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Precedented: Pony Penning Cancellations in World War II

On May 18th 2020, the Chincoteague Fire Company announced that the 2020 Pony Penning has been canceled due to COVID-19. It would have been the 95th annual event. Lately, it seems like every advertisement, email, and TV commercial includes the phrase “In these unprecedented times,” but in this case, the cancellation of Pony Penning isn’t entirely unprecedented. In 1942, the mayor, John W. Winder, ordered the Fireman’s Carnival and Pony Penning to be canceled. Despite this, the Daily Press out of Newport, VA reported that Clarence Beebe attempted to put on his own mock-pony swim, herding some of his own ponies across a canal on his land—but it hardly measured up to the real deal. A few newspapers at the time cite the conservation of resources as the reason the carnival and Pony Penning event was cancelled, saying that they did not expect many attendees and that, considering gas and rubber shortages, the islanders  could not warrant the festivities. According to the Baltimore Sun, b
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Surfer Dude: The Pony, the Myth, the Legend

For well over a hundred years, people have argued over the true origins of the Chincoteague ponies, so it's appropriate that the origins of the most famous wild pony are not completely known. The wild Chincoteague pony stallion Surfer Dude captured the hearts of thousands with his distinctive looks: his deep chocolate-brown coloring, his blonde mane, his partial blue eye, and the spot of gray below his '92 hip brand. Surfer Dude in 2010. Photo by Sarah Boudreau. Surfer Dude was born in 1992. The CVFC started freezebranding with the year of the pony's birth in 1991, which allowed for easier recognition and record-keeping. Two years after Surfer Dude was born, the Chincoteague Pony Association was formed. The CPA was organized by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, and it was the primary pony registry for many years, keeping track of which foals were born to which parents. It is difficult to verify information on many of the ponies born before the CPA, because

The Wild Horses of the West Meet the Wild Ponies of the East: The Mustang Introduction of 1977

After they lost a large percentage of their herd to equine infectious anemia in 1975-76 , the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department sought to introduce new blood to their wild pony herds, so they brought nearly forty wild mustangs to the island. The goal, however, was not simply to replace the ponies that had died.  "The wild ponies were weakened through generations of inbreeding. That's when we decided to add the bloodlines of the wild horses of the West to strengthen the wild ponies of the East," said Harry Clay Bunting Jr., pony chairman. He added, "I thought, here was 38 we could save from a can." Bunting touched on the massive controversy over the management—or lack thereof—of the West's wild mustangs, a controversy that endures to this day. For hundreds of years, mustangs did not have legal owners, and until the early 1970's, that meant that there was little to no oversight on their treatment. Mustangs at this time were being rounded up,

Mini Post: The Airship over Pony Penning

Pony Penning is built on tradition. People have always puzzled over the origins of Chincoteague ponies and have always loved to watch the spectacle of the ponies parading through the streets. The foals have always been cute. The mosquitoes have always been bad. Something a little less traditional was the appearance of a zeppelin at the 1925 Pony Penning. The USS Shenandoah, a massive airship commissioned in 1923, floated over Chincoteague Island at about 300 feet, and tourists and locals alike looked up from the ponies to cheer. The Shenandoah moored to the Patoka, an oiler. Library of Congress photos. The Shenandoah was the first American-made rigid airship, and the first of its kind to use helium, though the design was based on a World War I German bomber. Commanded by Frank R. McCrary, the USS Shenandoah only flew for two years. She was caught in a thunderstorm on her 57th flight and tragically crashed in Ohio while on a promotional tour, just two months after she e

The Half Arabians of Assateague: Stanley White, Grandeur Arabians, and Premierre

Arabian stallions have been introduced into the herd several times--like Al Marah Sunny Jim, who lived on Assateague in the 70’s, and Skowreym, an endurance racer who was leased to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department for two years in the 60’s. Plenty of other stallions and their donors have been erased by time, but Stanley White’s contributions have left a very clear mark upon the breed. Stanley White got his start with Chincoteagues at a young age, as he grew up attending Pony Penning. In fact, his first horse was a Chincoteague: when he was seven, his foster father brought him a black mare named Doll Baby and told him that if he could ride her, he could keep her. White grew up to work for Al-Marah Arabian Horses, then he moved on to Lancer Arabians in Ocala. Eventually, he started his own operation, Grandeur Arabians, in Citra, FL. It was a family affair on the 200-acre farm, as his children were heavily involved in training and showing. Though he built his career on the

When Swamp Fever Attacked Wild Ponies

Equine infectious anemia, also known as swamp fever, spiked in the 1930’s and again in the 60’s and 70’s—and it was during the 70's when it infected almost half of the wild Chincoteague pony herd. The disease, spread primarily through biting flies, is characterized by episodes of fever, as well as swelling, weight loss, and loss of stamina. Some infected horses can go up to a year without displaying symptoms after their initial infection, which would make the disease difficult to observe in wild ponies. EIA has been around for centuries, but to this day there is no successful treatment and no vaccine available in the United States. In 1973, the Coggins test, which determines if a horse is infected with EIA, was approved by the US Department of Agriculture. The Coggins test was used on Chincoteague ponies the very next year on two foals that were bought at Pony Penning and taken to New Jersey, where they began showing symptoms. Upon this news, both the Chincoteague Volunteer Fi

When the Sausage Man Helped the Chincoteague Ponies

Bob Evans, the sausage-maker and restaurant-owner, lived hundreds of miles from the sunny, hoofprint-stamped beaches of Assateague Island, making him an unlikely ally in the fight to preserve the Chincoteague pony breed. Evans grew up near Gallipolis, OH, on a gorgeous farm tucked into the folds of the Appalachian mountains. Despite his success in business, he was known to be a genuine soul. His persona as an honest farmer was no fake—Evans was the real deal. He was also known for his giving nature. The Bob Evans Farm has long been stocked with educational materials, and Evans worked with Ohio’s 4-H program for years, even starting a program that gave away 44 quarter horse colts a year to deserving kids.  Bob Evans Farms in 2019 In ‘72, Evans got interested in the plight of the Spanish barb mustang, a subset of the mustang breed that was quickly declining in number. Wild mustangs descend from the horses originally brought to the Americas by Spanish colonizers, and thoug