March 28, 2023
Chincoteague Island

Done deal. Governor Glen Youngkin signed legislation Monday making the Chincoteague Pony the offiicial pony for the State of Virginia.  In an article by Katie Castellani, staff writer for the Capitol News service,  Sophia Gullivan a member of the Chincoteague Drill Team came up with the idea to have the ponies as “Official State Ponies.”

It was on her way home from a competition last year with a pony in tow when Gallivan,  came up with the idea to designate the Chincoteague Pony as Virginia’s official pony.

“I was like, ‘why aren’t Chincoteague ponies being recognized more in the legislature?’ I mean they should be the state pony,” Gallivan said. “It’s a really feel-good bill, it’s not very political and it doesn’t alter anyone’s life or health, but it’s just something that I think all Virginians should be proud of.”

That’s when Gallivan got to work contacting her representatives, Del. Robert Bloxom, R-Accomack, and Sen. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack. Bloxom and Lewis introduced matching bills that nearly unanimously passed the Virginia General Assembly. Seven house members voted against the legislation – most of them favoring the wild mountain ponies of Grayson Highlands.

“This is probably the most important bill of this legislative session, this is the main event,” Bloxom said earlier on the House floor. “It is time the commonwealth pony-up and give Chincoteague heritage the recognition it deserves.”

The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department cares for the wild herd of Chincoteague ponies and has supported the idea since North Carolina designated the Spanish colonial mustang as its official state horse several years ago, John Hunter Leonard, a department spokesman, said.

Naming the Chincoteagues as the official state pony will only add to the already immense influence they have on the island, from fueling the tourism economy to serving as the high school’s mascot.

“The pony impact is really hard to even measure, just about anything we do has ponies involved,” Leonard said. “It’s amazing how much support that they get just being the ponies that they are.”

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The fire department began caring for the ponies in 1925 after they hosted a successful carnival during the annual Pony Penning to raise funds for fire equipment. The Pony Penning, which takes place annually in the last week of July, is the biggest fundraiser for the firefighters.

Source: capitol News Service. Katie Castellani

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