PALIO DE SIENA 2012

The Palio di Siena (known locally simply as Il Palio) is a race that is held twice each year, on July 2 and August 16, in Siena, Italy. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards.

A PARTICIPANT (Reuters)
The race held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano, who has a church in Siena. The Palio held on August 16 is named Palio dell’Assunta, in honor of the Assumption of Mary.

A magnificent pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.

PRE-RACE SADDLING (Reuters)
The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is not uncommon for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys (see below).

PRE-RACE BLESSING (Reuters)
Subsequently, it should come as no surprise that animal rights activists are calling for an end to the famous race after six of 10 horses crashed during the latest edition.  There was one equine fatality.

The LAV animal rights group said Friday the accident  was just the “umpteenth confirmation that the Palio needs to put the safety of the horses and all the participants ahead of tradition.”

MOUNTED ITALIAN CARABINIERI POLICE PRE-RACE (Reuters)
THE SQUARE (Reuters)
THE WINNERS: Jonathan Bartoletti on Lo Specialista for Valdimontone. (Reuters)
THE CRASH IN THE TURN (Reuters)
RIDERLESS HORSES FOLLOW THE FIELD (Reuters)
THE CELEBRATION (Reuters)
THE WINNER (Reuters)