Nobody could capture the Phantom. She was the wildest mare on Assateague Island. They said she was like the wind, that the white “map” on her shoulders was her mark of freedom.
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Saturday was a wonderful day here on the Delmarva Peninsula to escape the 90+ degree heat and head to one of our glorious beaches. The escape was real…I was actually cool with my beach chair pulled just close enough to the ocean for my feet to catch the refreshing waves. The ponies evidently had the same idea and provided the show most tourists come to see and one I never get bored with.
There are two theories about how the wild horses came to be on Assateague Island, which spans 48,000 acres of Virginia and Maryland’s eastern shore. One theory is that they arrived with the early colonial settlers and the other is that they swam to shore after escaping a Spanish galleon cargo shipwreck, of which they were the cargo. I think the latter is a much more exciting theory, and with the discovery of a sunken Spanish ship off the coast in 1997, it is the more credible one as well.
The ponies, officially named “Chincoteague Ponies” for the nearby island off of Assateague, VA, survive eating the wild grasses, bayberry twigs, rosehips and persimmons. They drink fresh or brackish water found in the lower lying areas of the island. They became famous largely because of the book Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.
Though there are signs posted everywhere to stay at least 100 ft. away from the ponies, the ponies, and most people, don’t quite adhere to that warning. They have been known to bite and kick, so I have a respectful fear of them as I do the ocean. Apparently, they have also been fed “people” food over the years, also despite the signs, and have developed quite the taste for it. It is common to see them come up to the belongings of beachgoers and rummage through their bags in search of tasty treats…we have been among those beachgoers! They have become quite adept at stomping bags of chips to get to the forbidden contents inside.
As the afternoon grew late, the ponies started heading down the beach…
Fires began to be built….
And by nightfall the campfires burned all around, illuminating the fun gatherings of families and friends, while the ponies slept nearby under the spectacular starry sky.
‹My apologies to the ponies, as cell phone pictures don’t do their beauty justice.›