Friday, July 19, 2013

Next Friday: The Swim Back to Freedom

The "last day" of Pony Penning receives almost no fanfare at all.  The Friday after the pony swim and the auction, the reduced herds are returned to Assateague Island - they are herded back to Memorial Point, and, once again, when the US Coast Guard fires a flare at slack tide, the ponies will swim back to their wild island home.  Gates that are usually closed to keep the northern and southern herds separate will be left open, and the ponies will gradually make their way back to their normal territories, with each herd following the lead mare.  There will be fewer ponies in this swim - most of the foals will have been auctioned off on Thursday, so the only foals in the return swim will be the "buy back" foals, and those too young to separate from their mothers. (Owners will have to return to pick up those foals in October, during the Fall round-up.) I always find the swim to be a wonderful event, whether the ponies are swimming toward Chincoteague or Assateague.   Horses are natural swimmers (they dog-paddle), and when it gets extremely hot or when the flies and mosquitoes get to be too much, the ponies will frequently wade out into the waters - of the rolling surf of the Atlantic, the gentle swells of Tom's Cove, or the pull of the Assateague Channel.  Herding the ponies into the Channel and "making" them swim across is not cruel or inhumane in any sense.
  As a reminder, there will be limited parking at Memorial Park on Wednesday, 24 July, the day of the Pony Swim, and those spaces will be for the handicapped only.  If you're not going to walk there, please use the free Pony Shuttle, to help avoid huge traffic jams.  For more information regarding the Shuttle, please see: www.chincoteague. com/pony_swim_ guide.html
  As an aside, the Colorado "monsoon" season has arrived, with afternoon and evening thunderstorms.  The rain is needed and I heartily welcome it.  But we also get thousands of lightning strikes with the daily storms. Yesterday, a 65-year-old hiker in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and nine farm workers were struck by lightning within the space of an hour.  Lightning is dangerous in Colorado year round - please be aware of that fact, and seek adequate shelter and insulation.

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