Wild ponies live everywhere near Grayson Highlands State Park, and all the hikers were looking forward to seeing them as we went through on the AT. Everyone except me, as I didn’t want to have my hopes up. The last time I hiked there we saw exactly one pony, who was not interested in us whatsoever and didn’t seem all that wild. So my hopes were low when we headed into the park a couple weeks ago.
Boy, was I surprised after all! There were ponies everywhere! We must have seen at least four different herds plus many more ponies along the trail. Seeing them was delightful and filled me with smiles and laughter.
Wingman saw a herd in the distance miles before we reached the park. They were about a quarter mile away across a grassy, thorny bald and the fence had been removed between us and them, so we decided to stroll out and see if we could photo them. We clicked away as we came closer in case they spooked and ran, but the opposite happened!
When they saw us coming near, they came up and surrounded us. We hoped they did not mind we had no treats to share, and it was a little spooky when they kept crowding around. We took a bunch of photos and walked back to the trail, excited with our encounter with the wild ponies, but that was just the beginning.
As we neared the shelter, a hiker told us a pair of ponies came up and licked the salt from her arms and legs. Thank goodness she gave us the heads up, because that’s exactly what happened to me a minute later. It tickled and we finally had to keep moving along before they would stop.https://fromdreamtolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/img_1728.mov
That night a herd was near our campsite, just outside the park boundary. We heard neighing in the evening and morning before we caught sight of them. Then we saw at least two or three more herds as we walked through the park and back out.
The ponies were brought in several decades ago to help control the thorns and grasses. They munch right down on the thorny brambles and survive cold Virginia winters just fine. Although ponies are used to people coming along the trail and in the park, the ponies are meant to stay wild and are left on their own for the most part.
I’m so glad we saw so many ponies! It was a real treat, especially since I know they are sometimes more elusive. Plus, we didn’t have them steal our food bags when we weren’t looking, like other hikers did. One hiker even found a pony trying to swallow his boot gaiter. (Another quick thinking hiker saved both the pony from indigestion and the gaiter from being a snack.) That night we hung our food bags away from both bears and ponies.
My hopes were low when I reached pony territory, but my spirits were high when I left!