Santa Marija horse race organisers deplore time restriction on races

As animal welfare authorities ordered the halving of the time allocated for the races, the Leone Philharmonic Society says this puts the tradition at risk

Photo: Leone Philharmonic Society
Photo: Leone Philharmonic Society

Organisers behind the traditional Santa Marija horse races insisted that the races pose no harm to the animals involved, after the animal welfare authorities ordered to half the time allocated for the races down Victoria’s main road.

Animal welfare organisations have long decried the races because they are conducted in the sweltering afternoon sun, in mid-August, as part of the Santa Marija festa celebrations.

However, the Leone Philharmonic Society insisted that these races are a "national and traditional" custom that have been held for 500 years.

The society, which organises the street horse races, argued that the restrictions cast a negative and unfair light on the owners.

The time restrictions were put in place by the ministry for agriculture and animal welfare on the grounds that the animals were being cruelly treated due to the heat between 2pm and 4pm.

However, the society insisted that it had always complied with the laws while keeping an eye on the welfare of the animals.

It said that exposing animals to the sun for five minutes was not harsh, especially since each race lasted not more than 1.2 minutes.

Additionally, the animals would be kept in the shade and given plenty to drink during the remaining time, while a veterinarian would confirm beforehand whether they were in good enough shape for the race.

The society stated that it was pleading to the government, animal welfare agencies, and other organizations to use common sense and prevent the eradication of such traditions.

It said the races should go on as usual, taking into account the opinions of the thousands who come to watch it every year.