Disgust at Spanish horse bonfire ritual

An isolated village northeast of Madrid, Spain, is taking some heat for a tradition which sees horses ridden through large bonfires.

The village, San Bartolome de Pinares, has recently come under fire for the 'lumunarias' tradition, which is thought to date back 500 years.

Back then, Catholic rituals used smoke from the tradition as purification to fight plagues.

But now it's drawn criticism from animal rights activists, who argue it breaks animal protection and public entertainment laws.

An official complaint against the government was laid in 2013 by the Observatory of Justice and Animal Defense, but the government hit back saying official vets couldn't find any injuries to the horses.

Resident Pedro Martin Munos says the horses don't have any problems with the fiery crossings.

"The horses don't panic. They're very intelligent animals," he says.

"If [a horse] crosses through a fire and nothing happens then it can cross smoothly many more times. If you borrow my horse, even if you can't ride, if I don't adjust the stirrup, it will go around the whole village and cross the fires without a single problem."

A number of young people who have left the village come back for the annual event, including 18-year-old Maria Alonso Costumero.

"The funnest thing about it is to experience it [the festival] with your people, that's the thing you really appreciate about the festival," she says.

"And then the horses, it's so beautiful to see how they cross the bonfires again and again, with such vigour and attitude. It's very beautiful."