Winter Equestrian Traditions Around the World
Equestrian traditions are a big part of the Equus Journeys’ DNA. With the winter holidays right around the corner and in the spirit of sharing present (and past) equestrian traditions, we have compiled a few unique events that will be taking place around the world.
On the 26th of December, one of the most popular parades takes place in San Jose. This date marks the National Day of the Horseman in Costa Rica. Over 3,000 horses and women ride through the streets of San Jose in celebration of livestock and agriculture on the day of El Tope, one of the most important festivals on the local calendar. On this day you can expect colourful outfits, a fun atmosphere, and many activities, including bullfighting and horseracing. The main goal of the event is to celebrate the horse and the families that relied on them to make a living.
Years ago, the Yule season was considered the greatest time for augury. Many ceremonies occurred but there was one in particular in which the horse played a special role: marriage forecast. In order to find out if a particular woman would get married soon, a horse would be blindfolded inside of its enclosure. The woman would get on the horse’s back facing its rear-end. If the horse walked towards the gate, the proposal would happen soon, if the horse walked towards the fence, she wouldn’t have any propositions until the following year.
United States of America
Back when horses were the exclusive mean of transportation, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, came up with the Horse Christmas. This event was created in order to improve the living and working conditions for horses, since many of them were malnourished and exhausted from working extremely long hours.
The first festivity took place in the beginning of the 20th century. The locals would decorate a Christmas tree, located in one of the main squares, with different snacks (like maize and carrots) for the horses to eat as they passed. This tree was the heart of many celebrations over the years for both horses and people alike.
Over the years this tradition became redundant as the conditions for working horses have improved drastically, though some people still go to the barn to feed various treats to their horses on this date.
Mari Lwyd is a pagan ritual that is still practised in some parts of Wales. During this celebration, a horse’s skull is attached to a pole and decorated with bells and ribbons, then a white sheet is added to its back in order to conceal the revellers carrying it.
Around the winter holidays, the Mary Lwyd party visits multiple houses in which a type of musical battle is carried out between them and the inhabitant. If at any point, the residents run out of ideas, they must allow Mary Lwyd to enter and provide food and drinks to the group.
A similar custom is practised at Richmond, North Yorkshire, where a group of huntsmen parade the Poor Old Hoss - a towering figure wearing black robes and sporting a horse's head - through the town on Christmas Eve. The ensemble performs a brief concert while touring several local shops and businesses.
These are just a few examples of the different traditions that take place during the winter festivities. They help us understand the impact that the horses had, and still have, in the numerous cultures that exist around the globe.
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