Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Vet Checks for the Wild Horses of Assateague

Over spring break, we traveled to Virginia to visit the Chincoteague ponies that live on Assateague Island. Along with Mustangs in the western part of the country, these horses (genetically, they're actually horses, not ponies) are among the last wild horses in the United States. There are three herds of them: one on the northernmost, Maryland, end of the island; and two on the southernmost, Virginia, end of the island. The horses in Maryland are managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and they are truly wild; they have very little contact with humans. The only interference they receive from the NPS is contraception, to keep their herd at around 150 animals. Otherwise, they would take over the island and destroy the habitat for other animals.

The Virginia herds are owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. If you've ever read Misty of Chincoteague by Margeuerite Henry, then you've already had an introduction to these horses! And you've probably already heard of the annual pony swim that happens every July. This is how the firemen keep their horse population down at 150 animals—they drive yearlings across the Chincoteague Bay, and auction them off. 

But every spring and fall, the firemen also give veterinary care to the horses. That's what you'll see in this episode—along with the amazing roundup by the Saltwater Cowboys who bring them in to the corral. 

To learn more about the history of the wild horses of Assateague, visit the National Park Service

A three-day-old foal with his mother.