ASSATEAGUE — One of Assateague Island’s famed wild horses has a new name this week after a contestant in the annual contest picked the new moniker from a character in a book she recently read about the ponies and the barrier island.
The Assateague Island pony formally known as N9BFQ will now be forever known as “Braidwood” after a visitor earned the naming rights following the annual contest at the National Seashore.
For the last four years, from April to September, visitors to Assateague have the opportunity to enter the “Name that Horse” contest conducted each year by the Assateague Island Alliance (AIA), a non-profit group that oversees the health and welfare of the barrier island’s most famous wild residents among other things.
Deb Laufer was camping this summer at Assateague with her friend, Lisa Radding, and joined the contest by submitting the $5 entry fee at the Ranger Station. All summer long, AIA representatives collected entries from contestants at the Ranger Station, the Visitor’s Center and the Beach Hut seasonal concession stand and Laufer’s winning entry was drawn at the Visitor’s Center on Oct. 1.
Laufer was surprised and excited to have won, according to AIA officials, and has chosen the name “Braidwood” for N9BFQ from a book she recently read about the barrier island entitled “The Watermen and Wild Ponies: A Chincoteague Waterman Remembers Life on Chincoteague and Assateague.” In the book, the author, Robert H. Mears, makes several references to his older brother, Braidwood, and Laufer chose the name for the mare born in 1992 formerly called N9BFQ.
There are several legends surrounding the origins of the famous wild horses on Assateague. One of the more popular legends has it that a Spanish galleon transporting horses shipwrecked off the coast of the barrier island and the current herd of ponies’ ancestors swam ashore and started to breed. Another legend tells the story of mainland farmers shuttling their animals onto the barrier island to avoid paying taxes on their livestock. In either case, the ponies have thrived on Assateague for centuries.
While the random drawing for the “Name that Horse” contest is a popular yearly event, there is only one other way for a private citizen to name an Assateague wild horse. Each November and December, the right to name one the current year’s new foals is auctioned off on eBay with the highest bidder earning naming rights.
This year, there will be three such auctions beginning Nov. 1 with each auction lasting 10 days. The final auction is set for Dec. 20.