(WARNING: Some readers may find the images below and video footage above disturbing):
VIDEO: Villagers ride horses through fires at festival on eve of St. Anthony’s feast day in Spain (Jan. 17)
The cobbled streets of San Bartolome de los Pinares, a village in central Spain, were filled with smoke and the clatter of horse hooves on Thursday night as residents marked the eve of the feast day of Saint Anthony.
In a tradition that dates back hundreds of years, dozens of horsemen known as Las Luminarias ride as close as they dare to bonfires that line the street.
Some even force their steeds through the centre of the flames.
According to ancient tradition, the fiesta is meant to cleanse the horses of disease and bring good luck for the coming year.
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Animal right groups have condemned the practice, saying the animals suffer.
Local resident Borja Ramirez, however, disagrees.
“Once they get used to it, once they are taught and get used to it, they are very brave,” he said.
Below is a look at some images from Spain’s festival to honour St. Anthony, patron saint of animals: