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Riding a cock horse

Inspired by a fine lady on a white horse, Jen Ogilvie makes a journey to Banbury to find out what a cock horse might be.

Four guys from the local PTA, each in school uniform and astride a wooden plank with a horse's head attached, career over the finish line, cheered on by kids in fancy dress - the more cumbersome parts have been jettisoned due to heat and non-suitability for the bouncy castle. Just another eccentric English fete, you might think.

But this race is the climax of Banbury Hobby Horse Festival, an annual event based on the venerable custom of hobby animals in masques and civil pageantry, a tradition which can be traced back at least to the 16th century. Then came the Civil War and the ascent of the Puritans; Hobby Horses, along with similar depravities like Morris dances and mummers' plays, were forced out to remote villages where they could continue hassle-free.

It should be pointed out here that Banbury's Hobby Horse Festival isn't exactly a centuries-old tradition.

 

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It's a hobby: The parade to People's Park during the festival in Banbury in July 2005.
 

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