I don’t know a lot about horses. Fortunately, Lovely Cousin Luke does.

On Monday 15th August 2016 the Grand Parade Of Moors & Christians took place on Marques de Campo, Dénia. The parade serves as a commemoration of the battles fought between Moors (or Muslims) and Christians. In the 15th century, the Moors were defeated by the Christians, ending approximately 800 years of Moorish rule in Spain. Wonderful Husband and I thought it would be nice to take Lovely Cousin Luke along to the parade so he could experience some Spanish culture during his visit to Dénia. We bought our tickets, found our seats amongst the crowds and the parade began soon after. The first attraction to come along: a large man riding a horse. Damn. I didn’t realise there would be horses. I normally try to avoid activities that use animals. Regardless, let’s try and enjoy the parade…

The parade was fun… If you put aside the clear mistreatment of the horses.

On numerous occasions, a nervous-looking horse would be ridden down the main street in front of thousands of onlookers. Not only was there considerable noise coming from the crowd, but this was joined by the violent beating of drums that would follow each horse. 

One magnificent black horse seemed the most uncomfortable of all. His ears were pinned backwards indicating that he was scared. The rider lost control several times and a second person (along with the rider) had to work hard to keep the horse from bolting (left photo). 

On top of this, Lovely Cousin Luke directed my attention to a beautiful, white horse. The horse could be seen bleeding from it’s side by the riders feet. After closer inspection, we could see that all the riders were wearing spurs, shaped as spikes (right photo). Spurs are normally used to direct the horses and if used responsibly then they should cause no harm to the horse, however this was not the case at the parade. Spurs should never be used excessively and this has been highlighted in the most recent Olympic Games, when two horse riders were eliminated for causing harm to their horse with their spurs.  

Traditions are great and I would never dream of wanting to abolish something held so dearly by Spain (or any other country!) but tradition should never be at the expense of an animal. 

So let’s tweak the tradition. 

I propose that one by one we find ways of making animal-unfriendly traditions friendly. Let’s start with Bous a la Mar: the running and swimming with the bulls in Dénia. For more information about this event, please see my previous article.

So in light of my desire to tweak, I have started a petition. If you have a moment (and an issue with bulls being mistreated for the purpose of maintaining a tradition) then please click here to sign. My idea is to replace the bulls with people in fun inflatable costumes, as shown in the video here. This will make the event both child-friendly and animal-friendly whilst keeping up tradition. Several Spanish towns, such as Santillana del Mar, have adopted the alternative to bull running. Now it’s Dénia’s turn. More information about my petition can be found on the webpage. Mega thanks to Mega Friend Adrià who translated my petition into Spanish. 

Who knows, if we raise enough awareness and the Mayor of Dénia listens to our plea then maybe other traditions will follow suit. Instead of frightened horses, maybe we could have men dressing up in horse costumes leading the Moors & Christians Parade. Wouldn’t children (and adults) love that? I know I would. The Day of the Geese is another prime example in which an animal is mutilated for no good reason but tradition. Instead of a dead goose strung up and decapitated (it used to be a living goose!) let’s replace it with a toy goose. Lastly, what if our animal-friendly voice could spread to other countries and consequently their traditions. Italy is a great example of a country that is reforming their views on animals (the Mayor of Turin wants to make the first vegetarian Italian city) yet surprisingly, Italy maintains traditions such as Palio di Siena: a horse race described by Dear Friend June as “piles of broken horses at the end”. Wouldn’t it be far more amusing and enjoyable to have people racing within the confines of a two-person horse costume, not to mention no animals would get hurt… 

(I realise that the left picture is of a cowboy but there weren’t any good pictures of a knight 😀.)

My aim is to respect the traditions held by both Spain and Italy and I apologise if my ideas offend anyone. However, I would be disrespecting animals if I were to stay silent on these issues. 

Animal versus tradition… I choose animals.