Monday, April 25, 2011

Wild Ponies of Grayson Highlands Challenge Painting #95

  The Wild Ponies of Grayson Highlands is a herd of feral ponies, mostly of Shetland pony descent, employed to live upon the Forestry Service and State Park lands surrounding Mt Rogers in Virginia.

6 by 9 inch Watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist

The herd is maintained to 120 ponies. They are chosen for their heartiness, their ability to thrive in mountain heights above 4,500 feet and to keep the native thorny hawthorn in check.  The ponies are managed by a local citizen group called the Wilburn Ridge Pony Association. Select ponies are rounded up in early September and vetted for adoption auction during the Grayson Highland Fall Fest.

Smokey showing off his long silver tresses.
Photo by Amy Flood. Used by permission

As most of the wild horses in the United States are of Spanish mustang descent and are from stock of North and Central American Colonial history, the Grayson Highland's Ponies are neither horses, nor are they of Spanish or Iberian colonial stock. However, they were specifically chosen for their short legged hearty demeanor and their ability to fulfil the job requirements of keeping the hawthorn in check while doing practically no damage to the environment. 

One of the people who are documenting these feral ponies is Amy Flood, a professional photographer, who has love and passion for the ponies as well as professionalism in documenting their habitat, their behavior and their lives. This documentation includes  the impact of how frequent visitors to the park affects the herd behavior and dynamics.
In Amy's Words:

Smokey showing off his silver dapples.
This photo and reference photography provided
by Amy Flood and used by perission.
Smokey is one of the most recognizable stallions, with his silver dappling and thick flowing mane & tail. He and his band roam the balds just above the parking lot at Massie Gap, and so are among the most photographed ponies on the mountain. Currently his band consists of his faithful lead mare River, as well as Rocket, Galaxy, EvaSince and Rocket & River's yearling fillies - Flicka & Brook. I cannot be certain of his age, but my guess is he is one of the older stallions on the mountain (perhaps 10-15 yrs?).

Flicka and Smokey
Photo by Amy Flood
Used by permission.
He and Flicka have a particularly interesting relationship. Flicka is actually Pippin's daughter (and the spitting image of the pinto stallion), but was born into Smokey's band. Flicka adores her stepdaddy and is constantly seeking his attention. Smokey is not one of the more affectionate stallions on the mountain - he can oftentimes appear very aloof. At times he can be quite impatient with Flicka, but over time I have noticed him softening towards her. At the risk of sounding anthropomorphic, I would say it seems she has cracked his tough exterior and holds a special place in his heart. :) "

To read more about these ponies  and their history  you can read the the Mustang A Day Challeng News blog with addtional links to the Grayson Highlands State Park and follow Amy's visits and photography on her blog

For more information on the Grayson Highlands State Park Pony AuctionThe Wilburn Ridge Pony Association holds an auction at 2:00 PM on the Saturday following the 4th full week in September. The auction is part of the Grayson Highlands Fall Fest. All auctioned ponies have passed veterinary examination and testing, and the proceeds from their purchase goes toward sustaining the pony herd and local charities. For further information call: 276-773-3111 or go to


  1. This is so wonderful of you to profile the ponies! There is a similar herd in Saskatchewan and they just don't get the same recognition :-)

  2. Oh thanks you, PPA. I'm so happy to do it. Maybe an artist where you live will take a page from my book and do the same thing for the wild horses up in Cananda. It could do nothing but help them. =0)