The Chincoteague pony is now Virginia’s official pony thanks, in part, to the efforts of a Virginia 4-H’er.
Sophia Gallivan, a 17-year-old student at Broadwater Academy on the Eastern Shore, worked for months with her local representatives to pass two bills in the Virginia Legislature to make the Chincoteague pony the official pony of commonwealth.
The bills were signed into law on July 1.
Bills SB 1478 and HB 1951 were introduced in the legislature by the Eastern Shore delegation, Del. Robert Bloxom and Sen. Lynwood Lewis, earlier this year. Both bills passed and were signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Gallivan, an equine enthusiast, has been riding and training horses since she was a child. As a member of the Chincoteague Pony Drill Team and as a 4-H Virginia Horse Ambassador, she participated in numerous events during the Chincoteague Island Pony Swim Week, an event that draws thousands of visitors from across the world.
For the past four years, she’s been active in the 4-H club Hoof Beats by the Beach. Each club member, including Gallivan, owns a horse, and members travel across the state for competitions. It was after one of these horse shows when Gallivan, along with her father, Tom, started brainstorming the pony bill.
“We were talking about state emblems and state horses, and we wondered if the Chincoteague pony was the Virginia state pony,” Gallivan said. “Of course, we learned it wasn’t recognized at all, and that planted the seed for us.”
Gallivan started researching the legislative process, and with the support from the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, presented the bill to Bloxom and Lewis.
The bill passed unanimously. The Chincoteague pony joins a diverse list of state emblems and designations, such as the Virginia big-eared bat and the American dogwood, the state tree.
Gallivan was recognized for her efforts at the Virginia 4-H Day at the Capitol in January by first lady Suzanne Youngkin, who is also a horse enthusiast.
“This experience has been unbelievable,” Gallivan said. “4-H helped me make a smart goal and achieve it. I am appreciative of all the support and how open and welcoming people were of my idea. I have learned so much about the legislative process here in Virginia, and I am grateful for this experience.”