91st Chincoteague Pony Swim a Success

pony swim3
About 200 ponies and foals made the swim this morning during the 91st Chincoteague Pony Swim. The herd was rounded up on Sunday.

This morning at 10:18 the famous Chincoteague ponies embarked on the annual swim from Assateague Island. The swim always takes place at on the last Wednesday of July at “slack” tide (when there is no current); the annual foal auction will take place tomorrow, starting at 8:00 a.m.

Emerging from the water
I was able to watch some of the swim on a live video feed. None of the horses or foals looked to be in distress.

I’ve always wanted to watch the swim, and this year I managed to come across a live feed of the event. It wasn’t as much fun as being there but I probably got a better view since the event draws tens of thousands of spectators. Not to mention the heat index was 104 when the ponies started their eighth of a mile swim.

This year approximately 200 ponies made the swim and none had any issues, even some of the smaller foals. Once they emerged, there were a few tussles among the stallions and some frantic mares looking for foals, but soon the herd settled down and I saw a few bystanders stroking ponies over the fence.

Chincoteague pony swim
After they’ve rested, the ponies are herded down the main street by the “Salt Water Cowboys” in preparation for tomorrow’s auction.

The annual pony swim became famous in 1947 with the publication of Marguerite Henry’s classic, Misty of Chincoteague. Certainly, it was one of my favorite books as a child and I spent many months dreaming of owning my own Chincoteague pony.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Sun on the wall
Riding on a summer evening when the light is magical.

Today is the longest day of the year. In some ways it’s shocking; summer is only just beginning and yet starting tomorrow our days will get (marginally) shorter every day. But this is a special summer solstice because it’s also a full moon. And not just any moon; it’s a strawberry moon, so named by the Algonquin tribes because it occurs right at the height of the season when strawberries are harvested.

Loop ride
This ride kept us cool in the woods and took us down one of the historic colonial-era roads.

What better way to celebrate than by an evening ride? Zelda and I had a lovely, long ride this evening. We took a six mile loop that took us down historic the historic Estabrook Road trail (with a distance marker to the Old North Bridge), through the woods to come out at Hutchins Pond.

It was a warm evening, and yet cool in the woods. Surprisingly, because these trails are usually well used, it was empty tonight. The only people I saw were three mountain bikers, who surprised us deep in the woods but were kind enough to pull over to the side of the trail while Zelda snorted her disapproval.

I made one wrong turn out in the woods. It’s funny how well Zelda knows her way around and she pointed like a dog in the right direction. Honestly, at dusk, most of those wooded trails look the same and if it wasn’t for the touches of history — the old foundations, the lime kilns, and the stone walls — it would be easy to lose your way without the uncanny directional sense of my partner in crime.

Hutchins Pond
A glimpse of Hutchins Pond, which appears at the end of a the East Hubbard Tral

When I arrived back at the barn around 8:15, the sunset still painted the sky orange and it was pleasantly light.

Friends

I understand why some people want their horses in individual turnouts — they are afraid they will get hurt. Freedom is always covered with scrapes, cuts and bite marks. It’s not from meanness. He plays hard. And often. Luckily, Willow seems to enjoy the game as much as he does. And even if he does look scruffy, I’m glad he has so much fun. When I first got him, he didn’t have a lot of experience playing well with others. I think he’s figured it out.

Thanks, Lindsay for catching the two in action!

 

I think Zelda is part Border Collie

Zelda has upped her game of tag. When I went to hunt her on Saturday, she started by running laps in the pasture. Then she decided that Curly needed to join in her game. I think that Zelda is part Border Collie because she’s very good at herding.

Of course, Curly is a good sport. She plays along until Zelda tires of the game and then goes back to eating hay. It’s interesting to watch the herd dynamics.

Zelda didn’t get tired so easily. She ran for nearly half an hour before she deigned to be caught and I had to hose her off before the hunt.

Hmm, I wonder what kind of music Zelda would play?

Sapphire the horse has shown a remarkable talent on the electric keyboard, enjoying both the sounds and the feeling of the keys. He’s got quite a riff going! But he’s not the only horse that likes music.

Researchers at Hartpury College in England tested the effects of different types of music on eight stabled horses. They played classical (Beethoven), country (Hank Williams Jr.), rock (Green Day), and jazz (New Stories) – for 30 minutes each.

The horses showed a marked preference for classical, country music and silence;  jazz and rock music caused horses to display behaviors associated with stress — head tossing, stamping, snorting and vocalizing.

In addition, horses ate more calmly when listening to classical or country music, while when listening to jazz or rock they snatched at food in short bursts.

So next time you have the radio on at the barn, make sure you’ve got it tuned to soothing music. Or, set up a keyboard and see what happens. Sapphire’s playing is surprisingly musical — it makes me wonder what Zelda would produce!