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Palio di Siena - 2 July: five horses out of ten injured, one seriously. And La7 clears the way for horse whipping


The Palio di Siena returns after the forced cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and invariably horse injuries are back again.

Two horses were already injured during the third round and the dress rehearsal that preceded the palio, and the vets decided to exclude them from the race as a precaution: Vankook, Civetta contrada, fell on a bend and was subsequently judged by the vets to be unfit to run, and Schietta, Istrice contrada, crippled a hind leg and was also excluded from the race.

The mayor of Siena explained the reasons for their choice in front of the television cameras, saying that it was necessary to adapt to “changed sensitivities” (which translated means: if those two horses participated in the palio and something happened to them, Siena's image would be compromised).  As he spoke these words, the Contradaioli from Civetta ward staged a protest against his decision: for them the horse had to run, in spite of the vets' opinion.

Because of these two exclusions, only 8 horses out of ten showed up at the start. In the first stages before the start (the “mossa”), the horse Volpino got injured and was judged unfit to run. Shorty after, on a false move, the horse Uragano Rosso fell disastrously, but this time it is the jockey Stefano Piras who gets injured and taken off the track on a stretcher.

But wait, that’s not all. The race starts and we notice an anomaly: one horse stands still, and after less than half a lap he is hundreds of metres behind the other horses, disappearing from the track after just one lap.The horse is Vitzichesu, Valdimontone contrada. It is only days later that we learn he too fell (at the first bend) and was taken to the clinic.

But we discover the most serious accident only later. The horse that crossed the finish line last was also hurt: Zentile, contrada Chiocciola, finished fifth but far behind the others. We find out why later on, and it is the most serious injury of all: the horse suffered detachment of the hoof wall, the outer part of the foot.In statements to the local press, Il Ceppo veterinary clinic of Dr. Raffaello Ciampoli (the official clinic of the Palio di Siena) plays it down, but does admits that the recovery will take months and delicate care.

To add insult to injury, the jockey who won the palio, Tittia (real name Giovanni Atzeni), is seen whipping the poor horse Zio Frac at least 15 times in the final seconds of the race.“Just one more case of disgraceful behaviour towards the animal, accepted and turned a blind eye to by all those who bandy their alleged and hypocritical love for horses,” says Sonny Richichi, president of IHP.

“No matter how much effort the Municipality, the Palio Authority, the Contrade, and even some journalists may put into it, the Palio di Siena continues to be a spectacle of horse exploitation that, paradoxically, is causing this city to lose credibility to the detriment of the festival and the Medieval re-enactment, ruined by the images of animals forced to run with a high risk of accidents given the context and the track. All for so-called tradition” continues Richichi.

This year RAI was replaced by La7 in broadcasting the palio live, and incredibly, in the presentation programme aired on the 1:30 PM news (directed by Enrico Mentana) on 2 July, a few hours before the race, it even sanctioned horse whipping.Journalist Guy Chiappaventi explains:  “The palio jockeys of the palio ride bareback, holding a “nerbo” to whip not only their own horses but also other horses and their riders, and are paid like rock stars: winning a palio can cost the contrada hundreds of thousands of euro”.

Shamelessly, also the jockey Andrea Coghe, interviewed in the report, when asked: ““What would you do to win the palio?” answers without hesitation:  “Anything”.

This is the culture that Siena exports today and that La7 broadcasts live on television.

(photo: the horse Schietta)



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