Campaigners call for Palio change after death
Distressing footage of this year’s second race shows a horse suffering a catastrophic injury in a crashing fall in Siena
WELFARE charities have urged organisers of the Palio di Siena to act after “deeply distressing” footage emerged of a horse suffering a catastrophic injury.
A video of the second 2018 running of the centuries-old race in Siena, Italy, last month shows a horse fall after a sharp corner.
He staggered up but had clearly badly broken a front leg.
The chestnut, thought to be named Raol, an eight-year-old Anglo-Arab making his debut in the race, was taken to a veterinary hospital but could not be saved.
An Italian welfare campaigner, who does not want to be named, told H&H she does not believe the Palio, which is held twice a year, will ever be stopped.
“It’s such a tradition and so deeply rooted,” she said. “So in my
opinion, it has to be changed.”
The Palio involves horses from 10 of the town’s 17 contrade, or districts (the remaining seven will take part in the next race), ridden bareback around the square, the stone surface of which is covered with a sand mixture.
But campaigners believe the surface is slippery, and two sharp corners, the San Martino and the Casato, are especially dangerous. Raol’s fall came at the Casato.
Last month’s is thought to be the 51st equine death since 1975.
“Lots of Italian people have been fighting to end this for a long time,” the campaigner said. “But there are too many political and economic interests.
“People in Siena say they care about the horses, and changes have been made for safety, to the ground and the type of horse used, which is probably true, but it’s not enough.”
She added that those against the race would like to see the introduction of major changes, including to the dangerous turns, and using bigger, heavier horses, and saddles.
World Horse Welfare CEO Roly Owers described the footage as “deeply shocking”.
“While it is difficult to comment on the exact events which contributed to this horse’s severe injuries, it does highlight the need for much more to be done to safeguard the welfare of the horses — in addition to changes already implemented,” he told H&H. “An event so deeply rooted in culture and tradition will likely continue but it must move with the times if wider society is to continue to accept it. So as with all equine competition, organisers should always be looking for ways to reduce risk, improve safety and protect horses and competitors.”
RSPCA equine specialist
Mark Kennedy added: “This footage is extremely distressing and we would strongly urge the organisers to take urgent action to improve safety for horses, as well as riders.”
H&H has approached the organisers for comment.
The Palio di Siena is held twice every year