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The Wild Ponies of Chincoteague

July 11, 2012

Written by Marykate Wurster, mother of 3 wonderful children, Riverside, CT

Last week we vacationed in Chincoteague Island, a small seaside town tucked away on the Eastern shore on Virginia. It felt refreshing leaving the bustle of the New York metro area for a slower pace. This very special island has it’s own breed of wild ponies. Local legend says they are survivors of a Spanish galleon that wrecked off the coast of neighboring Assateague Island hundreds of years ago. These ponies are the inspiration behind the classic children’s tale and movie Misty of Chincoteague and one of my daughter’s favorites My Chincoteague Pony. Chincoteague has a charming and quaint downtown. But the main attraction is the wild ponies.

And so, our week was all about ponies. We rode ponies.

We fed ponies.

We stopped on the way to the beach to watch ponies grazing under groves of trees.

And one magical night, on our drive back from dinner, we took a detour down a gravel road to do some exploring and came upon this.


This herd of ponies was grazing between some open marsh land bordering a private property. This beauty came right up to us and stayed, and stayed, and stayed. He was such a love. I am certain if one of my children hopped on his back he would have trotted off taking them on a bareback adventure. And then delivered them back unharmed.

It hardly seemed like he could be wild. What wild creature could be so affectionate, and relish our attention so much. Below my children are introducing him their “ponies” – “Pony, meet ponies”.  We are all about stuffed animals in our house. It will be a sad day when they stop playing with them.

There is so much natural beauty, wide meadows and marshlands with ponies trotting, grazing, standing like a still life under the hovering mist. The contrast of the green landscape and the punches of browns and creams from the ponies is breathtaking. The island is so quiet, very often the only sound is the rustle of wind through the pines and sea grass.

The beaches are great and a National Seashore.

Action shot!

And a picnic shot.

And a bucket shot – by the end of the day the entire bucket was full of sand crabs.

The Cheasapeake Bay is known for it’s crabbing and we tried our hand at that. I found myself in a bait and tackle shop. The kind woman behind the counter handed me some crabbing lines and then directed me to a refrigerator. “You need chicken necks”, she said, “bottom shelf”. I paused, then heard a voice that I recognized as my own reply “okay, thank you”.

My children loved it. We caught a bucket full. And had them for dinner, dripping with butter.

And because I am the queen of field trips, we had to visit NASA’s Wallops Island one afternoon.


We vacationed with my brother and sister and their families. Cousins!

What a great way to kick off the summer. Now, to packing. My house is pristine, and tidy, with shelves, drawers and closets fully stocked. And that is a problem. A problem that needs to be addressed. Vacation is over, let the packing begin.

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  1. Brian Curran

      on July 11, 2012 10:14 am

    Good post…this place is at the top of our to-do list.
    Hotel or B&B?


  2. Marykate Wurster

      on July 11, 2012 11:50 am

    We did a house so dont have first hand knowledge. It seems that there are more hotel / motels than B and B’s. My sister arrived early and they stayed at the Refuge Inn which she said was great. She said it was written up in Southern Living. There are ponies outside your door you can feed, and then Assateague Island (where the beach is) is right there. There was an adorable looking B and B in town caled Miss Mollys Inn – just checked and they have a website. Good luck! An easy trip from Phila – 3.5 hours.


  3. Heidi Farmer

      on July 11, 2012 5:21 pm

    What a fabulous place! I hadn’t heard of it before. Looks magical…


  4. Marykate Wurster

      on July 11, 2012 9:25 pm

    It is Heidi – miss you! Hope Michigan is good!!! XXOO


  5. John Amrhein

      on July 13, 2012 10:38 am

    For anyone interested in Assateague and the horses you should read the true story about the Spanish galleon that legend says brought the wild horses to Assateague. History does not end here. This galleon was escorting another treasure ship that was disabled at Ocracoke. Her treasure was stolen and buried in the Caribbean. This event would later inspire Robert Louis Stevson when he wrote Treasure Island. see www dot


  6. Marykate Wurster

      on July 13, 2012 11:25 am

    John, thank you so much for this information! I love the Treasure Island inspiration / piece – I am going to check out the website now.


  7. Tom O'Malley

      on July 14, 2012 2:58 pm

    These pictures bring back memories. We were so lucky to have gotten a chance to spend time there as kids!!! I remember we used to leave the chicken out in the sun until they got super stinky, the smellier they were, the more the crabs loved them! That place was so cool. Misses Daisy, the Shinglers and the Booths…..


  8. Marykate Wurster

      on July 14, 2012 8:01 pm

    Tom, have to be honest here and say that I have always found crabbing a bit gross. Okay, really gross. You know how love is a verb – it is an act of love on my part to do this with the kids! And a sacrifice.


  9. Anne Schenendorf

      on July 16, 2012 2:26 pm

    MaryKate, this was an amazing trip and as always you wtiting def does it justice. I’m cracking up because Tommy I was horrified by it as a kid. It was so long ago yet I can still hear the scratching of the claws in the lobster pot. The kiddies were all about it and for some reason the was no sad noises and so they were blissfilly unaware. Perfect. As a kid I was also scared of the process of catching a crab but love every moment of sitting on the dock… The company and ponies were amazing too…


  10. Anne Schenendorf

      on July 16, 2012 2:37 pm

    Also, Chincoteague does have a website. There are a couple and the one that is great is the one that the google description says first official website. We did love Refuge Inn. There are tons of B & B’s but when I asked one of them if they would welcome my toddler twin boys the answer was no. 😉 I loved that our place was so close to the beach and had its own bikes and ponies though someone needs to steam clean the carpets. It does have a pool and the people are fantastic.


  11. Marykate Wurster

      on July 16, 2012 2:49 pm

    Thanks Anne for the info!!


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