The following is transcribed from one of the many informational signs/plaques that are found throughout the Assteague Islannd National Seashore:
Naturally occurring freshwater ponds are scattered through Assateague’s forest zone. They usually form shallow depressions between old dunes or in low areas that extend below the water table. There exposed freshwater pockets float on top of heavier salt water and are replenished by rainfall.
Protected from harsh winds by the thick vegetation, ponds provide shelter and essential drinking water for many island dwellers.
…by many people, the Wild Horses of Assateague Island National Seashore are just that – wild horses.
They are fascinating creatures, they are beautiful but they are also wild and they are horses.
You, too, should consider calling them horses. If you’ve ever notice all the Assateague Island National Seashore literature calls them horses. There are a couple of reasons for using the term horse/horses.
Genetically they are horses*. People refer to them as ponies because of their size. But their size is determined by their environment, not DNA. The limited variety of grasses and the harsh living conditions keep them from growing as large as other horses.
The other part is related to educating the public (you and me) for safety reason. Visitors respond better to keeping a safe distance from wild horses than ponies. We usually equate ponies as something our children can ride in a carnival.
Also, calling them horses helps the average viewer distinguish between the Chincoteague ponies and Assateague wild horses. But that’s another story for another article.
*Country of origin: United States of America (although there is some debate/conjecture about the actual origin)
Common names: Assateague horse, Chincoteague pony
Higher classification: Horse
Scientific name: Equus caballus
Please be respectful of their “wildness.” They can and do bite and kick. Please keep your distance and never, ever feed them.