More Than 100 Wild Ponies Roam the Trails of Virginia

Patrick Connelly, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Patrick Connelly, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Patrick Connelly, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are not many places left in the United States where visitors can find wild horses in their natural habitat. But, according to Smithsonian, there is a region along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia where visitors can view just that. In the Grayson Highlands State Park and nearby Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, herds of wild ponies have roamed the hills for over seven decades.

Every year, crowds flock to see the more than 100 ponies when they are gathered for an annual roundup and health check by the Wilburn Ridge Pony Association, an organization formed in 1974 to take ownership of and manage the herds. Originally brought to the trails by ranchers looking to breed horses with ponies that could survive the conditions of the Appalachians, the ponies predate the area being designated as national forest by about 20 years, according to park recreation program manager Sara Abbott

Now, the wild ponies are lured to a roundup with salt licks in the fall. and visitors are allowed to photograph them. But to maintain limited human interaction, onlookers are prohibited from feeding or touching them.

Virginia State Parks, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Eli Christman, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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