CHINCOTEAGUE, Va.- The excitement from Wednesday’s 94th Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim continued Thursday with the annual pony auction.
The auction is the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s biggest fundraiser of the year. In 2018 it raised $228,400 and this year the bidders helped bring in $271,000. The ponies sold on average at $4,767. According to the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce, this is a record.
Jestini, Bayahni, & Jacob Yeager of Parksley, Va., bid $1,400 to take a 3-month-old chestnut brown foal home to their 27-acre farm. Bayahni wants to name her “Elizabeth.”
“You get a little wrapped up, you get excited,” says her dad, Jacob Yeager. “It made her happy.”
57 foals were up for grabs at the annual auction. The Kathy, Mary Grace, and Haley Shearer from Pennsylvania were on vacation in Ocean City when they heard about the swim.
“We have three full size horses and we breed miniature horses, wild chicks, mini ranch,” Kathy explains.
In October they’ll come back for the 2-month-old cremello colt they won for $2,300.
“We just got caught up,” says Kathy. “We love horses.”
Sales made at the auction raise money for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company that takes care of the ponies.
“There’s a separate fund for the ponies,” says Denise Bowden with the fire company. “There’s a separate fund for the ambulances and general funds.
Bowden says the fire company spends upwards of $30,000 to $40,000 per year in vet bills to keep the heard healthy. “God willing we’re going to go another 94 years and beyond,” she says.
The auction also helps control the population of the herd.
“With our permit with the US Fish and Wildlife, we’re only allowed to keep so many ponies on the beach,” says Bowden. “It not only raises money for us, but it helps keep the herd population in check.”
However, not all of the foals that are auctioned off go home with their owners. Some are designated as “buy backs,” which means they will continue to live on Assateague Island.
“We keep meticulous records through genetics of which ones have been buybacks all the way down the line there just so we can get a mixture of everything,” Bowden explains.
Proceeds from the buy back auctions go to regional charities.
While some ponies will continue to contribute to the island’s herd, others like Elizabeth will move on to contribute to their owner’s families.
Bayahni is needs to wait three more years before Elizabeth is old enough to ride. “(I’ll) wait until I’m 9-years-old to ride her so I don’t hurt her back.”
Many families plan to stick around to watch the ponies swim back to Assateague Island on Friday morning. That swim is expected to begin at 10:30 a.m.
The adult ponies and buy backs will be returning and so will the foals whose owners plan to come pick them up later on.
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