Assateague Ponies


The last post in my Assateague adventure series, and what better to end with than the ponies that make the island famous.

The ponies, notably but perhaps fictitiously said to have come from a wrecked Spanish galleon, pretty much have the run of Assateague Island.  The herd is monitored by the National Wildlife Refuge and each summer the annual pony round up occurs, where younger ponies are driven across the channel to Chincoteague and sold at auction in order to manage the side of the herd.

BRENT PENNINGTON One of the famous Chincoteague ponies meanders the parking lot at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island on the morning of 08 May 2015.

But the rest of the time they roam the island and can be found in any of the biomes, from the beach to the marsh, and even in the parking lots, as in the photo above.

We saw the ponies each of the three days we were there, usually in the same place – in the marsh along the road leading to the beach.  Sometimes it was just a single individual, but more often a small herd, at varying distances.


The running joke between Mandy and I became: look for where people are acting stupid, and that’s where the ponies are.

The whole refuge has a 25/30 mph speed limit, so you’re going slow, but we’d still come around a bend in the road and suddenly find a dozen cars pulled to the side and stopped in the lanes, people milling about, cameras everywhere, and always someone with a 800mm lens looking very serious.

BRENT PENNINGTON A herd of the famous Chincoteague ponies feed in the marsh at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island, VA, on the afternoon of 08 May 2015.

What’s nice is that the refuge was pretty laid back about this behavior; I think they expect people to go nutty over the ponies, and the whole stop-and-gawk bit seemed to be tolerated with a great deal of patience.  We joined the roadside throngs a couple of times for a photo op.


We didn’t find any ponies on the beach, which would have been awesome.  But we encountered them often enough to satisfy us.  As much fun as they are to see, they really aren’t the best photographic subject, at least under these conditions.  From the side of the road, out across the marsh, after a few shots you start thinking, “Yep, it’s some horses in a field.”  I guess what I’m saying is that at the usual distances, it lacks the personal intimacy of working closeup with birds or other critters, which I’ve grown accustomed to.


But it was still a lot of fun to see them!

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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1 Comment

  1. Marie Pennington

    I was wondering when we’d see ponies. Love them!

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