A Rapa das Bestas or The Shaving of the Horses

The Rapa das Bestas is an annual ritual in various villages in Galicia.  Every year in the first weekend in July wild horses are herded down from the mountains where they graze peacefully all year-round.  They are herded into a Curro (a type of corral with a stone enclosure) with seats above much like a smaller version of a coliseum.  Here in the Curro the aloitadores subdue the horses and cut their manes and brand them (today it’s done with a microchip).  Sabucedo is the only Rapa where men use only their bodies and strength to hold the animals during the ritual shaving of the manes and branding.

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Herding the horses into the Curro.

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The first aloitador jumps on the horse.

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The aloitadores hold the front of the horse.

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The vet is ready to treat the horses for parasites.

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Man versus horse.

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The Rapa das Bestas is a pre-Roman ritual.  It is also a festival day for the local villagers and a family affair.  Today the Rapa has turned into an international touristic event.  Yet, once the horses are inside the Curro, as the ancient struggle between man and horse takes place, you feel as though you have stepped back in time.  Inside the Curro are the aloitadores, and often with them, their children, some young enough to still be carried in the arms of their fathers.  For some of the young adult men and sometimes women, it is a sort of right of passage, a coming of age ritual.

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