During the last weekend of every October, the village of Unterammergau, Germany honors St. Leonhard, the patron saint of agricultural animals. The event begins with a horse procession through the village of 1,500 people, and culminates in an open-air church service, during which more than one hundred horses are blessed. (Unterammergau is the neighboring village to Oberammergau, where we’ve been spending the past summer and autumn. Together with O-gau, the village’s name is an essential ingredient in a well-known, and especially challenging German tongue twister about the two villages.)
The day before the procession, known locally as Leonhardiritt or Leonhardifahrt, owners bathe and meticulously groom their horses. The next day, they wake up as early as 4 AM to braid the animals’ tails and manes and then adorn them with vibrant ribbons, snippets of trailing ivy, and cut flowers like roses and mums.
We attended this festive event on a glorious autumn afternoon a few weekends ago. Here is the full set of horse-blessing images.
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Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.