Horse riders trot through roaring flames to mark a 500 year old Spanish festival

Scores of horse riders trotted through roaring flames in a Spanish village this week, as part of an annual festival that locals say is an integral part of their culture, but animal rights groups have condemned.

The festival, dubbed Las Luminarias, takes place in San Bartolome de Pinares, northwest of Madrid, on the eve of Saint Anthony’s Day, Spain’s patron saint of animals.

Participants believe that horses who leap through the flames of specially constructed bonfires will be purified during the coming year. Organisers claim that the festival dates back some 500 years.