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Dreaming Ponies
07-27-2017, 04:54 PM,
#1
Dreaming Ponies
I grew up mesmerized by books like "Misty of Chincoteague". All I wanted was a paint pony to ride through marshy grass and galloping along the beach.

This week was the 92nd Chincoteague/Assateague Island pony swim and auction. The annual auction controls the pony population and raises funds to operate the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. This year 55 ponies sold at an average price of $3400. 

I started thinking about the pony I wanted as a child, which morphed into wondering if ponies pine for a child of their own? That led me to think about other wild horses, those stuck in limbo at BLM holding facilities. Do they stare out from between barbed wire, to the horizon wishing for a little girl?


Could a successful program like the Chincoteague's be applied (sans the swimming part) to help America’s Mustangs or Australia’s Brumbie populations? Rather than offer cheap horses for sale (BLM sales average $125 per horse) add the option of fund raising for charity as added incentive to help rehome a wild horse. Would this premise present more opportunities for wild horse populations to be saved from the holding pens or hunting?

Thoughts?
Melanie Eberhardt
Founder, WARHorses - Women of Age Riding Horses
Join us! http://www.womenofageridinghorses.com
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07-30-2017, 02:11 PM,
#2
RE: Dreaming Ponies
That's a good thought -- look at the broke, finished mustang that Ben Masters donated for auction to benefited the Mustang Heritage Foundation; that horse sold for $25,000.

It's always boggled my mind that people will pay thousands of dollars for an unbroke, slightly inbred Chincoteague pony. Do you think it's because of the charity idea, or do you think it's because of the "branding" thanks to Misty of Chincoteague, etc?

I also wonder if the Chincoteague auctions don't apply a lot of the same rules/warnings as adopting a mustang: you need to have certain fencing for a mustang, certain trailers to ship him home, etc. The Chincoteague ponies are feral, yes, but I think they're maybe a little more user-friendly. Or at least they don't come with so many warnings and restrictions!
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07-31-2017, 02:10 PM, (This post was last modified: 07-31-2017, 02:11 PM by Melanie Eberhardt.)
#3
RE: Dreaming Ponies
I think you're spot on about the Chincoteague ponies Kristen. We all grew up reading Misty which cultivated, for me, a mystic and romance about a painted island pony. And the good island folks do a stellar job promoting that ideal and marketing the program. The annual event is a visual feast conjuring up those imaginings from the book - island ponies swimming the channel, parading down main street to the corrals where the foals are auctioned before enthusiastic crowds. And everyone wins, ponies are well managed, the city raises funds for the fire department that serves the public.

I think most people envision the BLM not as happy guys rounding up wild ponies from ponies but as the bad guys driving horses at break neck speeds from swooping helicopters. The negative mystic continues with horses crowed into small pens with little hope for a future. They are auctioned at very affordable prices, but they're listed as like livestock, numbers at a numbered holding pen at some remote location. The paperwork to apply is cumbersome, the process is not well communicated and the some of the rules are difficult to meet. The BLM does not make it easy for the public to participate in adoptions. Programs like Mustang Makeover and TIPS are great but funding is puny.

It maybe my advertising background but it seems if a bit of marketing the program and individual horses would help Mustangs find loving homes. I know several people with Mustangs and I have never heard a word of regret. They are wonderful horses stuck in an inefficient beaurocracy that demotes the indivduals to a number. The BLM can learn alot from the Chincotegue program.
Melanie Eberhardt
Founder, WARHorses - Women of Age Riding Horses
Join us! http://www.womenofageridinghorses.com
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07-31-2017, 02:48 PM,
#4
RE: Dreaming Ponies
I wonder how much the BLM's image has been permanently and irrevocably tarnished as well. I agree with you that they need one heck of a marketing program to turn things around -- but there are SO many voices out there determined to paint the BLM as greedy, horse-hating crooks no matter what they try to do. (Case in point -- the BLM did try to set up a pilot study to use the birth control vaccine and a third party group filed a lawsuit stopping the program in its tracks.)

The tough part is that the specific mustang herds with the volunteer input to catalog and name every foal born and therefore create that anthropomorphized "identity" that draws people to the Chincoteague ponies seem to exist only with herds that are already managed so carefully with things like the PZP vaccine that roundups are infrequently necessary, and therefore those "personality" horses are never in need of homes. Due to the scale of some of the herds out west, it seems to me that there IS no way to manage some of these without reducing things to numbers rather than names and pictures.

I'd love to see the BLM get the mustang herds managed to the point where they're all celebrities like the Chincoteague ponies, but I honestly don't know if it's feasible -- we're comparing a few hundred to tens of thousands of animals.
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