ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Legend of the Chincoteague Pony: the Misty Ponies of Assateague Island

Updated on January 25, 2012
donotfear profile image

Annette Sharp holds a BAAS in Behavioral Science from Texas A&M. She is a counselor and motivator with an empathetic heart.

Chincoteague, Virginia:
Chincoteague Island, VA, USA

get directions

Me and Judy in our boat anxiously awaiting the ponies.
Me and Judy in our boat anxiously awaiting the ponies.
Into the water!
Into the water!
Swimming the channel...
Swimming the channel...
The parade down Main Street.
The parade down Main Street.
Coralled and ready for the auction.
Coralled and ready for the auction.
In the pony pens awaiting the auction....
In the pony pens awaiting the auction....
This little guy was really fighting at the auction!
This little guy was really fighting at the auction!

On the barrier island of Assateague, off the eastern coast of Virginia, live two herds of wild ponies. These hardy animals have become famous world-wide for their calm disposition, hardiness, and good looks. These traits have made the Chincoteague pony the choice of equestrians across the country.

According to the legend, the first ponies arrived on the island when a Spanish galleon sank off the coast of Assateague. The ship was believed to have been carrying a live cargo of Spanish Moor ponies. The ponies that survived the shipwreck swam ashore onto Assateague beach and lived wild and free for many years. The island provided a perfect grazing land for the ponies. They adapted well to the environment over the years. Another assumption of the ponies origin is that they are the descendants of herds that were turned loose by the first settlers. However the ponies got to the island, the legend of the shipwrecked Spanish galleon stands firm.

Once a year, the neighboring island of Chincoteague holds the annual Volunteerr Fire Department's Carnival and Pony Swim. The tradition started as early as the 1830's, but was made an official event in 1925 after the town of Chincoteague was nearly destroyed by fire. Realizing the fire fighting equipment was out-dated, the town appointed the Volunteer Fire Department to organize a carnival and pony swim to raise money for new equipment. On the last Wednesday in July of each year, the volunteer firemen, nick-named 'Saltwater Cowboys', round up the ponies on nearby Assateague and swim them across the channel, at low tide, to Chincoteague. Once on land, they parade the ponies down Main Street to the carnival grounds where the younger foals are auctioned off to the the highest bidder. The first Pony Penning was successful enough to raise money to improve the fire fighting equipment. Since then, the traditional event has continued to sustain the fire department of Chincoteague, as well as the local economy.

The wild ponies of Assateague were made famous in 1947 when Marguerite Henry, an author of children's literature, published the book "Misty, of Chincoteague." The book, based on real characters from Chincoteague, centered around the story of a wild mare and her filly who were bought and tamed by two local children, Paul and Maureen Bebee. Young readers were thrilled and excited with the story of Misty. Sequels followed, and the Chincoteague ponies became more popular than ever. Every child longed for a pony like Misty! The Pony Penning crowds grew each year. In July of 2001, the crowd was estimated to be about 50,000. The town gives Marguerite Henry the credit for making the ponies famous. There is a memorial to Ms. Henry in Chincoteague, as well as a separate memorial to Misty.

As each Pony Penning comes and goes, more people flock to the island to catch a glimps of the famous ponies. As long as children continue to read the Misty books, there will be an extended interest in the breed. The ponies' intelligence, gentle spirit, and stamina draw the attention of horse lovers across the country. As long as the legend lives on, the Chincoteague pony will remain a treasured breed to horse lovers everywhere, both young and old.

Author's post script: In 2001, I fulfilled my childhood dream of attending the annual Pony Swim and Pony Penning day. As the Saltwater Cowboys cracked their whips, the crowd began to cheer as the ponies made their way into the water. I began to cry with joy and anticipation as my childhood dream, at last, became a reality. How exciting it was to see such a trememdous crowd! The people shouting, ponies snorting, and the smell of the salt water marsh....! The ponies swam the channel in 2 minutes, although it seemed to take an hour. Once ashore, they shook their bodies and began to whinny for their babies. Then, they were herded down Main Street to the Pony Penning grounds. The next morning, the auction was held. One pony, a black and white Pinto, sold for $10,000.00! Incredible! It was an experience I'll never forget. I plan to return to Chincoteague for a future roundup and purchase my own pony. Until then, I will cherish the memory of my first Pony Penning day and encourage families and friends to visit this wonderful place!! And while you're there, visit the home of Misty!

For information on lodging and events see links below:




    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • CYBERSUPE profile image


      8 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

      Very good hub. I enjoyed this hub enough to link it to one of my hubs about Assateague National Seashore.

    • Laurel Oakes profile image

      Laurel Oakes 

      9 years ago

      I live very near Chincoteague and have all the books about "Misty", have even named my daughter Misty. Hope you get to come back sometime soon.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I spent every summer of my childhood very near Chincoteague and we'd drive up there at least twice, if not three times a week to swim at Assateague. Sometimes the ponies would come down to the water and actually walk in the surf! Super cool and to this day I love to spot the ponies, or hope that there are some hanging out behind McDonalds there.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      9 years ago from malang-indonesia

      thanks for share about that legend.I see like this only from my television. American have beautiful land and wide also. there are many ranch in the beautiful village. like your picture. I really enjoy reading this hub. I'll bookmark this one.

    • donotfear profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Thomas 

      9 years ago from Northeast Texas

      Thank you very much. Visiting Chincoteague in 2001 was the dream of a lifetime.

    • puppascott profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan (As far as you know...)

      What a great story. Thanks for sharing the history and memories with us.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)