Chincoteague ponies spur legislation, humorous debate

Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 8:40 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - “This is probably the most important bill of this legislative session,” said Del. Robert Bloxom (R-Accomack Co.) as he explained House Bill 1951 to other lawmakers earlier this month.

The legislation has spurred hyperbole and humor.

“If somebody wants to vote against this measure, would our response be ‘neigh?’” asked Del. Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham Co.).

But legislators from Virginia’s Eastern Shore said they can make a compelling case to name the Chincoteague Pony the Official Pony of the Commonwealth.

“And who was not captivated by the late great Marguerite Henry’s ‘Misty’?” asked Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack Co.) when he presented Senate Bill 1478.

Every year, on the third Wednesday in July, thousands of people visit Chincoteague Island for the annual pony swim and auction.

The tradition is 97 years old and last year it raised more than $400,000 for the volunteer Fire Department.

“It brings in a tremendous amount of revenue, not only for that town, for Accomack County, for the entire shore, but also for the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Lewis said.

The legislation found a hint of controversy in the Senate.

“We’ve got two wild pony groups in Virginia,” said Sen. David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke Co.). “Should we do this?”

But the lawmaker who represents the area in southwest Virginia with the other herd of wild ponies described a visit to Grayson Highlands State Park.

“The only thing that interrupted that hike were the ponies chasing us and trying to bite my children,” said Sen. Todd Pillion (R-Washington Co.). “I’m going with Misty on this.”

Identical bills that cleared the House and Senate are now headed toward final passage.