I still get emotional when I think back to the day of the swim.
We were up at 3 a.m. to catch a boat to the swim location (another part of the incredible prize package from the Island Community House.) Everyone was quiet as we navigated the dark ocean waters to our spot. I remember looking up to see a velvety night sky filled with stars as the cool air washed over my face.
The time they swim the ponies varies each year and is dependent on “slack tide,” where the tide is neither going in nor out, and the water is relatively still. Having the ponies swim in against the tide would be exhausting for them!
The ponies didn’t swim until 10am, so we had a lot of time to get to know the people on our Daisey’s Island Cruises boat. We even met another couple from Minnesota who told hilarious stories that really helped pass the time!
The ponies are brought to the shore, and when everything is ready, they signal the beginning of the swim with a red flare. Then the ponies get in the water, and wow, did that swim go fast! I was clicking the shutter like a mad woman!
I chose to bring my EF 28-300 lens, which is perfect for photographing events like this. I could shoot wide, capture the whole scene, and then zoom in to fill the frame with swimming ponies without losing time changing lenses.
Once on land, the Saltwater Cowboys give the ponies about 45 minutes to catch their breath before they parade them through town to the carnival grounds, where the auction will take place the next day.
We had been told we would only see the parade from the boat, which would have been okay but not as cool as being right there on the road as they passed by. But then the boat captain asked a friend if we could dock right next to the road and got the okay, so we were able to be right next to the road – it was magical.
After all this, it was time for food, a shower, and a nap before returning to the carnival grounds to see all the horses gathered in a large holding area. It was delightful to see them up close!
Come back for Part 3 where I’ll share photos from the auction and the ponies’ release back to the wild!
If you missed it, go back and read Part 1!
Once the ponies are positioned, they need to move some of the Saltwater Cowboys and their horses to the other side to help with the ponies once they hit land. It was fun to see them use this pontoon-type boat to get them across!
There’s the signal – the ponies are ready to swim!
One young pony thought went rogue before the herd was ready!
Into the water they go! It’s actually a very short swim and yes, the foals do swim! However, if foals are too young, they trailer them to the carnival grounds instead of having them swim.
I thought at first there was some kind of haze in my lens, but the haze you see from the ponies blowing water out of their noses!
The Saltwater Cowboys and their horses work their butts off the week of pony penning! I know they love it, but the amount of physical effort in very warm, humid conditions gave me a ton of respect for the work they do!
The cowboy in the flag shirt is Jack. He’s 90 years old and has been riding in these events for over 40 years! 😁
I loved being at the carnival grounds at golden hour. As the sun set, it created gorgeous rim light on the all the ponies.