Find out what the Japan draft racing is. Learn the different kinds of horse breeds used in draft races.
If you think that all there is to horse racing is seeing which horses will finish in the first few places, then you are wrong. There are various races made around the world that adds a twist to the classic sport. This includes the form of horse racing popular in Japan called draft racing.
Draft racing is more commonly known in Japan as Ban’ei. It means pull-play where horses pull heavy sledges up sand ramps. The drivers ride on the sledge and urge them to push through the ramp and finish faster than the other horses.
This kind of racing started around the 1900s which is the late Meiji era in Japan. The idea for the race came from horses that worked on the farm where they pull heavy machines and sledges of wood. Eventually, horses were tested for their strength and speed in the Meiji era.
It became one of the most popular horse races in 1953 where four cities in Hokkaido started managing it. The cities were Kitami, Asahikawa, Iwamizawa, and Obihiro. However, the first three cities had stopped because of decreasing income from the Ban’ei races.
The weight the horses pull up the ramps vary depending on their sex and age. Mares and younger horses pull lighter sledges compared to stallions or geldings. Additionally, other factors like the horse’s group and their rating. The rating depends on how much they have earned in competitions.
Ban’ei group system is similar to Japanese Thoroughbred racing. The groups are labelled from 1 to 26. The ratings attached to these groups in order of decreasing winnings are:
However, the weight the horses have to carry does not only depend on their group and rating. This is because if the jockey weighs less than the required 75 kgs, slabs are added to meet the required weight. This means that the horse will carry more than the weight already determined by their group and rating.
The Race Track of Draft Races
Japan draft races are typically done in a dirt track with ropes placed in the sand to separate ten lanes for the ten horses competing. The horses are placed in starting gates before the match starts. They will have to go up two hill-shaped sand obstacles where the second hill is steeper than the first. The steeper hill is called the Ban’ei Point.
Horses are allowed to rest after they overcome the first hill before continuing on. The race is not considered to be finished until the entire sledge has been pulled past the finish line.
Since the racetrack is made of sand, water is often poured onto it to make the ground firmer. This also makes it easier to prevent additional dust from flying during the race and irritating horses and the jockeys. A heating system is also installed in the tracks for a more comfortable racing experience for the horses.
Common Breed Used in Draft Races
Ban’ei racing tends to use draft horses because of their ability to carry heavier weights. They have large muscles and they are taller than most horses.
Horses that compete in Ban’ei racing often comes from draft horses raised for their meat. They are inspected if they are fit for draft racing when they are two years old every April and August. Horses that do not pass inspection are sent back to their breeder to be used for their meat, events, or tourism.
While it may be obvious that draft horses are the main type used in this kind of race, there are horse breeds in particular used for draft racing. These are purebred or crossbred variations of various draft breeds that make up the Japanese draft horse.
The eight draft breeds used to create the Japanese draft horse breed are the following: Percheron, Belgian, Breton, Clydesdale, Shire, Boulonnais, Brabançon, and Ardennes.
- Percheron → They are muscled draft horses known for their willingness to work. They usually have a grey or black colour for their coat. These horses originated from France.
- Belgian → The Belgian horse is also known as the Belgian Heavy Horse. This is because they usually weigh over 900 kilograms or 2,000 pounds. They are known to be one of the strongest draft breeds. They generally have light chestnut coat colour and a pale yellow colour for their mane and tail.
- Breton → The Breton horse is a crossbreed of a lot of European and Oriental breeds. They are known for their chestnut coat colour and have a variety of colours for their mane and tail. They are often used for farm work, military, and to produce other draft breeds and mules.
- Clydesdale → These horses came from Scotland where they are often used for farm work. They are known for their white markings across their bay coloured coat.
- Shire → These horses are a tall breed of draft horses from England. They are known to have held the world record for being the largest and tallest horse breed in the world. They are identified by their bay, black, brown, or grey coat colour.
- Boulonnais → The Boulonnais horse is also known as the White Marble Horse. This is because their coat is often a light grey colour. There are chestnut and black coloured Boulonnais horses though.
- Brabançon → The Brabançon horse is considered to be one of the strongest draft breeds in the world. They often have a light chestnut coat colour with pale yellow mane and tail.
- Ardennes → The Ardennes is one of the oldest draft horse breeds in the world. This is because they are found to have existed in Ancient Rome. They are broad and muscular with short and sturdy legs. Their coats are usually bay, roan, chestnut, or palomino in colour.
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