Horse News

East Coast Wild Horses Survive Hurricane Irene

Information acquired from multiple sources

Ponies Shrug off Hurricane’s Assault

Sources close to SFTHH have indicated that the world famous Chincoteague wild horses survived the storm’s onslaught unscathed.

The horses, made famous by the novel “Misty of Chincoteague”, were allowed to reach higher ground in advance of the storm and members of the local pony committee put out additional hay to sustain the horses during the storm’s fury.

A spokesperson for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company said that when volunteers went out to check on the horses Sunday morning the comment was made that the horses “looked fantastic and as docile as usual, just as if nothing had happened.”

45 replies »

  1. Of course they are cool about it all. After all, it was most likely a hurricane that put them there hundreds of years ago, this is just par for the course for them. What a black and white contrast in how these wild horses are handled and respected versus the wild horses out west.


    • Barb Steele has told me there has been a move on the part of the USFS to thin the pony herd and bring it below viability. There is going to be a comment period. This is such an unneeded thing as these ponies are fought over for adoption and to name them.

      There should be an assessment to comment on soon. mar


      • Mar, what can honestly be done??? With the BLM wanting nothing short of TOTAL REMOVAL AND ERADICATION of ALL Mustangs and Burros, AND the other departments like the department of parks such as in Texas where they are just shooting all burros on site…not bothering to be sure they are KILLING shots either,,,and never having done ANY ACTUAL studies are just SAYING that the burros are the only destructive NON-NATIVE species there, and thus, have to go…..this is beyond anything I would ever have dreamed of. All of our voices are ignored, as are court orders, to stop the roundups and now they are wanting to kill off more of the coastal ponies… and this is NOT the first herd they are going after. In the Carolinas, my best friend remembered that there were ponies there as she grew up there and now they have been all slaughtered off some years back…I honestly don’t see any good ending here when our judicial system allows this to happen and pretends to do something that does nothing….


    • Wow, you took the words right out of my mouth, Kerry! Every time I read about eastern wild horses, and the Chincoteague Ponies, I get a good, happy warm feeling, every time I hear about gathers and running horses down with helicopters out west I get that old mad icky gov op feelin!


  2. The chamber of commerce for the area tweeted on the 26th that the Horses were lead to higher ground in preparation for the storm, I was so worried about them.


  3. Awesome News !!!! Thanks for reporting this, I was very worried for them……………… I am so HAPPY THEY ARE OK, …. I must commend the people there for taking such good care and providing for them during the storm, i only wish is that our Mustangs of the West would be allotted this wonderful caring…………………..


  4. “the horses… were allowed to reach higher ground in advance of the storm”
    as a result they all made it safely. Just like they have been doing for hundreds of years. It was nice of the USFS to allow them to get to higher ground. I bet they would have done just fine without the supplemental hay, though.
    If our western herds were “allowed” access to “higher ground” ie pasture when needed it, they would make it through just about anything mother nature through at them. The western states BLM should take a lesson from their east coast brothers.


  5. I’m very happy that the Chincoteague Ponies are safe & ok. I don’t know where anyone got or heard that the USFS (?) wants to thin the Chincoteague Pony herd down?? They hold an annual round-up, or “Pony Penning Day & Festival”, every single year, at the same time, like clockwork. They adopt out all that are adoptable, with people trying to outbid eachother, then the rest are returned to the wild. Some that are adopted are even donated back to the herd to stay wild, or to pass on some special qualities to future offspring. The herd size generally stays at around 150 horses. Each horse or pony that is adopted has to be registered. The herd is “owned” by the volunteer fire department, & is managed by them, & cared for by them. Any other wild Chincoteague Pony that may reside on Assateague in the National Wildlife Refuge may be managed by others. My info. comes straight from the Chincoteague visitor’s bureau. For one thing, these wild ponies are what keeps Chincoteague on the map, despite many other attractions, the ponies are the main deal, without them, no one would come! The people of Chincoteague, Virginia love their wild ponies, “Misty of Chincoteague” brought them to the world. I highly doubt that these wild ones would ever suffer the same fate as their wild mustang cousins.


  6. And that shows that the ponies are smarter than man. Call it mother nature or whatever–it is mother nature at her finest.

    This shows that man had the common sense to open gates to allow the ponies choices that they wouldn’t have had because of prior choices made my man.

    The wild ones need little help from man. They just know. We could learn so much from them if we just stopped and listened.


    • Dear Margaret, if good ole commonsense were used and applied by the BLM , Our mustangs would not be in this Peril……….. Its pretty sad when a Horse must show the BLM what common everyday sense is………………… But the BLM greed is so strong , there is no way they could ever understand, they must all go, it is the only answer…………………… You cant teach the Old worn out stupidity that resides at the BLM anything……………….


  7. Just so you guys know…

    The Assateague Ponies–the ones on the Maryland side are under USFS. After the mares have 3 foals they are chemically treated to sterilize them. Those numbers are down to about 90 last I heard.

    The Chincoteague Ponies are Owned and watched over by the Fire Department on Chincoteague. They manage the ponies growth rate by Pony Penning Day.

    The difference is ONE fence separating the State line between the Ponies. They are all on the same island but that island lies in two different States. Go Figure how confusing that one is.


  8. I wanted to remind folks that there is still time to write your letters to BLM. If you don’t care to fax you can email them through noon tomorrow to info @ the cloud foundation . org. Take out the spaces of course. They will print out the comments and fax them in for you.

    Please if you haven’t done so the horses so DESPERATELY need your help. It so easy to do. Your letter can be as simple as

    I don’t believe you need to a round up


    as more complex as you know and understand the various issues.

    TCF has an excellent letter that they posted. You can’t copy it–cause then you void your letter. But you use it as a guide. They also have a page that has excellent talking points that may give you ideas of what to say.


  9. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I helped with the round up and management of the Chincoteague, VA herd for 12 years. I spent my vacation every summer helping with the Pony Penning by helping with the gather, sorting horses, identifying herd members, matching foals with mares and mares with stallion bands. I was their for 12 years at every auction and assisted the vet, Dr. Charlie Cameron with routine and emergency vet care and on the day of the sale with a final health check and age estimate on foals as they were put on the auction block.
    The VA ponies are rounded up 3 times a year by the Chincoteague Voluntary Fire Company. The ponies are owned by the Fire Company. They are actually on Assateague Island. Assateague is situated in Maryland and Virginia. A fence separates the VA and MD portions of the island. The VA ponies are considered a brood herd and are kept on the VA side of the fence under a grazing permit that allows a permanent herd of 150 horses. The north herd is on the Maryland side of Assateague and are under the control of the Park Service.
    The VA horses are gathered for “Pony Penning” at the end of July. They are gathered in two sweeps. One on the south end of the island on the Saturday before the auction and the north portion of the herd on Sunday. The north herd is run down the beach to the south pens on Monday morning. There, they are vetted out and the foals are marked for sale with numbered tags. They are swum across the channel between Assateague and Chincoteague on Wednesday morning and paraded through town to the carnival grounds. The auction is on Thursday and the brood herd is driven back to the channel on Friday where they swim back to Assateague on their own. They are used to the routine and for the most part, do not resist the procedures!
    Most of the foals are sold by auction to raise money for the Volunteer Fire Company. Some are sold as “buy back” ponies. These are selected ahead of time by the Fire Company as ponies they want to keep to replace the brood herd. These are sold to buyers who do not want to take them home but want to “own” a Chincoteague Pony. They donate the pony back to the Fire Company, get a tax deduction, get to name the pony, get their picture taken and the pony heads back to Assateague. The herd is also gathered in the spring and fall. Usually April and Oct. They are looked at by a vet if there appears to be any problem. Some are wormed if they look wormy. They do not get much care other than that.
    In the past they were not treated very humanely. The people looking after the ponies are not really horse people for the most part. Care has gotten better in the recent past. I made several changes in how they are handled during my tenure. The mares and stallions are micro-chipped now instead of branded. At one time they were hot branded with a running iron. They would be roped, snubbed down and branded. Not really a pleasant experience for the ponies. I personally cut the snubbing post down in the south pen holding area around 1998. They then went to freeze brands and began using a squeeze chute that was built in the south pen. After that, they started using micro-chips. I had urged the people I worked with on the Pony Committee to use micro-chips after I experienced great success using them with my livestock. After a couple of years, they decided to try them. I do not know if they are still using them since they stopped the registry.
    The registry does not exist any longer and it was never mandatory. The couple who really kept up the data base for the registry, Lloyd and Naomi Belton, were relieved of their duties a couple years ago for reasons unstated in the public forum. Naomi is absolutely passionate about the ponies and knows every one by name on sight! She and Lloyd were great stewards of the herd. In my opinion, it was a sad day when they were no longer allowed to participate in the care of the herd.
    The main purpose of the registry was to increase the value of the ponies at the auction. Since the Fire Company dropped the registry, the value and demand for the ponies has decreased substantially. The average price during the registry years was usually around $2000 at auction. This year past, from what I understand, the average price was closer to $300. The demand is down considerably without the registry. I understand the Fire Company now is considering re-establishing the registry. My guess is that they will have a hard time re-establishing credibility in this endeavor. In my experience, once a pony was sold, there was little or no contact between the fire company and the new owners. Follow through with registry issues was very poor and resulted in many frustrated pony owners.
    The Park Service has restricted access to many areas of the island the ponies had used for many years for shelter and relief from insects. They used to go to the ocean side to escape the biting insects. The ponies would back into the surf and let the waves cascade over them! It was a sight to see! Unfortunately, the VA herd can no longer reach the beach, the dunes or the ocean breezes for this relief.
    Though the management of the Chincoteague Ponies is not perfect, there are some really good things about how the ponies are managed. I have included what I consider some of the best aspects in a proposal that I have submitted to the BLM for consideration. I hope to have it on the table in the next Advisory Board meeting. Though not perfect , I feel that it will be a positive start to making a positive change for our wild friends. I am hoping to get some of the zeroed out HMAs repopulated with horses that are currently in long term holding areas. These “unadoptable” horses would otherwise spend the rest of their lives in what amounts to a prison. If we can get some of them back into the wild, that would be something to celebrate!
    Thanks for this opportunity to speak up!


    • Wow tell us more. I have loved the Chincoteague Ponies since I read Misty some “unsaid” number of years ago! Won’t tell!

      No some things don’t sound perfect but this is exactly how to improve things. By both sides communicating–in honest and open dialogue.

      Will they be able to re-open the registry–well without trying it definitely won’t happen. Perhaps with DNA testing they’ll have a better chance to pair up mares, offspring and stallions. But again without trying–your just throwing the dishtowel down. Giving up. And that’s not something you ever want to do.

      I may not know very much about how to do follow up but I can follow guidelines if given one. I can certainly send out email queries and try to help even long distance.

      And I would DEFINITELY consider buying one of the ponies that would be “given” back to herd. Not for the joy or prestige–like personal glory. Like look at me and the great work I did. But I would consider it a HUGE HONOR. Something that I could do to “help” the next generation. I mean what I do have to show for my life? Not a heck of a lot. But this way–I could “have” something that I could pass on.


  10. Margaret,
    I have nothing to do with the herd any longer. I helped from 1994 to 2005. I stay in touch with a couple of people associated with the ponies so I have some idea of what is happening. I talk to Dr Cameron occasionally. In fact, he is one of the people who nominated me for my position as Humane Advocate on the BLM Advisory Board. He hoped that I might be able to affect some change with the mustangs as well. Only time will tell…


    • Please keep trying. Microchipping good idea. Time to get the BLM into the 21st century! And great idea to repopulate some of the zeroed out herd areas. I’d like to see them, however, intermingle the released holding horses, with those that are unaltered.
      Sad that the MD ponies can no longer reach the ocean. Such a part of who and what they are.


  11. Preserve the ponies and preserve the wild horses and burros!

    Thank God, there is some kindness and protectiveness left in this world!

    I love Maryland! You guys rock!!!


    • Yes Jill……BLM This is how its done right !!!! Bravo Maryland , You have just made the BLM look like crap they really are !!!!!


  12. Can I “adopt” a wild horse in a BLM herd and return it to the range? Wouldn’t that be great! I’d pay for a mare/foal unit –I’d even share it with a partner–and then let it be returned to run free on the land dedicated to the horses in 1971 ! Then I could say I own a wild horse! As someone said (Elyse I think)–these are not horses in waiting–they are not waiting for a home–they ARE home. Hooray for the Fire Dept.–they got it right!


    • The difference I see is the Chincoteague Ponies are owned by the Fire Department on Chincoteague. FD has a grazing permit.

      The Wild Ones in the west are on government land.

      Private vs. Public.

      But I most definitely see what your talking about and possibilities. I guess my question is why should we be forced to “adopt” and/or pay to keep them on “our” land when we already do via our taxes. But if it would stop the BLM and the horrid round ups as an stop gap measure–I’d most definitely consider going into something like this with a group.


    • Wouldn’t that be a vision? Get 10,000 people to adopt a horse, organize which HMAs to take them to and then form a caravan, open the trailer doors and let them run free! I think I’ll dream about that tonight. Thanks, Ann.


      • I also will dream of that ,in fact it has been a recurring dream for 8 yrs……I dream of opening the gates and watching them run free……………


  13. Since these horses are owned by the Fire dept, does that mean The BLM has to keep there blood thirsty hands off of them??????


    • You should contact Chincoteague Fire Department. Tim left several years ago and not sure that anyone here has direct knowledge.

      Just guessing–please do not quote me–I don’t believe BLM has their paws on this herd because they are PRIVATELY owned, managed and their numbers are controlled by Pony Penning Day.


  14. So happy to hear this. We just made our first trip to the Outer Banks at the beginning of this month and were able to see these beautiful horses. I was really worried because there was a very pregnant mare who looked like she was going to give birth any day and she had also adopted a very young colt that we were told had either been abandoned by its mother or somehow got separted from her. I was also happy to learn from our tour guide that there are people who do look after and care for these horses. Our tour was on Corolla. I was about to figure out a way to get a baby colt in my van but again the assured me that someone would keep an eye on them. : )


  15. Tim, thanks for the wonderfully accurate description of the current situation with the management of the Chincoteague herds. I purchased a colt last year at the auction, and I’ve since nurtured my interest in the IDs, co-written a book on them, and kept in touch daily with folks who live on the island and photograph the individual bands of ponies regularly. I appreciate your honest opinions and your factual report here!

    Kasohio-you need to read Tim’s entry. This herd is different from the MD or the Corolla group, because they are owned. It was fire co. and their pony committee members who went to the refuge and opened 14 gates that allowed the ponies to move to the northern/central portions of the refuge during the storm. These closed gates would have trapped many on the south end, where flooding and overwash becomes extremely dangerous for them.

    I do know that a very large tree prevented checking the most northern herds on Sunday. Hopefully, all will be positively accounted for very soon, and the news will be good news:)


  16. PLEASE NOTE: these are the Assateague Island horses ONLY. They are north of the N Carolina full brunt of Hurriccane Irene. We do not know the fate of the more southern island herds. And they were hit much harder than the Assateague herds. Chincoteague and Assateague Islands never even lost electricity.


  17. The Maryland ponies CAN go to the beach and enjoy the Atlantic surf. The Virginia herds cannot because USF&W wont allow it and has fenced them away from their ancestral beaches, and has depprived them of 2/3rds of their pastures without compensating the CVFD (or the ponies) for that loss, but the ponies can go to the Assateague Bay and the Tom’s Hook Bay for some relief (not the same, but better than nothing).
    And the reason BLM tortures the mustangs is because the ranchers pay BLM to graze the land……good old Capitalism at it’s best. If the mustang lovers would band together and pay as much for the wild horses freedom (very do-able) as the ranchers pay for grazing, the BLM would have a problem. i say: go for it.


    • There it is again everytime that Name The BLM comes up, torture and maiming are not far behind it, and seem to walk hand and hand with the mention of the BLM…….This should tell us something…………………..


  18. Maragaret, I know there are a lot of gov.’t agancies out there, but I don’t think the U. S. Forest Service is involved with the Chincoteague Ponies. The U.S. Park Service manages the MD herds, and the fire co. has a permit from U.S. Fish and Wildlife to graze ponies on that Chincoteague Wildlife, VA refuge.


  19. What a great bunch of people helping these horses! BLM could learn a lot from you. But then maybe BLM can’t learn anything from anyone because they’re so busy trying to kill the wild horses out west! I’m glad that the ponies survived the hurricane and had great people helping them!


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