Pony Penning Returns to Chincoteague

red head holds horse
Helpers hold a foal as it is being sold at auction at the 2019 Chincoteague pony auction sale. File photo.

By Carol Vaughn — Pony Penning events will be held live next week for the first time in two years, after a hiatus resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pony Penning, held the last week in July, draws thousands of visitors to Chincoteague annually.

New this year is that during the live pony auction Thursday an online auction will be going on simultaneously.

In 2020 and 2021, the pony auction was held only online due to pandemic restrictions on gathering.

The week’s pony-related events this year begin Saturday, July 23, with the south herd roundup starting at 6 a.m.

This is the first major event before the pony swim. The Saltwater Cowboys ride out to the southern end of Assateague Island to herd into the southern corral the more than 50 wild Chincoteague ponies, including adults and foals, that live in that part of the island.
The public is invited to see the ponies’ arrival at the southern corral on Beach Road.
They will remain in the corral Saturday through Tuesday, available to photographs and viewing.

Additionally, the Chincoteague Volunteer Firemen’s Carnival will be open starting Friday from 7 to 11 p.m. and will run nightly through Saturday, July 30, except Sunday. A fireworks display will happen Saturday, July 30 at 10 p.m., sponsored by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.

The northern herd is rounded up Sunday morning, but the public is not allowed in that area, where around 100 to 150 ponies live.

Monday morning, July 25, at 6 a.m. the Saltwater Cowboys will release the northern herd ponies from their corral and walk them down Assateague’s beach to join the ponies in the southern corral.

People wanting to see the beach walk are advised to be at Assateague Island National Seashore by 6 a.m. to park. The national seashore opens at 5 a.m.

On Tuesday, a veterinarian checks the ponies and buyback ponies are selected. The public may view the ponies in the southern corral during the veterinary checks. That happens at the southern corral at around 9 a.m. Parking is available in the Woodland Trail lot.

Buyback ponies are a few select foals auctioned with the stipulation that they will be returned to Assateague to live out their lives and replenish the herd. Auction winners will have the opportunity to name and be photographed with their buyback ponies and will receive official registration papers.

Wednesday is Pony Swim day, when the Saltwater Cowboys swim the ponies from Assateague to Chincoteague, where some foals will be auctioned Thursday.

The swim will take place between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., on the slack tide.

Free shuttles from the Municipal Center and lodgings to the swim site start at 5 a.m. and end an hour after the ponies arrive at the carnival grounds.

The swim site is at Pony Swim Lane, just south of Veterans Memorial Park, 7427 Memorial Park Drive, on the east side of Chincoteague. Wear old clothing and old closed-toe shoes or muck boots to view the swim, as the area is very muddy.

Charter boats and kayak rentals also are are available to watch the swim from the water, but spaces fill up quickly. Call the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce at 757-336-6161 for information.

The first foal to come ashore is named King or Queen Neptune. It will be given away in a raffle drawing at the carnival ground bandstand at 7 p.m. The ticket holder must be present to win.

Tickets are sold nightly at the carnival and while people are waiting for the swim.
After a brief rest, the ponies will be paraded along Main Street to the corral at the carnival grounds.

Thursday is Pony Auction day, starting at 8 a.m. at the carnival grounds.

The auction raises funds for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company to help care for the ponies. It also helps control the pony population on Assateague.

It is advised to bring a folding chair as the bleachers will not be available due to insurance restrictions. Wear a hat and sunscreen and bring plenty of water to drink.

Sixty-four foals are listed as to be auctioned on the online auction website.

Additionally, the auction this year features the opportunity to bid on a saddle owned and used by Maureen Beebe.

Beebe’s daughters are establishing a scholarship fund in their mother’s memory and 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the saddle will go to the Maureen Beebe Hursh Scholarship Fund, according to Denise Bowden, CVFC spokesperson.

Pre-registration is not required for bidders at the live auction but is required for online bidding.

Online bidders must register ahead of the auction at https://liveauctions.tv/auction/1815/detail

The remaining ponies will make the swim back to Assateague Friday morning at a time to be determined.

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