July 28, 2005

Wild Ponies Make Annual Swim in Dense Fog

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. - Between 150 and 200 wild ponies made the annual swim to the shore of this resort island in dense fog Wednesday morning.

It took the ponies about five minutes to cross the 200-yard channel from Assateague, Md., a barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean, shortly after 8:30 a.m., (an official) said.

The ponies were then herded through town to a corral on the carnival grounds, where they will be sold at auction Thursday.

Yearlings and younger are sold to thin the herd and raise money for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which cares for the ponies.

Ponies that aren't sold, as well as those donated back to the fire department, will swim back to roam again on Assateague, a national wildlife refuge.

The pony swim was made famous by Marguerite Henry's 1947 novel "Misty of Chincoteague." This year's swim was the 80th organized by the fire department.

I read this book when I was a little girl and, because I was both a swimmer and a pony-obsessed kid, I thought the idea of dog-paddling ponies was about the greatest thing ever. Of course, in my imagination, ponies could talk and fly and well as swim.

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