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Horse Races

When the threshing and ploughing were done and it was time for the horses to return to the Mountain, the Skyrians used to organise horse races. The contestants first participated in races of six horses each. They rode bare back, and held on by locking their legs under the animal's belly. The winners then met in a final race. The prize was a sum of money, to be shared with the owner of the horse if he was not the same person as the rider. The villagers waited at the finishing line and then celebrated the race as if it were an important festival.

 

We do not know when exactly in older times these races started. On June 29, the day of the Holy Apostles, and on August 1, the contestants used to meet at a small church that lay two hours walk from the village. There they celebrated, cooked lamb on the spit, and in the afternoon rode back to the town, garlanded with flowers. Followed by relatives and friends, they rode down the main street leading to the monastery of St. George, built next to the Castle that dominates the whole area from the top of a hilltop. Then they descended to the plains, to the place set for the race. Later they also held shows, in which all owners participated with their horses and prizes were given to the best horse as to confirmation,guality and behaviour and communication with the owner. Participation was high in both events, which were an integral part of Skyrian tradition up to the 1960s.

 

Today the horse is no longer used in any agricultural function and has no direct contact with humans. To revive such a custom, naturally in a manner ensuring the well-being of the horses, would require very thorough preparation.

 


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