Assateaque Pony #09557

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The Story

This grazing Assateague Island pony appears to be an unusual kind of web-footed horse eating along while standing in the waves of water. But this horse is only doing what comes naturally to it on account of where it lives. The sandy soil on the island doesn’t produce quality grass or enough of it. To survive, the wild horses there have learned to walk out into the salt marsh at low tide and graze on the seagrasses there. They know their way through the land-side marshes along the island and how to avoid any deeper spots but they are known to be good swimmers. Being rather hardy, an Assateague Island pony surely doesn’t mind getting his feet wet for lunch.

Despite having survived here on their own for untold centuries, the pony diet of low-quality grass isn’t a very good one. Many animals have large bellies and eat constantly to get enough nourishment.

Assateague Island is a Maryland state park with overnight camping near the Atlantic beaches. There are strict rules on how campers have to store and dispose of their food because of raiding ponies. Understandably, food must be kept in cars or locking coolers. Curious and smart, the horses can figure their way into coolers and such, and easy pickings like a bag of delicious potato chips left beside last night’s campfire will not see the light of day.

A bag of BBQ chips or some skimpy grass? You know what I’d take.

Luckily, there was good light this day and this picture was taken while sitting in a hired john boat with a local pilot at the helm. There was some challenge to frame up shots while going up and down with the low waves, but things worked out well for a few of the frames. This grazing Assateague Island pony picked up his head and only looked at us once. Unconcerned, and realizing we didn’t have webbed feet like his, he went simply went back to lunch.

See some of this wild horse’s cousins that live to the south at Corrolla VA in a picture called Beachcombers #14479. Beach sand, ponies, waves, and clouds, what’s not to like?

Location: Assateague Island, Maryland. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks

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