Every year in Siena, Italy, the Palio di Siena is held twice annually. Known as just Il Palio locally, the race consists of ten horses, representing ten of the seventeen Contrade, or city wards, of Italy.
The race takes place both on the 2nd of July and the 16th of August every year, each date corresponding with a religious event.
Before the event, a pageant called the Corteo Storico occurs during which there is a choreographed parade with costumes. This parade in itself attracts visitors from all over the world. Right before the competition there are last minute meetings between the heads of the Contrada, in which alliances are made and strategy is discussed. This is serious business!
The race itself lasts literally about a minute and 30 seconds, and it is entirely possible for a horse to win the race even if its jockey falls off and doesn’t finish the race. As the jockeys all ride bareback on the horses, it isn’t too much of a surprise that they are sometimes thrown off while making tight turns or movements.
Have you ever been to a horse race? Was it anything like this?