Foligno, August 29 - Animal rights activists in Italy called for a halt to the town of Foligno's historical Giostra della Quintana jousting tournament on Thursday after the death of a horse injured during preparations for the annual competition. The traditional horse-and-rider competition dates back to 1448, but was revived as a modern festival in 1946. Riders gallop at breakneck speed aiming to spear 3 rings hanging on separate wooden carousels with a statue representing Mars, the god of war. The owners of the thoroughbred mare, who was injured on August 17, put the animal down two days later. Ex-tourism minister Maria Vittoria Brambilla expressed "deep indignation", criticized the event organizers for being "secretive" and for hiding the horse's demise. "They are obviously afraid to attract more attention to an event that has already been criticized and scrutinized by judges for the harsh treatment of horses during preparation," Brambilla said. The president of the Giostra organizing body, Domenico Metelli, said that his group was "deeply hurt" by the horse's death and that Brambilla was wrong. "We love horses and have strict regulations to protect their well-being," Metelli said. "We are in mourning and do not need to be attacked".