A TRADITION where horses are spurred to leap through 20 flaming bonfires has been revived after a COVID break – and not everyone is happy.

Las Luminarias, which celebrates Spain’s patron saint of animals, San Anton, returned after the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but with pandemic restrictions still in force.

This year the 200-year-old event saw 120 horses and donkeys going through the cobbled village streets of San Bartolome de Pinares, near Avila with no such restrictions.

The strange ritual is in memory of a devastating epidemic that wiped out a large part of the area’s cattle and horses.

All pictures from Cordon Press

The bonfire smoke from bonfires is meant to drive away evil spirits. 

For an event that celebrates animal well-being, it has attracted controversy over the way the horses are treated.

The National Association for the Protection and Welfare of Animals made its annual demand that horses should only pass by the bonfires to take in the ‘purifying’ smoke, rather than riding through them – a move backed by the town hall.

But many of the riders ignore the official advice and charge through the flames.

Organisers said no horses were harmed during this year’s hour-long celebration. Precautions like clipping horse hair to avoid the animals being burned were also taken.

Horse owners and riders had to be officially registered and take out civil-liability insurance.


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