pony Swim are anachronisms that have long compromised animal welfare and safety. The HSUS can say little in favor of the fundraiser or the claim that it supports a viable population management plan for the horses at Chincoteague and Assateague.

How did the Pony Swim start? ›

Each year the Virginia herd is rounded up for the internationally recognized Pony Penning and Auction. According to romantic legend, the horses arrived on Assateague when a Spanish galleon with a cargo of wild mustangs sunk off the coast. The surviving animals swam to shore and are the ancestors of today's herds.

Where do the Chincoteague Ponies swim to? ›

Each year during the Chincoteague Pony Swim, the ponies swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island to be auctioned off, the website said.

Is Misty of Chincoteague a true story? ›

The book is fiction, but based on real people, Paul, Maureen, Clarence (Grandpa) and Ida (Grandma) Beebe, and real Chincoteague Ponies, Misty, Phantom, and the Pied Piper. The book is about Paul and his sister Maureen who lived on Chincoteague Island with their grandparents.

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