By Ayako Tanaka
Dressage is the most popular equestrian sport in Japan. Currently 5,124 riders are registered with the national federation as dressage-only competitors, 82 percent of the total. Ages range from young to senior. There were 45 officially sanctioned dressage competitions and 13 federation-hosted dressage competitions in 2009.
According to the Japan Equine Affairs Association, in 2005, there were 15,468 riding horses. Many are Thoroughbreds, and there are still five Japanese domestic breeds that are preserved. Interest seems to be increasing, especially among senior riders who have retired and want a social activity. Dressage became big news in Japan when 67-year-old
Hiroshi Hoketsu competed at the 2008 Olympic Games riding Whisper 115. At the time, the horse unfortunately was frightened by the Jumbotron, resulting in a lower-than-normal score. However, Hiroshi and his 13-year-old Hanoverian mare have qualified for WEG, where they will have another chance to perform at their best. Also qualifying for the Japanese dressage team (at press time): the 2009 national champion, Mieko Yagi, riding Taiso Dow Jones, a 16-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Team Shin Taiso; Hiroyuki Kitahara on Why Me, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by the Japan Racing Association; and Yuko Kitai riding SIG Fairytail, a 13-year-old gelding owned by Miki House.