"I wanted to give something back to the island because the island gives me so much more."

By Meghan Overdeep
November 07, 2019
Assateague Island Wild Ponies
Credit: cjmckendry/Getty Images

At the age of 14, Zoe Newman has already accomplished something nobody else has. With some help from her mom, Sam, the teen has "adopted" all 75 members of the Maryland herd of Assateague Island ponies.

Dedicated visitors to the Assateague Island National Seashore, Zoe and her mom have made the 3.5-hour drive to the island from their home in Lexington Park, Maryland, about 30 times—though they told the Salisbury Daily Times that they wish they could go more. And each time they visited the island, Zoe would stop by the office to foster more horses. They came so often that the woman working at the desk began calling them "the horse people."

"We love it there," Sam told the paper. "We get up at 4 o'clock in the morning when we're there, just so we can catch the sunrise. Beautiful doesn't even describe it."

Zoe was 10 years old when she used her savings to adopt her first foster through the Assateague Island Alliance's fostering program, a chestnut pinto named Annie Laurie, and, in the years that followed, has fostered 22 more of the herd's wild horses.

"After I fostered Annie Laurie, I just couldn't stop," she explained.

Mom Sam said that Zoe spends her summers working for a family friend and uses every cent she earns to add to her collection of foster horses.

During the pair's most recent Assateague trip on October 14, Sam surprised her daughter with $2,120 to adopt the herd's remaining 53 ponies, bringing the total they've spent on the symbolic adoptions to $3,000 (and counting!).

"At the rate she was going, she was going to be in her adulthood (before she had them all), so I decided to do that for her," Sam told the Salisbury Daily Times. "She just makes me so proud, because she definitely has the love for this place, and she definitely has the love and respect for these animals on the island."

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Funds raised from these symbolic adoptions ($40 in person and $50 online) are used for educational purposes as well as herd management.

"I wanted to give something back to the island because the island gives me so much more." Zoe reportedly told Ashlie Kozlowski, outreach coordinator for the Alliance. "I love to see the horses run free and watch them grow."

For more information about fostering members of Assateague Island's Maryland herd, visit AssateagueIslandAlliance.org