Wild horses of Assateague
As famous as the “wild” ponies are, you rarely encounter them. They seem content to stay in the brush and marshes, which are off-limits to trail riders. When they do show up on the beach or in the parking lots, they largely ignore their domesticated cousins. Our horses, on the other hand, get a bit up when a stranger strolls around their parked trailers. There are no problems with mares in season being stalked by pony stallions. The boys seem happy with their “wild girl” harems.
Assateague Island National Seashore
As part of the National Park system, Assateague Island National Seashore charges a user fee. It’s $15/day per vehicle; $30/year. You do not have to show a Coggins or health papers. The Seashore is adjacent to Maryland’s Assateague State Park, but they are two different entities, and horses are not allowed in the Park. To reach the Seashore, turn right after crossing the bridge onto the island. The road is very well-marked. You are asked to check in at the ranger station adjacent to the entrance. There is no water, so you’ll have to bring your own.
Most visitors are day-trippers, but there is a horse camping area. Reservations are required, and there are some regulations about corralling and feeding. Unfortunately, there are no farms offering overnight stabling in the immediate area. Those that do are an hour or so from the beach. Check www.horsetrip.com to find them.
Horseback riding on Virginia side via Chincoteague
Riding is also allowed on the Virginia side of the Seashore. You get there from the town of Chincoteague, about 50 miles south by road. It has different access points, trails, regulations, and seasons. (The two areas are separated by a fence in order to keep the two herds of “wild” ponies from coming into contact. The Maryland herd is completely feral and gets no vaccinations and only minimal vet care, while the Virginia herd receives shots and regular veterinary attention. That’s because the Virginia herd is the “Chincoteague” ponies which are auctioned off every July. )
If You Go:
For information about horseback riding at Assateague Island National Seashore, www.nps.gov/asis/.
For reservations or more information about horse camping call 410-641-3030.
For information about Virginia riding, go to: http://1.usa.gov/Yqb4rY.
Horseback Riding Vacation on Chincoteague Island
Fran Severn is a freelance travel writer at Striped Pot. Follow Fran on Twitter and follow Nancy D. Brown on Twitter at Ridinghorseback. Top photo courtesy of Leslie Passano. Middle photo courtesy of Kellie Watson. Wild horses photo courtesy of National Park Service website.