The Leonhardiritt or Leonhardi Ride, a procession held on horses, is held every year at the last weekend in October in honour of the holy Leonhard of Limoges.
Saint Leonhard was actually the patron saint of prisoners and his association with horses was a complete accident. Someone had mistaken his chains for livestock chains, although they were merely the chains of a poor prisoner.
But Leonhard did his job well and if you would like to experience the magic of it all you should join the event in Unterammergau and see the procession. Preparations begin weeks before, with participants weaving garlands, making flower arrangements, and polishing harnesses.
The Saturday before Leonhardi the horses are washed and as of 4 am they are in perfect form. A long procession winds its way from the town centre to the Pilgrimage chapel Kappel, where Holy Mass is celebrated and the horses receive their blessing.
9 am Assembly at Kirchplatz and Dorfstrasse
9.45 am Parade accompanied by 4 brass bands from the catholic church to the Pilgrimage chapel Kappel
10.30 am Holy Mass with the benediction of the horses
11.45 am Ride back into town
12.15 am Joint concert of the brass bands
The benediction of the horses is due to the vital role that they play as pack and work animals within the rural community. In 1955 the southern German carthorse was 'out . The great 'Kalti extinction began and in the cruellest sense of the word. Tied up in groups of four the best carthorses were taken to be slaughtered in wagonloads.
Wonderful brood mares and promising stallions! During those days only a few rural breeders held onto their horses. Out of stubbornness and a lack of desire for progress! They were mocked because they continued to utilize the carthorses to gather their wood from the family-owned forests instead of heeding the siren call of Deutz, Aicher, and Fendt.
The mockery soon found an end however when the time came for the pastoral parades. Transport the Maypole on a tractor Georgi rides and Leonhardi rides on ATVs Or possibly Saint Nicholas in a convertible
And suddenly the breeders of the carthorses, the Rosserer , were in demand. And during the 1970 s even those voices that had predicted the extinction of all traditions in addition to the demise of the carthorse gradually and sheepishly fell silent.
Leonhardi Rides are crowd pullers - a feast for the eyes!