About Assateague Pony and the Assateague Wild Horses

Tell me about the Assateague Wild Horses.

Assateague Pony – the Assateague Wild Horses – is a new project of Bill Swartwout Photography. Bill created AssateaguePony.com to supplement his online Gallery, AssateagueWildHorses .com, with articles and additional pictures.

Assateague Pony Mieke's Noe'lani.The Wild Horses of Assateague Island are loved by nearly everyone who sees them and Bill is no exception. The horses are often elusive and many people visit the park without ever seeing them – not one. This will be a chance to see the ponies that Bill has been able to find and photograph.

What this website is not: We are not connected to the Assateague State Park, the Assateague Island National Seashore or the Assateague Island Alliance.  We have no official relationship with any of the local organizations. Bill is a local landscape and nature photographer simply “plying his trade.” We have, however, contributed a small amount to the AIA by “Adopting a Pony” and participating in the Assateague Foster Horse Program. The Foster Horse program helps to raise funds for the AIA and to help support the goals of the AINS.

Why Assateague Pony and not Assateague Wild Horse?

If local fauna are really Wild Horses, why is the name of this website Assateague Pony? It seems that more people refer to the horses with the term Pony or Assateague Ponies. Hopefully, the site name will make it a bit easier to find (in the search engines) and we can help to correct the misnomer/misconception. Here is a brief article about the Assateague ponies really being wild horses.

Assateague Wild Horses"OK, tell me all about it - just whisper in my ear."

Adopt a Pony – Assateague Foster Horse Program

Yay! We are Foster Parents! Of the Assateague Foster Horse Program, that is.

Assateague Foster Horse Program with Mieke's Noe'lani

The first part of that statement raised a few eyebrows among our friends when we first posted it on Facebook. LOL Then people realized we were visiting the Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. We became a part of (and contributors to) the Assateague Foster Horse Program by adopting one of the Assateague Wild Horses.

“Our” pony was born in 2016 and is named Mieke’s Noe’lani [N2GHS-AIO]. Some people call her “The Princess” – because she looks like one. Right? She is a Sorrel filly (mare/female). Her name means “Mieke’s beautiful girl from heaven.”

The Foster Horse Program is, of course, a fund raising source for the Assateague Island Alliance. The “AIA” is a quasi-official support group for the National Park Service at Assateague island.

Here’s what you get… (what we received)

Assateague Foster Horse Program Documents

  1. A nice certificate folder to hold an 8×10 color photograph of “our” adopted pony and an official-looking adoption certificate of the “Assateague Island National Seashore Foster Horse Program”
  2. A biography of our newly adopted horse
  3. A map of where the horse usually resides – where we may be able to see her.
  4. A newsletter entitled “Horsing Around” that contains interesting/educational information.
  5. A paper for tax purposes. The “fair market value” of the packet was listed at $15.00 – and states that “any amount over that may be tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.” That is another good reason to adopt a wild horse in the Assateague Foster Horse Program.

Here’s how to adopt a horse in the Foster Horse Program

Sign up right at the Assateague Island National Seashore Visitor Center. The cost at the time we “adopted” our foster horse was $32.00. The adoption took place “on the spot” and could not have been easier. Because the funds go to support the Assateague Island Alliance and not directly to the park the adoption fee must be paid in cash or by check.

Our take on adopting one of the Assateague Ponies…

…was to adopt a young horse so we could follow it’s life into the future. We adopted at the AINS Visitor Center and we chose a horse, Mieke’s Noe’lani, that lives in an area of the park where we often visit. Many of the horses only live in the southern portion – the OSV (Over Sand Vehicle) area – where relatively few people have access. We no longer have a four-wheel drive car nor the stamina (LOL) to hike for hours over the sand. 🙂

Assateague Pony Population On Target, Wild, Healthy

The Assateague Wild Horse Population Is Within Goals.

The National Park Service recently announced the completion of a March, 2018 census of the Assateague pony population, actually the Assateague Island Horse Census. There are currently 82 horses in the census, which meets the “best practices” goal of maintaining between 80 and 100 horses living on the Maryland portion of Assateague Island.Assateague Pony on the Marsh

The Assateague Pony herd in Maryland currently consists of 61 mares and 21 stallions. Those numbers include the foals (youngsters) which have not yet officially reached the age of being classed as a mare or a stallion, but is indicative of the female to male ratio.

From a National Park Service publication: “It is important to limit the number of wild horses on Assateague. Left to themselves, the horses will quickly destroy the barrier island environment that sustains them.

The National Park Service (NPS) wanted a safe, effective way to control overpopulation. Researchers working in conjunction with the NPS developed a non-hormonal, non-invasive vaccine to prevent pregnancy. This vaccine is delivered by a dart to the hindquarters of selected mares each spring.

To keep the gene pool as large as possible each mare is allowed to have one offspring. This vaccine has successfully lowered the birth rate of Maryland’s horses to only a few foals per year – enough to ensure a sustainable population.”

Below is the narrative from the NPS website for Assateague Island National Seashore concerning the Assateague Pony Population:

Assateague Island Horse Census Results

News Release Date: April 4, 2018

Berlin, MD – The National Park Service has completed its March 2018 population census of the wild horses on Assateague Island. The total population of the Maryland herd is currently at 82 horses, which is well within the ideal population range. The herd currently includes 21 stallions and 61 mares, and at least one mare is known to be pregnant at this time. There have been a total of 6 horse deaths documented in 2018 so far, including 5 mares (T3L, N6EL, M17GM “Dee’s Heart”, X15P, T5AFP “AR Arianna” and 1 stallion (N6BMS “Llama Boy”) . All those lost were mature, aged individuals having lived out their full lives within the national seashore.

The National Park Service completes a full census of the horse population in Maryland six times per year, in February, March, May, July, September, and November. Managed as a wildlife population, the Assateague horses are free to roam over approximately 27 miles of the barrier island and can be difficult to find at times. During each census, horses are identified by their distinguishing characteristics, mapped and counted. Individual horses that are not observed during multiple census periods are presumed dead. The purpose of the census is to monitor the population dynamics of the horse herd in support of the long term fertility control program that was initiated in 1994.

As a side note…

If you would like to “Adopt” an Assatague Pony read this: Assateague Foster Horse Program. It is a cool way to help maintain the Assateague Pony Herd (because it is mostly a donation to the Assateague Island Alliance.

For Prints and decor items featuring an Assateague Pony, or Ponies…

visit: https://assateague-pony.pixels.com/

Assateague Island Alliance – AIA

The Assateague Island Alliance is a “Friends Group” for the Assateague Island National Seashore.

Assateague Island Alliance AIA

“Created by Congress in 1965, Assateague Island National Seashore (AINS) was established to preserve the outstanding Mid-Atlantic coastal resources of Assateague Island and its adjacent waters and the natural processes upon which they depend, and to provide high quality resource-compatible recreational opportunities. Just over a decade ago the Assateague Island Alliance (AIA) was formed as a “friends group” to help support the AINS.” *

Park friends groups assist parks in supporting park programs and projects.

“In the fall of 2007 a group of interested individuals met with staff from Assateague Island National Seashore. They created the first and only friends group. This group is dedicated solely to the purpose of supporting the preservation, education, stewardship, and recreational opportunities of the National Seashore.” * Hence, the Assateague Island Alliance** was formed in 2008. The AIA performs as a benevolent association supplementing, or augmenting, the many services of the Park.

Assateague Island Alliance Pony on a Button

Adopt a Pony! One of the programs that is quite popular is the Assateague Foster Horse Program, which is administered by the AIA. We recently became proud “foster parents” of Assateague Wild Horse, Mieke’s Noe’lani, a Sorrel filly born in 2016.  The idea of telling friends we adopted an Assatague Pony is very sool but we like, even more, the fact that we were able to contribute to a good cause.

Our Mieke’s Noe’lani photo has even been put onto a button – because she is as cute as a button. There is also a coffee mug and a greeting card with an original picture at our home.

Before the AIA

Before 2008, the National Park Service at Assteague Island National Seashore had no specific “friends group” to help with the management objectives of the NPS and the AINS. Such goals include recreational, educational, interpretive, preservation, ecologic and scientific objectives. Now the Assateague Island Alliance helps the park staff meet those objectives.

More to come…


* Quotes are from the National Park Service website: https://www.nps.gov.

** AIA website: http://www.assateagueislandalliance.org/