One particular wild pony stands out. With his flowing mane of platinum-blond hair, which swoops nonchalantly over his eyes, the stallion calls to mind a certain popular model and actor from the 1990s whose sweeping mane graced hundreds of romance novels. Noticing a glaring similarity, park rangers dubbed the mammal Fabio and the name stuck.
“Fabio had been the leader of one of the herds for years,” Sara Abbott, the park’s recreation program manager, tells Smithsonian.com. “But then we noticed that the mares were no longer giving birth to young in that herd, so we concluded that Fabio isn’t able to do what he needs to do anymore.”
Despite Fabio’s sexual shortcomings, the population of roughly 100 wild ponies that lives in the 200,000 acres of national forest and grasslands surrounding Virginia’s highest mountain are healthy and have been drawing crowds to this corner of the state for decades. Fabio is also not the only male, so the herds are regularly reproducing and creating future generations. It’s one of the few remaining places in the United States where equines are unbridled, and one of only a handful populated by ponies. (If you’re wondering, the key difference between horses and ponies is height. Generally speaking, an equine shorter than 14.2 hands, or approximately 57 inches, is considered a pony, according to the U.S. Equestrian Federation.
Though the backstory on how these majestic creatures got to this forested expanse of land in the first place is murky, the most commonly accepted one is told by the U.S. Forest Service…Read more here.
Check out the other great attractions close to Sarah’s Fox Creek General Store, which is located just 4 miles from the Appalachian Trail.
(Source: Jennifer Nalewicki of Smithsonian.com)