July 9, 2009 -- The Chincoteague pony herd is thought to be descended from animals aboard a wrecked 16th century Spanish ship, but today the herd is getting 21st century health care.
Again this year, the herd is receiving donated vaccinations and deworming products from Merial, maker of RECOMBITEK® Equine West Nile Virus vaccine, IMRAB® rabies vaccine and ZIMECTERIN® Gold (ivermectin/praziquantel). These products represent health care technology used by top equine competitors--but even wild ponies deserve the best.
The herd lives on Assateague Island, which spans the coast from Virginia to Maryland. About 50,000 visitors gather in Chincoteague, Va., every July to see the Virginia portion of the herd make a famous swim across the channel to the Virginian coast.
The herd is owned and managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, which was incorporated in 1925 and obtained a federal grazing permit in 1946 for 150 ponies on the island. The annual swim has become an event where young foals from the herd are sold at auction to keep the herd down to its federal grazing limit.
To maintain the ponies' health year-round, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department firefighters and other volunteers visit Assateague Island in the spring and fall to vaccinate and deworm the horses with the help of local veterinarians.
"MERIAL Products are proven and have a good track record throughout the country," says Charlie Cameron, DVM, Eastern Shore Animal Hospital, a clinic that has worked with the wild horses since 1990.
Dr. Cameron has long required a rabies vaccination and uses IMRAB, noting that a simple vaccination helps keep the horses healthy and the people who interact with them safe. Last year, the American Association of Equine Practitioners revised its vaccination guidelines, moving rabies and West Nile virus (WNV) vaccination into the core vaccines recommended for all horses.
Using a vaccine that lasts throughout mosquito season like RECOMBITEK Equine WNV vaccine can help protect horses from WNV in between herd work. Before the ponies swim the channel, Dr. Cameron makes sure they are vaccinated for WNV and dewormed regularly.
"Since we've been deworming regularly, I've seen the overall appearance of the herd definitely improve over the years," Dr. Cameron says. "Each person who purchases a horse at the sale receives a healthy pony and a little part of history."
The 2009 pony swim will take place July 29 with the auction following on July 30.