Traditional Horse Festivals
 By Saferaphus   •   4th Feb 2017   •   495 views   •   0 comments
Cultural events celebrate traditions and customs, and in many places, the horse is the center of many customs. Here is a look at just a few horse cultural celebrations held around the world.

Jerez Horse Fair – Andalucia, Spain
The festival called Feria del Caballo has existed in one form or another since the mid-1200s. By the middle ages, farmers were bringing their livestock to these spring and fall fairs to show them off. But it wasn’t until the mid-1900s that horses were promoted as the main reason for the celebration. Traditionally, gypsies performed with their horses. Today, there are demonstrations and competitions including doma vaquero and doma classica - cowboy and dressage riding, drill riding, polo and carriage driving. Along with the horse spectacles are many attractions of dance, food and other traditional events. Jerez is also home to the La Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre or Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art.

Chagu Chagu Umakko – Iwate Prefecture, Japan
Chagu Chagu is the sound of the bells worn by the approximately one hundred horses on their way Takizawa City to Morioka City for this Japanese horse festival. The horses and riders make a 15 km (9 mile) trek wearing colorful costumes and harness. The festival was begun as a thank you to the horses who worked in the rice fields. The Iwate Prefecture is known for its horses and the horses are so revered they often live in the homes of their owners. The parade ends at a shrine, where the farmers pray for their horse’s health and safety. This is a one day celebration held on the second Saturday in June.

Festival Nacional de la Doma y el Folklore – Argentina
Also known as a folk music festival, the Festival Nacional de la Doma y el Folklore features both singing and demonstrations of horsemanship and horses. This festival is held every January, not far from Cordoba, Argentina. One traditional event, part of the Jesús María’s Festival of Taming has come under the scrutiny of animal welfare activists. Horses are ‘tamed’ in much the same manner as seen in rodeo saddle bronc competitions. The competitions are televised and as many as 300,000 spectators attend the event, making it the largest of its kind in South America.

Plaridel Horse Festival – Bulacan, Philippines
For four hundred years, a celebration of the feast day of St. James the Apostle in Plaridel Bulacan has been held at the end of December. St. James is said to have ridden to the area on a white horsen and part of the tradition is welcoming the statue of St. James and his horse. The highlight of the festival is the parade featuring colorful costumes and horse drawn vehciles. The celebration also includes horse racing, both with vehicles and ridden.

Ballinasloe Horse Fair
This horse fair is held in Ireland every October. It’s a nine day festival that dates back over two hundred years. Like the Appleby Horse Fair, this is also a meeting place for the Traveller community. The festival starts with a parade and over the course of the nine days, events include horse auctions, racing, and jumping competitions. There are also many non-horse related events such as a dog show, agricultural exhibits, cooking competitions and family fun events.

Luminarias Festival, Spain
Another festival steeped in tradition that has come under the scrutiny of animal welfare activists is the Luminarias Festival. For five hundred years, to celebrate Saint Antony the patron saint of animals, horses have been jumped through bonfires. The act was thought to purify the animals and to protect them in the coming year. The horse’s legs and tail are protected by wrapping them in colors of the Spanish flag. The horses are jumped over bonfires of burning brush, and until midnight, hundreds are said to take part. After midnight, the glowing embers of the fires are used to barbeque, and the celebration continues without the horses.

Soma-Nomaoi Festival, Japan
The Soma-Nomaoi Festival is perhaps the oldest festival featuring horses. It is held for four days in July. It’s roots are in samurai tradition, recreating an important battle scene and has been held for around one thousand years. Features of the festival include a 1 kilometer race by twelve horse and riders dressed in traditional samurai costume, and hundreds of riders competing to capture shrine flags that are propelled into the air with fireworks. There is also a horse chase, where horses are caught barehanded and then presented at a shrine.
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