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Where do Assateague ponies get their names?

Gokey Gogo Bones, Bodacious Bob, Sarah’s Sweet Tea, Johnny’s Star… The Assateague Horse ID app will tell you a lot about the island ponies, including their names, but it won’t tell you exactly where those names came from. 

Foals start with only letter-and-number names. For example, this year’s first foal, who was born on April 2, 2023 goes by N2BHS-APV on paper. However was recently named, Linda Rae’s Autumn Glory. The second foal, N9BFT-KPV, a chestnut colt, now called Alexandria’s Angel was born sometime in early April.  These ID names help track the horses’ lineage, and give them a temporary name until they receive a new title in a “Name That Horse” content or “Name That Foal” auction, both of which occur annually. 

Name That Horse contests typically take place between April and September, and winners are selected in a random drawing. Past winners have included Danielle Barnard, who was visiting Assateague with her parents for the first time when her name came up in the raffle. She chose the name “Aliyana Grace,” the former name Spanish for “beautiful girl.” 12-year-old Emma Sawch of Connecticut named her mare “Bailey,” and a local restaurant employee chose the name “Ms. Macky” after Macky’s owner Pam Stansell, a longtime volunteer for the Assateague Island Alliance.  

Name That Foal auctions serve as fundraisers for the Assateague Island Alliance and the wild horse management program. The opportunity to name a young Assateague foal is auctioned off on eBay, where the bidding starts at $500. Three auctions have been slated for 2018: The first 10-day auction closed earlier this month, and the bidder is remaining anonymous in order to surprise a loved one with the foal’s name for Christmas. That name was sold for $1,725. 

The second auction of the year is currently taking place, where one lucky winner will have the chance to name N6BMT-FQ, the sorrel colt with a star born to Jojo and, most likely, General Harker. The third and final 10-day auction will go live on eBay Nov. 28. 

Names given by contest- and auction-winners are subject to approval by the National Park Service, and they can’t include profanity, pejoratives, corporate, copyrighted or brand names, or the name “Misty” (as there’s only one Misty, who famously lived on Chincoteague). 

As of the last census in March 2023, there were 75 wild ponies on the island. 29 were stallions and 46 were mares.  Only a small handful of foals are born every year, so the opportunity to christen one is rare. 

Creature Feature: Assateague vs. Chincoteague horses

A tail of two herds You’ve probably heard the terms ‘Assateague ponies’ and ‘Chincoteague ponies’ used interchangeably, so if you’ve ever gotten the two confused or just flat-out thought that they were the same thing, you’re not alone. If that’s the case, then today you’re going to learn something new!

Kristin is a writer and photographer in Ocean City, Maryland, and is the content manager for OceanCity.com and other State Ventures, LLC sites. She loves getting reader-submitted stories and photos, so send her an email anytime. She also works part-time at the Art League of Ocean City and the Ocean City Film Festival and lives just off the peninsula with her dog and fiancé. Her photos can be found on Instagram @oc_kristin.

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