Showing posts with label Chincoteague Fire Department. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chincoteague Fire Department. Show all posts

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chincoteague Ponies Are Moved Due To High Water

Visitors to Assateague Island will find fewer Chincoteague wild ponies in the meadow to the right of Beach Road. Some of the southern herd, usually totaling about 50ponies, has been moved to the larger northern range until spring.

Denise Bowden, who took over public relations duties this past October, said they were moved due to the accumulation of water on the range where the ponies normally . “To get them through the winter, we moved them up on the northern end. In the spring, they will be moved back,” said Bowden.

The decision to move them came out of the flooding of the grazing area, for them to have grass to graze on and higher ground to get to,” Bowden explained. “The Pony Committee chairman (Harry Thornton), along with his group, makes the decisions.”

“This is the first time that I can remember them being moved due to weather,” Bowden said. “It wasn’t so much the snow. It was because of the pounding nor’easters that flooded the area.”

The Chincoteague ponies live in two herds on the Virginia end of Assateague Island. The estimated 50 ponies in the southern herd can often be seen by visitors driving to the beach or by hikers who go to the Woodland Trail overlook. The northern herd numbers about 100 ponies, but they are not seen by the general public until they are brought into the Beach Road corral for the July auction.

Referring to the impact winter weather can have on the ponies, Bowden said, “This past storm they made out great. They’re smart animals. They know where to get food and to seek higher ground if it’s too wet. In this past storm, we had people go over that Monday. They took 35 bales of hay. The ponies had water in their troughs that they were drinking.”

As to their behavior in rough weather situations and their reaction to snow, Bowden said, “I think they’re just like any other animal. They’re used to it. They’re used to the cold weather. I would think that some of the younger ponies probably like to frolic in the snow and play. I don’t see where it affects them much.”

Bowden said she believes their least favorite weather is rain. “If it’s a hard rain, they’ll relocate themselves. They will seek higher ground. It’s just a natural instinct to them. They’re not dumb animals whatsoever. If it gets to be where they are actually flooded out, that’s when we decide to move them up to the northern end where there is more of a highland area.”

Although it has not been an issue so far this winter, the biggest concern for the ponies during the cold months is a hard freeze. “Definitely during a hard freeze when we have to break water,” said Bowden. “This happens when there are a cold couple of days with temperatures below 32 degrees.”

While the majority of the ponies remain on Assateague, a few can be seen at the Chincoteague carnival grounds. This year’s buyback ponies — those purchased at the auction that will be put back into the herd — are being kept at the carnival grounds until spring.

Bowden said the ponies do not require much care. “We throw out hay a couple of times a week. The Pony Committee checks on them every day. There is still grass for grazing at the carnival grounds and we don’t keep hay there all the time, because too much hay is not good for their diet.” The ponies have the luxury of automatic water lines on the carnival premises.

“Every day someone from that Pony Committee goes out to the beach to make sure everything is OK,” said Bowden. “Everyone pretty much knows what to do, but if something does arise that needs to be addressed, the chairman will select a couple of people and ask them to go out and correct it. And,they'll correct it.”
Windy Mason is a staff writer for which is an online publication that covers Chincoteague and Assateague islands.