Thursday, July 14, 2011

Island Colonial Mustangs: Chincoteague Ponies, Assateague Ponies Challenge Painting #148

The Ponies of Assateague are managed into two groups. These two groups are divided with a fence at the state line between Maryland on the North and Virginia on the South. Prior to the management of Island by the National Park service the  ponies could roam freely from north to south but generally were fenced off from homes and away from people who had settled there.

"Reluctant Baby Sitter"
Chincoteague Pony and White Ibis Chick
5 by 5 inches watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist

One history I read was that on the mainland each sheep, cow, and horse was taxed according to value during Colonial times. As a result and to keep taxes down the mainlanders would swim their livestock over to Assateague to avoid the taxes. Each year there would be a roundup of all the unclaimed horses and sheep that were on the island.  Young horses would be marked or branded and then those who were unclaimed would be divided among those present. The ones needed for use were kept and the rest were returned to the island. Because the herds were so large, it was basically a matter of swimming them across at low tide, a much more efficient way of doing it than trying to load the mostly wild horses onto boats or barges to make the journey.

Originally these small horses (only called ponies in size due to their diet) were solids with bay, buckskin, black and chestnut being the dominant colors. From time to time stallions were introduced to increase the color options so that there are now a variety of colors from palomino to silver( a liver or chocolate color with a silvery gray mane and tail)  and of course pinto. Gray and appaloosa are not colors seen among the modern Chincoteague and Assateague ponies.

The most famous of all the Chincoteague ponies was Misty. She was a Palomino Pinto.

Although the ponies are wild; because they originated from domesticated stock during colonial times they are considered both wild and feral. In spite of that distinction, The south island ponies are managed and owned by the Chincoteague Fire Department. The fire department continues the historical act of rounding up the ponies each year and selling off most of the young stock yet saving a few for replacements of the older horses.  Unlike the  wild horses at the northern part of the island that are managed by the National Park Service the south island horses are carefully watched and maintained while still preserving their wild qualities.

This may have something to do with the fact that the Chincoteague ponies of the south island are valued so highly by many generations  due to the story written by Margaret Henry: Misty of Chincoteague. School Children through out North America read the story every year, each generation passing it down to the next.

The fact remains that the ponies of Assateague Island have been an integral part of the island habitat for over 400 years since the first  Europeans came and settled the coasts of Virginia and Maryland.
Reference photos for this painting are by Artist Jean Walter who spends a few weeks on on Chincoteague each year.

1 comment:

  1. Another great Mustang painting! Wonderful =) I enjoyed reading about them, too!