The sea-horses of Mgarr ix-Xini

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The sea-horses of Mgarr ix-Xini

Mgarr ix-Xini is a small, narrow inlet on the southern coast of Gozo, the submerged mouth of a valley which gives the impression of a miniature fjord.  Popular with visiting sailing boats but less known to most owing to its relative inaccessibility, it is a place for peace and quiet where one can enjoy unspoilt nature and occasionally, solitude.

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During my last visit there I experienced a scene which used to be much more commonplace in my childhood but which is becoming increasingly rare.  A scene involving a family outing/picnic complete with bathing horses.  A relaxed, unposed scene highlighting the special relationship between man and horse and this noble animal’s full integration into the family life of rural communities on Gozo.

The horses enjoying the dip in the chilly waters of early spring while protected by blankets, the ladies sitting on the stone bench at the base of the hill, the splash of the horse’s hoofs and the men leading the horses back to dry land whilst sipping from a mugful of something warm are all aspects which the three photographs capture.  The animals look calm and accept their off-season swim in a matter-of-fact manner.

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I never quite understood why people took their horses for a dip in the sea and always assumed that it was either related to cooling off during the hot summer months or a downright cheap way of giving the animal a wash!

However after doing some research in relation to this post I came across the following information on http://www.equi-therapy.net

“Equine Hydrotherapy is based on the therapeutic use of cold sea water……… it has long been recognised that it has benefits in aiding the treatment of leg injuries, swelling, and diseases in horses. It is known that cold sea water has a positive anti-inflammatory effect on tissues which improves healing and helps to protect against injury.”  The site also goes on the explain the troubles that professional stables go through to replicate the benefits of seawater in places far away from the sea.

So yet again I found myself experiencing a further example of what seems to be a quaint tradition but which in effect has roots in an older, deeper understanding of the benefits of a healthy relationship with nature, particularly the sea from which all life emerged.

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