Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pony Penning 2013 at Chincoteague Island, Virginia

Tomorrow the wild ponies of Chincoteague will make their 88th annual swim from the island of Assateague to the island of Chincoteague in the state of Virginia.  Usually about 130 to 150 ponies make the swim, having been checked carefully by a veterinarian over the past few days.  When author Marguerite Henry wrote Misty of Chincoteague, the ponies were rounded up and herded together the morning of the swim. More than 60 years later, the ponies are rounded up during two days (the weekend before) the actual Pony Swim, so that all ponies can be evaluated for fitness and health for the swim itself, and so that the ponies to be sold will have had their blood drawn and tests done to assure they have no communicable diseases. Usually, today, the day before the Swim, any pony that needs to have its hooves trimmed will be serviced by the farrier (or blacksmith); foals will be assigned numbers and tags will be tied around their throatlatches so that people interested in buying a pony can see (and remember on Thursday, the Auction day) what number their chosen, favorite pony is.  Today is the day to view the ponies on Assateague Island in the Holding Pens near Tom's Cove.  Wednesday is the Pony Swim ; Thursday the Auction; and Friday is the Swim back to freedom.
   Tomorrow the forecast for Chincoteague  continues to be very hot and very humid.  If you are going to go see the ponies swim, please bear these things in mind.  There is very limited parking near the Swim site. There are free shuttles to take you to the swim site, and after the swim, either back to your pick-up point, or directly to the Carnival Grounds.  Food and drink stands will be open, and once the ponies arrive in the pens, most booths and rides will open within 90 minutes.  If you proceed to the Swim site:  take plenty of water to drink; be prepared to stand for hours, and wear comfortable shoes that can get extremely muddy and mucky; wear a hat with a brim, or at least a sun visor; take along, and use frequently, both sunblock and insect repellent; the ponies swim from the east to the west - wear sunglasses.  Be prepared to be crowded, nudged, accidentally poked, and have your toes stepped on.  Please bring a good temper.  Stay hydrated. Most ambulance and EMT calls are for heat related problems before, during, and after the Swim.
  The earlier you get to the swim site, the better your view point will be - but be prepared for late-comers to splash out into the water to get ahead of you and your uninterrupted view.  There will be people in all sizes of boats, including canoes and kayaks, paddling around.  They must be and stay on either side of the clearly marked buoy channel before the Swim starts.  A US Coast Guard cutter will be in place, and once Slack Tide arrives, they will fire a flare to signal the Saltwater Cowboys that it's time to start moving the ponies into the water.  The swim itself, from start to finish lasts about 8 minutes - from the time the first ponies step into the water, until the last ponies step out of the water.
  ** Currently, the US Coast Guard predicts slack High Tide between 10 a.m. and noon on Wednesday. **
In regard to insect repellent: A lot of people like to use "natural" substances, but they are not very effective against the Chincoteague salt-water mosquitoes, or the horse-, yellow-, deer-, or black flies that abound on the islands.  It is highly suggested that you use and wear (with frequent applications) the highest percentage DEET-containing repellent available.  Skin-So-Soft  and citronella don't keep Chincoteague bugs away from you.

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