Japan’s Olympic preparations discussed alongside the China-Netherlands equestrian relationship in Session 8 of the Asia Horse Week
Day three of the Asia Horse Week got underway with an informative session featuring key speakers from the Netherlands, Japan and China. The President of the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation, Mr. Theo Ploegmakers, kicked things off with an enlightening talk exploring their Olympic arrangements, the history of Dutch breeding and how this heritage has made their country’s equestrian industry so successful.
Although the country is small, with only 200,000 riders in Holland, he said they have been able to bring in six gold Olympic gold medals, as well as eight silver and two bronze medals. “Small can be strong,” he explained. He pointed out that have been able to reach their current status because they do not only focus on the top tiers of the sport.
“If the grassroots are not educated, trained, helped and facilitated, we will never create a good sustainable top sport structure,” he summarised. All levels of the sport are equally important to them, and nurturing new talent is crucial, as they are the foundation of the sport, he added. They pay attention to every detail, including horsemanship, welfare, veterinary equine services, and more.
Someone who understands the Netherland’s attention to detail is Mr. Shen HouFeng, General Manager of Heilan International Equestrian Club, and he commenced the second session by introducing his club and the relation they have with Dutch horses. In fact, he said that the Chinese national team uses horses from the Netherlands and has a good foundation in the country. He also outlined the importance of building the fundamentals which China is doing, and needs to do more of in the coming few years.
“While everyone can trade and sell horses, the training, welfare and philosophy is what is really important and should come along with it,” he said. He said good cooperation is key when trading horses between countries. He also showed how much he is investing in China’s equestrian future, and introduced some equestrian facilities he has been overseeing in the southern area of Xinqiao, Jiangyin. “I see great potential in the equestrian market in China. A systematic foundation is being put in place to ensure its success,” he commented.
Three key figures from the Japanese equestrian followed in the session, each of whom discussed the development of the sport in Asia. An international judge from the Fédération Equestre Internationale, Mr. Kazuya Hirayama, talked about the standing of the judging system in Asia. Out of 769 FEI jumping judges worldwide, he revealed he is the only official international judge in Asia, and he even had to pay for his own travel to gain experience at European events in the past. He feels that the 2020 Olympics will be a good platform for Asian judges to prove themselves, and thinks they will be able to take the sport in Asia to an international level. “I must say to Asian judges, you can do it,” he concluded.
A riding club owner, Kazu Iwatani, then took the stage to introduce CRANE, which operates 35 branches across Japan and is the largest in the country. He explained they are trying to develop more members by offering trial lessons in schools, evening rides for people after work and through business collaboration. Looking ahead, they will oversee 47 clubs in every prefecture across Japan. Dr. Yasuhiko Haruta, Advisor to the Japan Equestrian Federation, concluded the session by talking about the mission of the JEF and the other clubs and associations in Japan.