There is something about wild horses and of course the most famous ones are those of Assateague Island and Chincoteague. These horses are indeed wild and considered feral. Local folklore describes them as survivors of a shipwreck. Though a romantic tale, there may be more reasonable explanations for their appearance such as being descendants of horses brought over by horse owners to avoid taxation. Whatever the reason for their appearance, one cannot simply deny their beauty and mystique.
Today the herd is separated into two. The Maryland herd is maintained by the National Park Service and the Virginia herd is maintained by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. The last Wednesday in July, the Chincoteague herd is rounded up and swum from Assateague Island to Chincoteague island. Ponies are auctioned off to control the herd and benefits from the sale help the fire department. Thousands of people wait on the beach for the ponies to arrive. Saltwater cowboys ( volunteer fire department) herd the ponies and parade them through the streets of Chincoteague. Its a week long festival. At the end of the week, the horses are swum back to the Assateague island side.
Booking a boat tour to see the horses swim back is a big deal and requires a lot of preplanning. Hotel rooms are usually at a premium and sold out. If you go you will want to go with an outfitter who gets on the water first which usually requires you to get up at 3 a.m. Then its another few hours of waiting for the horses to come over in marsh mud with mosquitoes attacking you. But the payoff is spectacular.