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Saint Anthony's Day (PHOTOS): Baptism By Fire For Horses At Spanish Festival

First Posted: 01/18/11 01:51 PM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 07:25 PM ET

About 100 brave horses -- and equally valiant equestrians -- rang in Saint Anthony's Day by partaking in a spectacular, yet controversial, religious rite by galloping through flames.

As the AFP is reporting, every year on the night of January 16, the paved streets of San Bartolome de los Pinares, about 100km north-west of Madrid, are transformed into a makeshift racetrack with fences formed from burning logs. According to legend, the act of riding the horses through the bonfires is meant to "purify" them, much like a traditional baptism.

Not surprisingly, the event has drawn criticism from animal rights groups who say it causes the horses unnecessary stress, but there have not been any reported injuries.

See photos of the dramatic ritual here:

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Filed by Curtis M. Wong  |