- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 16, 2009

RICHMOND | As a direct descendant of Misty of Chincoteague, Nightmist was a celebrated visitor at the annual Eastern Shore pony swim immortalized by Marguerite Henry’s 1947 novel.

The stallion’s hoof prints are set in the sidewalk next to Misty’s outside the Island Roxy Theatre in Chincoteague, and he returned regularly for the pony run that draws tens of thousands of people each year to the dune-covered Atlantic coast.

Nightmist died unexpectedly Thursday, his owner, Mike Pryor, said from his horse farm in Waynesboro, Pa. He said the pony was 11 and had shown signs of colic, a serious intestinal disorder among horses. But an exact cause of death was not immediately known.

“Nightmist just sat down and died, same way as his mother,” Mr. Pryor said of Windy, who died after giving birth to Nightmist on July 9, 1998.

A burial was planned Friday.

Lois Szymanski, a children’s book author who has written about Nightmist, said the pony was a “real crowd pleaser” at Chincoteague like its famous ancestors.

“He was a black-and-white stallion with bright blue eyes,” Miss Szymanski said in an interview from her farm in Westminster, Md. “Each eye had a lining like mascara around them.”

The pony comes from a line of acclaimed ponies: Windy was the offspring of Stormy, foaled in 1969. Stormy was a mare foaled in 1962 by Misty, the pinto pony immortalized by Miss Henry’s story of a family’s struggles to raise a filly born to a wild horse.

Windy foaled Nightmist at Pryor’s farm in Pennsylvania.

Because Nightmist lost his mother at birth, he was bottle-fed. Mr. Pryor thinks that’s why he had such a sweet temperament. Stallions can be temperamental.

“He was as comfortable around people as he was around horses,” Mr. Pryor said.

During his short life, Nightmist produced 15 foals.

On the last Wednesday of every July, about 150 wild ponies swim the 200-yard channel between Assateague Island, Maryland, and Chincoteague. On land, the ponies are led through the streets of Chincoteague as a crowd watches.

The ponies are auctioned after each run to raise money for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which cares for the Virginia herd. Ponies that are not sold or donated back to the department get to roam for another year on the national wildlife refuge on Assateague.

The tradition dates to the 1920s and began as a fundraiser.

Several theories exist on how the ponies ended up on the 33-mile-long barrier island: that they swam to shore after a Spanish galleon sank hundreds of years ago; or that pirates unloaded them on the island while they partied; or early Eastern Shore residents hid the domesticated horses to avoid taxes.

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