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Morning News

Herd of Wild Ponies Sold at Auction in Chincoteague

Aired July 27, 2000 - 11:49 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: A herd of wild ponies that made the swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague yesterday is being sold at auction today. It is a 75-year tradition. Lots of folks turning out to see that.

With more on that we have with us, Allison Williams (ph) from our affiliate WVEC. She is live at the auction.

Allison, for folks who are not familiar with this tradition, why do they sell the horses?

ALLISON WILLIAMS, WVEC REPORTER: Well, they sell the horses to keep the numbers down. They can actually only have 150 ponies on Assateague, that is part of the agreement with the Assateague refuge area. We are in the process right now of selling these colts and phillies. The handlers, you can see, they are having a tough time with this one right now.

These are actually wild ponies, keep that in mind, so the crowd and the noise and the colts with being away from their parents for the first time, makes it a little frightening for them.

The auctioneer, right now, is taking a break before the next one comes out. You can see him in the arms of the handler right now, just a baby. And the auctioneer teases and dares folks to bid higher. The highest bid so far just went for $7500. The average price is about $1600. We have roughly five or six more to go. It has been going since 8:00 this morning and it has really been a sight.

KAGAN: So do they only sell the babies?

WILLIAMS: They only sell the colts and the phillies, the colts are the male ponies, and phillies are the females. The mare and stallions, their parents, will swim back to Assateague tomorrow.

KAGAN: And what kind of people buy these horses?

WILLIAMS: All kinds of people. You would not believe it. Country singer Sawyer Brown was actually the one that just bought that pony for $7500. We have people from all over, I have spoken to somebody from Germany, somebody that Florida. Most people that have ranches have some ponies in the past.

I did talk to a 9-year-old girl who has saved six years, selling lemonade, she saved $1200 and she got herself a pony that was just born on Tuesday. Now, it will go back to Assateague with its parents, where it will grow and mature a little bit more, and she will be able to pick it up this fall. So a wide variety of people out there and a lot of great experiences.

KAGAN: And even though they start as wild ponies, do the people who buy them, can they tame them and the ride them? of they just have them to have them?

WILLIAMS: They put them up for auction. It is really up to the choice of the person what they want to do with it. Some of them just keep them for pets, some of them go on and show them. They have actually said that some of the ponies here have gone on to win great prizes, medals and honors as well. So it is really up to the person what they want our of these ponies, they can have pretty much anything. These are young ponies, they haven't been much experience with humans. So it is really up to the person what they do with that pony.

KAGAN: And then explain to us, again. why it is important to keep this herd at 150.

WILLIAMS: Because there is an agreement with where they stay on the Assateague refuge area that they have to keep it at 150, that is why.

KAGAN: And they keep the herd at that -- they don't sell off all the babies, though, do they? because I think they would want the herd to perpetuate itself?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think they select and choose which ones they are going to sell, which ones then we'll send back to Assateague with their parents. But then, once they sell those mares and stallions, you can hear just another pony went up. The crowd is really great out here. They are encouraging people to buy and bid higher and higher, and take home that pony as well.

But it is important that they do keep the herd to a low level. And that is really why they do this. Some of the colts will go back with the parents as well. But roughly, we have had about 70 out here that have been sold, and the herd will be very much smaller when it goes back. From there, it will just perpetuate again, until next year when we come back and sell off some more.

KAGAN: All right, Allison Williams, from WVEC, thanks for showing us that 75-year tradition.

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