NIHONMONODiscovering Japan [Nihon] through authentic craftsmanship [Honmono]

”Banei Horse Race” a horse competition carrying on the spirit of the pioneer era

”Banei Horse Race”
a horse competition carrying on the spirit of the pioneer era

The power of horses pulling a 1 ton metal sled

Banei Horse Race is based on a pioneer era competition of the strength of farm horses. Unlike the standard thoroughbred competition, the competition is based on not only speed, but also the strength and endurance required to pull a metal sled. This is the only competition in the world where the power of the horses is the biggest feature. ”The average horse weighs 1 ton and it is twice that of thoroughbred horses. They are large and powerful. Yet, the horses have a calm and quiet character,” we were told. The sled weighs anywhere from 480 kg up to 1 ton, and it is said to be the slowest race, but it continues to draw spectators who are allured by the dynamic race.

Horseshoe fitting – an essential step

They showed us the process of fitting the horseshoe on the hooves. The banging echoes while experienced workers effortlessly place metal equipment on what is the equivalent of the horse’s nails. The horseshoe wears down, so it needs to be replaced every 40 days. They take the time to grind the hoof and finish up by pressing a heated horseshoe on to the hoof. In the winter, this area can go down to-20℃ with piles of snow, so a jagged edged horseshoe is used to prevent slipping. There are many diseases that affect the horse’s hooves, and horseshoes are essential for the horses to stay healthy.


Deliberate breaks during the race can be the key to winning

The race course spans 200 m in a straight line with a small hill (obstacle) at the beginning and a larger hill in the middle. What divides the winner and the loser is the power of the horse and the technique of the rider. One of the key points to look for when watching Banei Horse Race, is how the rider allows the horse to take a breath before the obstacle, then encourages it to climb it in one go. Allowing the horse to stop for a break – this is unique to Banei Horse Racing. You really cannot predict the result of the race. Nakata was astonished while listening to the story. In an actual race, huge horses exerted themselves to pull the heavy metal sleds. The audience also ran alongside the horses, cheering them on as they headed toward the finish line.


Banei Tokachi Horse Race
9 13-Jo Minami, Obihiro Nishi