A few weeks ago Boot City and I were cooking dinner together and chatting about the things going on in our world right now. New LQ trailer. Lots (so much really) of fencing projects to do. A never-ending stream of cars for Boot City to fix. Not much fun travel in the near future. Somehow we go to talking about bucket list things. Boot City has a project car that we hope to take on a long road trip to stay at Blackberry Farm when it’s done. He’s got a super fancy motor for it and is going to have it repainted and put new seats and such in it. His bucket list is mostly wrapped up in that car. However, I’ve never been much of a “bucket list” person. I feel like wishing for more than I have is disingenuous and a bit selfish. But we all have things we’d love to have or do. So, during this conversation I mentioned that one of the very few things on my list would be to own a Chincoteague Pony.
I (oddly) didn’t read the Marguerite Henry books as a child, but I did have them all and I pretty well knew what the stories were about. I knew about the pony swim and the auction. I started listening to the Horses In The Morning (HITM) podcast a few years ago and every year they interview someone who is at the pony swim so I’ve learned more about it there every year. This winter Costco had a boxed set of the most popular Marguerite Henry books that I bought and started reading. Thus far I’ve read Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, and Justin Morgan had a Horse and LOVED all of them!
This year, because of Coronapocolypse, the swim and associated events were canceled. The pony auction is a significant fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company so the loss of the events could have been quite significant for the organisation. However, the pony auction was moved online for the first time ever this year! I briefly pulled up the website where the ponies were being sold after listening to the HITM podcast interview, but didn’t really think much of it at the time. Fast forward a few days and a friend and I got to chatting about the Chincoteague pony auction and an idea was sprung. This friend has two young daughters, one of whom has shown an interest in riding (I may have helped find and picked up a pony for said child earlier this year….). The friend grew up riding, much like I did and now has a lovely OTTB she rides for trail rides and does some jumping with. We thought it would be SO fun to buy a Chincoteague pony together! I could keep it until it was old enough to be trained to ride, then she would keep it for her girls to ride. When they grew out of the pony or for whatever reason the pony could come back to live with me.
We started stalking the auction page. Color. Parentage. Bids. We established a list of our favourites and we set ourselves a budget. The auction opened on July 23rd (my Mom’s birthday!) and concluded on July 30. We could tell fairly quickly which ponies on our list were going to be out of our budget before auction day and eliminated a few. Then came auction day. Prices started really going up on a lot of the more colourful ponies. Many more were struck off the list by midday. We texted and decided that if at least our two favorites were still within budget at noon, one of us would register to bid. I was working from home and checked the auction again in the late afternoon. The lots started closing around 3p my time. They were set to close in 3 minute increments, not all at once. We really liked the first pony, but my friend still hadn’t gotten a bidder number, so we missed that one. Then came our favourite, #12. Still no bidder number and he was above our budget. Another colt came up that looked like he might be in our budget, but alas no bidder number. We again had high hopes for Lot 24, but (again) no bidder number.
My friend finally got frustrated and called the auction company as their website said qualified bidders would get a number within an hour of registering on auction days and it had been nearly 2 hours. It turned out a tiny bit of contact information was wrong, they fixed it and she had the number! Just in time for #31! He was in the final 3 minutes of bidding and was below our budget. She texted and asked if she should bid. I texted back; “Yes!”. She placed our bid. 3 minutes to wait. The price stayed the same. 2 minutes. No change. Less than 1 minute. In fewer than 5 minutes we went from having a not having a bidder number to winning our pony!
It was SO exciting! And then it became a bit overwhelming! We had bought a pony foal. A pony foal that was in Virginia! HOW were we going to get a pony foal from Virginia to Texas?! As it turns out, owning a Chincoteague Pony allows you into an exclusive group of horse/pony loving people who are the nicest and most helpful group of horse people I’ve ever encountered! So, over the course of the next few weeks, months and years I will be chronicling Gene’s journey from Virginia, to Pennsylvania (where he’s headed tomorrow) to Texas and beyond. On an upcoming post I’ll explain how he got his name. For now, just know his barn name is Gene.
Part of being in the CPOC (Chincoteague Pony Owner’s Club, I made that up myself) is getting connected to the photographer who goes to the island it seems like every day and documents the first sighting of the pony foals and makes those photos available to pony buyers. All the photos below are from DSC Photography and we are SO grateful to have them!
Last, but not least, this one is our favorite of Gene!
I’d love to hear if you own or have owned a Chincoteague Pony! Gene will start his journey to Texas at the end of August and I promise to provide updates! Please send him good thoughts that he makes all his trips safe and sound.