Is a Chincoteague Pony right for you?

I see a lot of people who are interested in purchasing a Chincoteague Pony from the Pony Penning and auction, but they really aren’t sure about what’s involved in buying one.  I’d like to answer some of those questions — here, I want to address the Pony Penning purchases specifically.  As far as purchasing a pony from a breeder (either a young one, or an adult) it’s a far different scenario, so I’ll address that separately at another time.  When is the Pony Penning?  Are the ponies really wild?  Can I buy an adult pony, or just a baby?  How much do they cost?  How hard are they to train?

This year, the pony swim will be held on Wednesday, July 30 and the auction will be on Thursday, July 31. As a general rule, these happen the last week of the month where it is possible to have both the swim (always Wednesday) and auction (always Thursday) both happen in July.

Yes, at first, the ponies are hard to approach, touch and train. They are truly wild and have never been handled, let alone trained in any way, when you purchase them. This is not a task to be taken on by someone without experience with young horses or a lot of patience and time to invest in them. Once you’ve overcome the initial obstacle of gaining their trust, however, they are no harder to train than any other foal.

The vast majority of the horses sold at the auction are weanlings. Some years they also sell some yearlings that were not sold the previous years — but keep in mind that the yearlings are wild, too. They have not been handled or trained at all, so they simply have another year of getting bigger and wilder behind them.

Most of the foals at auction begin with a bid of $1000, but some will start at lower bids. The average price is around $2000, but they have sold for as much as $10000 or more. It is possible to get one for a good price (i.e., closer to $1000) but you’d have to be fairly flexible on the color of the foal (pintos tend to go for more than solid colors, most years fillies go for more than colts). Keep in mind that a purebred Chincoteague purchased from a breeder (not from the island) will cost you more than this. Although some people consider this to be very expensive, consider that you are purchasing a purebred — and a rare breed.

It is possible to purchase ponies of an older age from private breeders (you can look around online and find some) but be aware that sometimes these ponies were purchased by enthusiastic people who had neither the experience nor the time to bring them along. As a result, be very careful about any Chincoteague you might purchase after it is older — some of them are nearly as wild as they were when they were little, but they have more muscle behind it. Also, beware of “Chincoteague” ponies who are unregistered. It’s not unusual for an unscrupulous seller to label a pony (particularly a small pinto) as a Chincoteague simply to be able to ask for a higher sales price.

Cricket is a Chincoteague from the 2001 auction. She is now 7 years old and the sweetest and quietest pony I’ve ever worked with. I’ve done most of her training myself, and I am going to be starting a business to help people select, purchase and train Chincoteagues of their own.  I have truly enjoyed the experience of purchasing, raising & training her, but it’s not something to be entered into lightly.  It does take a commitment of time and energy to turn a wild foal into a well mannered adult.  With the right attitude, though, and the right amount of time, it can be a truly fantastic experience for you and your new pony.

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