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August 07, 2008 | | Comments 0

Chincoteague Ponies

Chincoteague Ponies

Chincoteague Ponies: The Feral Breed from Virginia

The Chincoteague pony breed does not have a complicated history. Even so, these ponies are highly valued by both dedicated horse owners and the residents of Virginia as if they were truly ancient in origin. These ponies, despite being generally feral, have become a crucial part of the culture and tradition of Virginia.

Chincoteague Pony Roots

Chincoteague ponies are found in the island of Assateague, an island on the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. Since the island is divided in two, there are also two herds. It is the herd that belongs to Virginia that is called Chincoteague. Both herds however share the same origins. It is believed that the ponies came to the island after a Spanish ship carrying horses was wrecked. A less romantic version of their origins however is also likely. The ponies may have been the descendants of horses belonging to neighboring island occupants who set their domesticated horses free on the Assateague Island so they did not have to be burdened with more taxes.

It is possible that the ponies had full grown horses as ancestors. They may have becomes smaller through time because of the harsh conditions of their island home. They had little diet variety except for an assortment of grass types. Although they live most of their lives in Assateague, the ponies are named after Chincoteague which is actually another island. The name of the ponies is taken from another island because of the yearly practice of auctioning the ponies in Chincoteague. The Volunteer Fire Department of Chincoteague which has the responsibility of caring for the ponies, let the ponies swim to the Chincoteague Island once a year. Those that are not sold swim back to Assateague.

The annual selling of the ponies does not just benefit enthusiastic breeders. This is also a way of ensuring that the population of the Virginia herd does not exceed 150 ponies. Going over the number of recommended ponies can result in an imbalance in the island’s ecosystem. The Maryland ponies also have to be kept at a minimum. Population control is achieved in Maryland not through auctions but through the chemical control of fertility.

Chincoteague Pony Breed

In their island home, this pony breed does not produce foal that grow taller than 14 hands. It may be possible though for these ponies to have improved heights and physical attributes if they are domesticated in a less trying environment. Since they are feral horses living on an island, they are muscular, have very strong hooves and may appear a bit bloated because of the amount of water that they have to drink as a response to the salt that finds its way into their bodies. They come in different colors such as black, white and palomino.

Although they live freely in their island home, they are not difficult to manage. In general these ponies are mild mannered and gentle. They are therefore perfectly suited to domestication. They can be used as first ponies for kids learning to ride or for more demanding activities such as riding and jumping.

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