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

Horse & Hound - - News Insider - By ELEANOR JONES

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

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