Chincoteague Ponies Receive Donated Vaccines, Dewormers

The Chincoteague pony herd is thought to be descended from animals aboard a Spanish ship that wrecked in the 16th century, but today the herd is getting 21st century health care.

Again this year, the herd will receive donated vaccinations and deworming products from Merial, maker of Recombitek equine West Nile virus vaccine, Imrab rabies vaccine, and Zimecterin Gold dewormer (ivermectin/praziquantel). These are the same equine health care products used by top competitors--but even wild ponies deserve a health care program that includes protection against West Nile virus, rabies, and critical parasites, said Frank Hurtig, DVM, MBA, director of Veterinary Services at Merial. The company has donated products to treat the entire herd for the past three years.

The ponies live on Assateague Island, which spans the coast from Virginia to Maryland. About 50,000 visitors gather in Chincoteague, Va., every year to see the Virginia portion of the herd make a famous swim across the channel to the 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.

"Since we've been deworming regularly, I've seen the overall appearance of the herd definitely improve over the years," said Charlie Cameron, DVM, of Eastern Shore Animal Hospital, a clinic that has worked with the wild horses since 1990. "Each person that purchases a horse at the sale receives a healthy pony and a little part of history."

Read more about the ponies. For more information on Merial, see

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