Riding through Fire in the Las Luminarias Festival

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On January 16, riders in the village of San Bartolomé de Pinares in Spain celebrate Saint Anthony the Abbot on the eve of his feast day.

During the Luminarias festival, horses are ridden near and even through bonfires in a symbolic act of purification and protection, a tradition that dates back to the time of the great plague.

The Daily Mail reports that locals insist the horses and riders are never hurt. The horses are soaked down before their riders point them toward the flames and their tails are wrapped to reduce the chance that they could catch fire. Rider falls aren’t uncommon as some horses refuse to jump the flames.

Animal welfare groups have protested the practice due to the danger and stress it puts on the horses. But the centuries-old tradition continues.

On the following day, pet owners bring their animals to church to be blessed by a priest as part of the feast of Saint Anthony, according to International Business Times.

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