book review

A Misty of Chincoteague Field Trip

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One of my favorite books as a little girl was Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.

Misty of the Chincoteaugue

Oh how I wished I could have been Paul and Maureen Beebe! Just like them, I would have saved my money to buy one of the wild horses caught on Pony Penning Day.

This summer my horse-loving niece started reading the whole series of horse books penned by Marguerite Henry. Over lunch one day, we were discussing Misty of Chincoteague and how I always wished there was such a thing as Pony Penning Day.

But Aunt Valli there is! Misty of Chincoteague is a true story. “ 

“Sorry baby,” I said. “Misty of Chincoteague is a work of fiction not non-fiction.

Quickly she ran away from the table and brought back her copy of the book opened to the first page.  Loudly and confidently she read the following:

“All incidents in this story are real. They did not happen in just the order they are recorded, but they all happened at one time or another on the little island of Chincoteague.”

“You see it’s a true story!”  She said with one hand on her hip. 

Could it really be true that there is such a thing as Pony Penning Day? There was only one thing we could do!

“Let’s Google it.” I said.

A few moments later I was astonished. It really does exists!

This year will mark the 88th year that the Pony Swim has been celebrated. Just off the coast of Virginia lies two islands Assateague and Chincoteague. The last Wednesday and Thursday of July the annual Pony Penning is held and the goal is to move around 150 horses from Assateague to Chincoteague and then back again. 10,000 spectators show up every year to see the pony swim and participate in the pony auction before they swim the ponies back to Assateague island. 

The Pony Round-Up

Just like in the book, the weekend before the Pony Swim the “Saltwater Cowboys” on horseback will begin to round up the approximately 150 wild ponies that live on Assateague Island. About 50 ponies reside on the southern end of Assateague Island, and will be herded into a southern corral. About 100 ponies reside a little further north on the Assateague Island, and will be herded into a northern corral. The ponies can be viewed by the public in the southern corral, which is located on Assateague, just off the road that leads to the beach.

 Misty of Chincoteague

The Beach Walk

On Monday, at day break, the Saltwater Cowboys will move the ponies from the northern corral out to the beachfront then south along the Atlantic Ocean, and join them with the ponies in the southern corral. To see the ponies make their way from the north corral to the south corral along the beach, be at the Assateague Beach by 6 a.m.

Pony round-up

The Pony Swim

On Wednesday, the Saltwater Cowboys will swim the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. The swim takes place at “slack tide” which is a period of about 30 minutes between tides when there is no current. This is the easiest time for the ponies to make the swim and the time of slack tide varies each year. However, the swim generally takes place some time between 7am and 1pm. The specific time will be announced at the carnival grounds the week of the swim.

The first foal to come ashore will be named King or Queen Neptune and will be given away in a raffle drawing at the carnival grounds later in the day .

After the swim, the ponies rest for about 45 minutes. Then the Saltwater Cowboys will “parade” the ponies down Main Street, to the carnival grounds where the auction will be held Thursday morning. 

Pony Swim 1


Pony swim


The purpose of the pony swim is to move the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island so that the foals can be auctioned. The auction serves two purposes. First, the auction helps to control the overall size of the herd, keeping it from growing too large. Secondly, the auction is a fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.


The Pony Swim Back

On Friday, the adult ponies will make the return swim to Assateague Island where they will live in the wild for another year.

To read more about the Ponies and the Pony Swim have a look here.

This year the event starts on July 20th with the Pony Swim on July 23rd. I don’t know about you, but I am thinking it’s time for a little Road Trip! And all thanks to my niece who is such a great educator. Of course she’ll be traveling with me. Let the book adventure begin. 

I’d love to know if you’ve been to Chincoteague. Have any of you been to the Pony Swim ? Would love to hear about your experiences. 

Misty of Chincoteague


Photos were found on the Chincoteague Vistor’s Page.

27 thoughts on “A Misty of Chincoteague Field Trip

  1. I am so glad that the story is real. This is one of my favorite childhood stories. I really loved the original art on the cover. Some day I hope to visit.

    1. I was so happy to learn of Pony Penning Day. It’s a wish of mine too to go and see it.

    1. I loved this book so much as a kid. I was constantly wishing I could find a herd of wild horses and convince my town to have a pony penning day. Needless to say that didn’t happen but the book has remained a favorite. 😉

    1. Hello Aileen. Thanks for stopping by. I would love to attend this event. Hopefully next year.

    1. That’s what a Misty book will do for one, gets us dreaming of horses. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  2. I remember reading and loving the Misty books when I was a child. My children loved them, too. Thanks for including photos of the Pony Penning events. I stopped by from the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

    1. Welcome Patty. There is nothing like a Misty book to get the dream of having a horse flowing.

  3. I just HAD to stop by this post in the KidLit Bog Hop. “Misty of Chincoteague” was one of the books that inspired me to write a children’s horse book. I am a horse lover, too, and oddly, have never been to Chincoteague or the annual Pony Penning. I have, however, been to lovely Assateague Island in Maryland and have enjoyed the ponies living there who own the place. 🙂 So happy for you and your niece, and hope you make the trip! Reminds me…needs to be on “the list.”

    1. It was one of my favorite books too. To discover that there’s really a pony swim made my entire summer. I’m reading your sweet and lovely horse book “Believing in Horses” right now. We’re enjoying it so much !!!

  4. Oh this is lovely, I am so chuffed that your niece questioned and researched and found it was a true story. That in itself made me cheer hurrah. Thanks so much for a wonderful book recommendation and for sharing it with the Kid Lit Blog Hop

    1. Thanks Julie for stopping by. It was an exciting afternoon of discovering for both my niece and I. I’m so happy she took the initiative to investigate it further.

  5. Wow – this could just make me get back on a plane again! I had a memory somewhere of seeing a film of a book about horses on an island – weren’t the original herd shipwrecked or something? When I saw the name Chincoteague all sorts of bells went off in my brain. Thank you SO MUCH for the information – it sounds great.
    Another book from my past to rustle up 😀

    1. Yes the ponies were shipped wrecked from a Spanish Galleon. I personally was so thrilled to discover that it’s based on a true story. If you knew how many times I wished I could get a horse at the pony auction as a child. I loved this book and now it’s have a bit of a renaissance in our house.

  6. Thank you so much for reminding me of this story. It was one of my favorites, and if I can a Bucket List as a child, a visit to this yearly event was on it. My problem then as now, I could never pronounce ‘Chincoteague’! Thanks for sharing on the Kid Lit Blog Hop! Cheryl, Hop Hostess

    1. Hi Cheryl !! Thanks for stopping by. We’re planning to go to the Pony Swim next year. It’s pronounced Chin-co-teak. I have a small confession….I actually emailed the Chincoteague tourist office and asked them how to pronounce it. Now we both can be hip and cool while pronouncing it. 🙂 I love the Kid Lit blog HOp. Thanks for being such a gracious hostess.

    1. We were so excited. We’re hoping to go next year. That will be such a “cool” book moment. 🙂

  7. I am sure that I read this back waaaaaay back and I have heard of the Pony Swim as well. Your post has definitely awakened some happy memories. I read any and all books about horses for many, many years! Thanks for much for linking in the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

    1. I always love the Kid Lit Blog Hop. I always find so many kindred spirits there. Next year we have it on the calendar to make our way to the Pony Swim. Can hardly wait.

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