Wild Horses in Virginia: Population and Where to See Them

Every horse lover knows and adores Marguerite Henry’s classic story “Misty of Chincoteague,” which was published in 1940. The narrative is set on Chincoteague, Virginia, and the wild horses that are shown in it are real animals who live there! There are other places in the state where one can see wild horses besides the charming seaside resort portrayed in the book. Numerous herds of wild horses wander the commonwealth of Virginia. Let’s examine the history of these wild horses and the areas where visitors are most likely to encounter them.

Virginia’s Wild Horse Population

Virginia’s wild horse population is dispersed among two distinct regions. Assateague Island is home to one, while the Appalachian Mountains are home to the other. Let’s investigate their journey there and the precise location of their appearance today!

Why Are There Wild Horses in Virginia?

It is believed that the wild horses that graze on the state’s East shore beaches are descended from horses that survived a Spanish shipwreck in the 1600s off the shore of Assateague.

The herds on the Virginia side of Assateague Island are under the management of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. With assistance from the Wilburn Ridge Pony Association, the U.S. Forest Service looks after the wild horses that reside in the Appalachian Mountains further to the southwest.

According to legend, local ranchers in the 1940s desired a tough, small-statured horse that could live in the highlands alone without the help of humans. What happened when they crossed a pony and a horse? Since then, wild horses have been residing in the highlands of southwest Virginia.

How Many Wild Horses Live in Virginia?

Assateague Island’s wild horse population is closely monitored six times a year to maintain herd sizes under 150. When the population grows too large, enough is sent to auction to maintain viability. By doing this, the delicate ecosystem’s balance is preserved.

There are more than a hundred wild horses that roam the peaks and valleys of southwest Virginia’s mountains. Cowboys gather pretty mares and young colts for auction once a year. The sale of these wild horses manages their numbers, just like it does on Assateague Island. This maintains the health of the horses and the surroundings.

3 Places to See Wild Horses in Virginia

There are three areas in Virginia where seeing wild horses is possible. the initial one? The island of Assateague’s shorelines.

1. Assateague Island

On the Virginia portion of the island, the wild horse population is overseen by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. There are two herds of Chincoteague Ponies: the northern herd and the southern herd. Each is fenced in and divided into the island’s two management areas.

You can travel the island by car, bike, or foot to witness the southern herd. In particular, you can see things without any restrictions if you hike the Woodland Trail and Beach Road.

It’s even more difficult to visit the herd up north. To get to the isolated spots where the wild horses graze, hikers must go 17 miles round way on the Wildlife Loop.

2. Grayson Highlands State Park

Southwest Virginia has to be brought up when discussing isolated locations. More wild horses of Virginia can be found in Grayson Highlands State Park, which is tucked away deep in the Appalachian Mountains.

Every year, more than 6,000 people visit the region to trek, enjoy the scenery, and get a look of the many wild horses that call it home. Along the portions of the Appalachian Trail that weave through the park, it is easy to recognize the horses. Perhaps it’s time for a hike!

3. Mount Rogers National Recreation Area

And Mount Rogers is the place to go if you’re looking for a strenuous trek that offers two surprises for you at the top: stunning views from Virginia’s highest peak and wild ponies grazing alongside the path.

This leisure area is traversed by the Appalachian Trail. You can observe wild horses here all year round, reared by local ranchers in the 1940s.

How to See Virginia’s Wild Horses

Now that you are aware of the locations in Virginia where you can witness wild horses, let’s talk about how to ensure a sighting.

Observe Them in Their Natural Environment

A journey to the Virginia coast or a getaway to the mountains in the southwest of the state are both excellent choices. It’s really simply a plus that wild horses also reside there!

Nothing compares to witnessing a wild horse in its native environment. You’ll find one if you know where to look (which you do!), but it will take patience and a little bit of luck.

Attend the Fall Festival at Grayson Highlands.

Still, there are other ways to ensure you see a wild horse. similar like attending a wild horse auction!

Every year in September, during the Grayson Highlands Fall Festival, the wild horses of Grayson Highlands State Park are put up for auction. Their population is kept under check as a result. You have the opportunity to adopt one in addition to having the opportunity to observe them up close and personal. How exciting!

Come to the Chincoteague Pony Swim

Curious about what else is outrageous? Every July, Assateague Island’s wild horses can be seen crossing the channel to Chincoteague. The Pony Swim at Chincoteague is the name of this event. This yearly festival and the auction that follows are the ideal times to watch and possibly buy the wild ponies at Chincoteague.

An overview of Virginia’s Top 3 Locations for Seeing Wild Horses

The wild horses of Virginia do not straddle the whole state. Rather, they have been living off the land for years in three distinct places. Let’s review the locations where wild horses can be seen in Virginia.