Photos: 200+ Wild Ponies Take a Swim on Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Wild ponies swam across the Assateague Channel on Wednesday during the 93rd annual Pony Swim in Virginia. Every year, the wild ponies are rounded up on the national wildlife refuge. Most of the foals are auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which owns the herd. The adults then return to the wild.

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CHINCOTEAGUE, VA - JULY 25: Wild ponies swim across the Assateague Channel during the 93rd annual Pony Swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 25, 2018 in Chincoteague, Virginia. Every year the wild ponies are rounded up on the national wildlife refuge to be auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Wild ponies swam across the Assateague Channel on Wednesday during the 93rd annual Pony Swim in Virginia. Every year, the wild ponies are rounded up on the national wildlife refuge. Most of the foals are auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which owns the herd.
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The auction helps control the size of the wild herd.
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The event draws thousands of spectators, organizers say. Here, visitors admire the wild ponies after their swim across the Assateague Channel from Assateague Island to Chincoteague.
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Each year, volunteers on horseback called the "Saltwater Cowboys" round up about 150 adult wild ponies and the 60-70 foals that were born in the spring, <a href="http://www.chincoteague.com/pony_swim_guide.html" target=blank>according to Chincoteague.com</a>. The cowboys then guide the ponies across the channel from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island, where most of the foals then are auctioned off.
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Some years, a few foals are designated as "buyback" ponies that will return to Assateague Island to live in the wild. Those ponies are auctioned with the rest of the foals, but are donated back to the fire company that owns the herd and are returned to the wild.
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People lined the street as wild ponies are herded past during the 93rd annual pony swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island.
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People stood along the muddy shoreline waiting to see the wild ponies swim across the Assateague Channel on Wednesday.
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The auction also serves as a fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. The fire company uses some of the proceeds to provide vet care for the ponies throughout the year. Proceeds from the sale of one foal each year go to a regional charity.
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Following the swim each year, the ponies rest and then "parade" down Main Street to the carnival grounds, where the auction is scheduled for Thursday morning.
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Although anyone may bid on a pony, the fire company says all winning bids are subject to review and final approval.
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Winners will need to have an S.P.C.A.-certified horse or stock trailer, the fire company says on its website.
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The average cost of a pony sold at the auction in 2016 was $2,659, according to Chincoteague.com, with the highest bid at $11,000 and the lowest at $550.
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The adult ponies will make their return swim to Assateague Island on Friday.
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