Nightmares! Horses are ridden by flames in hellish images at the annual Spanish festival
- Scores of the local population on horseback caused a blazing forest fire in the Spanish town of San Bartolome de Pinares
- The tradition, which is thought to be 500 years old, is meant to purify and protect the animal for the coming year
- Some animal rights groups are critical of Las Luminarias, which takes place on the eve of St. Anthony's Day
Miranda Aldersley for Mailonline
Every year in January, in the small Spanish town of San Bartolome de Pinares, daring inhabitants drive their horses through bonfires at a five hundred year old festival known as Las Luminarias.
The tradition is a nod to the patron saint of animals, Saint Anthony, and takes place every year on the eve of his feast day – 16 January. It is thought that the fire and the smoke help to purify the horses and protect them from diseases in the coming year.
Incredible photos show the masked horsemen who make their way through a series of burning bonfires in the narrow streets of the city. The riders send their horses in the flames as part of a jumping tradition that lasts until midnight, but the drinking and celebrating continues until dawn.
The horses are showered with water just before they come into the flames to prevent their coats from scorching, and villagers claim that the animals are accustomed and do not suffer.
But animal rights groups have long been critical of the event, which according to them is clearly animal abuse & # 39; is. Last year, the mayor of the city hit back, saying that two veterinarians are on site and every year an independent report about the festival is produced, which has always been favorable.
The exact origin of the Las Luminarias, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is unknown, although it is believed that it started at a time when animals suffered unexplained diseases and died in large numbers.
The silhouette of a man on horseback as he drives through a bonfire on the eve of St. Anthony's Day as part of Las Luminarias Ritual in San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain
Riders on horseback jumped during apocalyptic scenes during the controversial annual Spanish festival by roaring flames
The traditional festival, which is hundreds of years old, is meant to purify the animal in the coming year and to protect it against diseases
A man rides his horse through a bonfire made with pine branches after horses were blessed by a priest to protect and purify them for the coming year, during the annual Las Luminarias & # 39; festival
Animal rights activists have sent items to the festival, but participants say that the animals are showered with water before they jump through the flames and do not suffer
The festival, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is believed to have begun as a superstitious ritual that began at a time when animals suffered unexplained diseases.
The festival, called Las Luminarias, takes place every year in January in the city of San Bartolome de Pinares, northwest of Madrid
The tail of the horse covered in order to prevent it from catching fire while driving through specially built bonfires laid by city dwellers for the Las Luminarias & # 39; Festival on January 16, 2019
A man rides a horse through a bonfire as part of a ritual in honor of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the patron saint of pets
The mayor of the city, Maria Jesus Martin Gomez, said last year that the animals do not suffer at all during the 500-year-old tradition
The government of Castilla and Leon assigns a veterinarian and the town hall hires another vet, who during the festival makes rounds through the village to ensure that the animals are safe and healthy
A man is waiting for his turn to ride a horse through a bonfire as part of the ritual in honor of Saint Anthony the Abbot, patron saint of pets, in San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain
A man poses for a photo during the opening of the traditional Christian religious festival "Las Luminarias", on January 16 – the eve of the feast day of Saint Anthony
Animal rights organizations have said that the event is abusive for the animals, but the organizers disagree, stating veterinarians on site and independent reports produced every year
Horses jump through bonfires in scenes that look like the end of the world as part of the annual Spanish festival that took place last night