- COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING THE HORSES - by Helen Elizabeth Sadler

1. - Are the horses brought by the Contrade, chosen or extracted in a drawing?
The horses are brought by the owners, who make the horses available, often, only for their great passion in regards to the race. In fact, the winner does not get much money because the satisfaction of having a horse that has won a Palio is without price… it is something intrinsic that will go down in history. The horses are chosen in various phases, first by a veterinarian and then technically, finally getting to the last selection where the captains choose the ten best suited horses, basing their decision on the horses' health and sturdiness. Once the 10 horses have been chosen they are then assigned through a drawing (see Tratta), on the morning of the first day of the Palio festivities (June 29 and August 13) to the ten Contrade that will be running in the race.


2. - What race are the horses that run in the Palio?
They must be mixed breeds, pure breeds are no longer allowed. The best Palio horses, are those that are not only fast, but quick out of the starting area, precise on the curves and have enough stamina to withstand the rigors of three fast laps around the hard packed tufo track. Keep in mind that at the start (see Mossa) of the race there are no gates and the public is very close to the horses in their starting line-up, so it is very important to choose horses that are not nervous and will react well to this kind of atmosphere. Some of the best horses come from Sardinia where these types of qualities are present. The Sienese are trying to create a "race for the Palio" of mixed breeds near Siena, but it will take a long time.


3. - Is it true that the horses get hurt running on the "tufo" or packed earth track?
How many accidents generally happen? To say that the Palio is an easy race without any risks, would be to say something not exactly true, but it is also true that contrary to a few years ago (when there were one or two horses that died), now, with all the new controls in use (new mattresses, great care in selecting the horses during the "tratta", well bred mixed breeds that are more robust, research on the compactness of the tufo track, limitation of artificial treatments to the horses, incentives to owners who breed suitable races), the number of accidents has fallen dramatically and one or two horses get hurt each year, often without serious consequences. Paradoxically, however, the jockeys are more at risk than the horses.


4. - If a horse gets hurt, who reimburses the owner?
The City of Siena, with a symbolic sum of money.


5. - Where do the horses live during the days of the Palio? And with whom?
The horse lives in the Contrada's stable, normally they are very modern stalls, quite spacious and well-kept; it is cared for by the contrada's "barbaresco", the staff of veterinarians and blacksmiths, along with contrada members that assist the "barbaresco" and help keep watch over the horse.


6. - Is it true that the horses that no longer run in the Palio are sent out to pasture, in a type of care center for old retired champions?
Yes, but not all, unfortunately.


7. - Are the horses looked after by a veterinarian?
Yes, always. There is a stable-staff, made up of a barbaresco, a veterinarian, a blacksmith and helpers; they are responsible for not administering medications and stimulants which could hurt the horse or make it nervous.


8. - When a horse gets hurt during the days of the trials or just before the race, how is it substituted?
The horse is the most precious good of the Contrada. In fact, the jockey can be substituted (but only before the official presentation, on the morning of the Palio), but the horse cannot be substituted. If it does not feel well, it is withdrawn and the Contrada with it. It has happened on various occasions that the Contrada has withdrawn from the race, without it having been obliged to do so, only because it was suspected that the horse would have suffered if it had run.






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PALIO TIME SCHEDULES

THE RACE-TRACK

A TIMELESS HISTORICAL DIMENSION

BRIEF GUIDE OF SIENA
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IN THE CITY
OF THE CONTRADE Trascription of -In the city of the Contrade- printed in 1912
printed in 1912


Wine collection in a medieval cellar in Siena, Italy