On Saturday, the 20th of July, there is a slight change this year: the round-up of the herds in the Southern compartment used to begin in the afternoon; this year it is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. (This has already brought some complaints from people who will be in transit that morning - but there is plenty to see and do the entire week.) There are currently three groups in the south - Riptide's herd, the Don Leonard Stud II's herd, and the group of yearlings that are the 2018 Buy Back ponies. Once the ponies are rounded up, they can be viewed at the main corrals on Beach Road on Assateague Island in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The Carnival is open Saturday night.
Monday morning, 22 July, at dawn, the Saltwater Cowboys will move the northern herds east across Assateague to the Atlantic surf. There, the ponies will be herded south along the beach to the CNWR/Assateague National Seashore parking lot, and then west along Beach Road to the main corrals, where the southern herds are gathered.
Monday afternoon and Tuesday, the herds will be in the main corrals. The veterinarians on call, with their vet technicians, will check each and every pony for fitness. The foals' blood will be drawn for Coggins' testing (so new owners can transport the babies across state lines later in the week). The vets will decided which ponies are too young, too old, or in such condition as to warrant a trailer ride to the Chincoteague Carnival Grounds instead of swimming. (Unci, an older mare with a swayback due to a genetic condition, is usually trailered over, along with very pregnant mares, or those with cuts, scrapes, or other things indicating transport versus swimming.) This is a great time and place to take photos - however, the board fencing can make photography difficult. If you have a step-stool or a short ladder, you might wish to take it along for good photos with fencing in the view.
Wednesday morning, 24 July, is the actual Pony Swim Day. I have heard that it will occur between 8:30 and 10:30 that morning - but the time is always subject to change. The ponies swim when the US Coast Guard declares the tide running between the islands is "slack" - when it is not moving north or south, when it can carry the ponies away. The time of slack tide can be influenced by local storms. Some people are at the swim area by 5 a.m., others arrive later. It is very hot and humid beside the Assateague Channel, and there are quite a few cases of heat exhaustion each year in the crowds along the Channel. Please take plenty of water to hydrate everyone in your party...
The Swim itself takes about 3 minutes from the time a pony enters the water from Assateague until it stands on solid ground on Chincoteague. The first foal to reach Chincoteague is declared King or Queen Neptune (depending on gender) and is raffled off in a drawing. Tickets are being sold now, and will be sold up until an hour before the actual drawing.
Once all ponies are ashore on Chincoteague, and King or Queen Neptune has been marked, the ponies are given a 45 to 60 minute rest period. Then the Saltwater Cowboys herd them along Beebe Road and the north on Main Street to the Carnival Grounds - the Pony Penning Parade on Main Street. The Pony Committee of the CVFC will decide the choices of sexes for replacement breeding stock needed on the island due to deaths and illnesses. The Pony Committee members, along with the vets, will have been looking at the foals and evaluating bloodlines, conformation and coloring, and they will choose the foals to be designated as Buy Backs on those criteria. The Carnival will open about 90 minutes after the ponies are in the pens on Main Street, and will stay open until 11.
The Pony Auction begins at 8 o'clock on Thursday, 25 July, with foals being sold to the highest bidder. Payment to the CVFC in the amount of the winning bid, must be paid in cash, with Travelers' Checks, or through a Visa or Mastercard payment. No other types of payment are accepted. Most foals will travel to new (hopefully, "forever") homes, but the designated Buy Backs stay on the islands. If you purchase a designated Buy Back pony, you receive a tax write-off for the amount of purchase, as you are essentially giving your money to the CVFC for the naming of the foal. The CVFC will maintain the foal throughout it's life and will be able to sell any foals that pony produces as it grows older.
If you purchase a pony to take home with you, you will receive a sales receipt, a veterinary report, and a care booklet, plus other donated "goodies" (these change from year to year). You are expected to provide approved transportation from the Carnival Grounds by noon on Saturday, 27 July. If the foal you purchase is too young to separate from it's mother, you must return in October for the Fall Round-Up and have transportation for your foal at that time. The Carnival will be open Thursday afternoon and evening.
On Friday, 26 July, the ponies living in the southern compartment will make the return swim from Chincoteague back to Assateague on the morning's slack tide. The expected swim time for Friday is announced Thursday night at the Carnival. Ponies from the north end will be trailered back to Assateague during the day. The Carnival is open Friday night.
The Carnival will be open the evening of Saturday the 27th of July, and drawings for all of the raffles will occur just before closing.
And Chincoteague can settle back into it's usual summertime routine once again.