Ponies fetch high prices after swim

July 30, 1993|By Audrey Haar | Audrey Haar,Staff Writer

CHINCOTEAGUE, VA. — CHINCOTEAGUE, Va.-- About an hour after the first foal wobbled down the ramp into an auction ring here, spectators at the annual Chincoteague pony auction began to remark on the high bids.

"The prices are double this year," observed Linda Shoupe of Sterling, Va.

Eighty-seven foals were sold yesterday for $58,800, considerably more than the $30,000 projected by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Co., which owns the herd of wild ponies that graze on Assateague Island.

Each summer, in a rite that brings thousands of tourists, the ponies swim the quarter-mile to Chincoteague Island. The next day, foals are auctioned to thin the herd. After the auction, adult mares and stallions and a handful of foals swim back home to Assateague Island.

Rebecca White of Mansfield, Mass., had the winning bid of $1,000 for the first pony. While at the cashier's booth, she interrupted her paperwork to vie for the second pony, buying it for $700.

Ms. White said she already owns three Chincoteague ponies -- all stallions. By mid-morning she had bought three fillies.

"We're going to have the Chincoteague of the north," Ms. White said.

Heather Calp, 14, was calm, but clearly excited as she and her mother, Betty Calp, signed the papers on a colt purchased for $500. Then Heather announced her plans to buy another one. "I only want one," said Mrs. Calp.

Later in the morning, the daughter prevailed.

Heather had caught the eye of auctioneer Bernie Pleasant. "That little girl bid $400. She had that $400 in her hand," Mr. Pleasant said after the auction. She walked away with a foal for the lowest winning bid of the day.

"I can tell by the first 20 ponies what everyone's limit is," said Mr. Pleasant, who has officiated at the last 26 pony auctions.

He also noted the higher selling prices this year, and estimated that most ponies appeared to sell for about $800.

"They are going good," observed Roe Terry, a volunteer firefighter. He attributed the higher selling prices to the large size of the foals.

"More mares foaled early this year," said veterinarian Charles Cameron, who was stationed in the pen with the rambunctious foals.

Dr. Cameron said the mares and foals were separated early yesterday morning by leading them to different pens. "There was no roping or jumping, just walking," he said.

Dr. Cameron's partner, Dr. Jack Hiller, gave new owners instructions on how to care for their ponies. "About 75 percent of the people seem to have experience with horses," he said.

Robin Lohnes, executive director of the American Horse Protection Association Inc., which is based in Washington, was also counseling the new horse owners. She gave each a red plastic feed bucket filled with samples and powdered formula suitable for foals.

"A lot of people who have horses don't know about foals. They need special attention," Ms. Lohnes said.

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