By TATSUO KANAI/ Staff Writer
March 1, 2020 at 07:20 JST
TOSA-SHIMIZU, Kochi Prefecture—A horse that was once destined to be served on dinner tables is now trying to pull her weight in the tourism industry.
Yumiko, a mare, is expected to haul tourist carriages in Tosa-Shimizu city, according to Emi Miyazaki, 61, head of a nonprofit organization that offers lifetime support to retired racehorses.
“I want Yumiko to enjoy her new life with carriage passengers who visit here for sightseeing,” Miyazaki said.
Under the plan, tourists can ride on a horse-drawn carriage and learn how Yumiko ended up with the job.
Yumiko, a Breton breed, is 6 years old, or twentysomething in human years. The horse species originated in France, and an adult weighs more than 1 ton, twice as much as a thoroughbred.
The breed has been bred for meat and also used for Banei horse-drawn sled racing in Hokkaido.
Yumiko’s current home is a stock farm in a forest in the neighboring town of Otsuki, Kochi Prefecture.
Miyazaki had never seen a Breton horse before meeting Yumiko at the stock farm, which started caring for the animal six years ago.
Miyazaki was impressed by Yumiko’s friendly and gentle nature. She repeatedly returned to the farm to watch Yumiko.
Last autumn, Miyazaki learned that the aging farm owner decided to close the ranch, and that Yumiko, the last animal on the farm, would be put up for auction for her meat in January.
Miyazaki decided to buy Yumiko with the aim of “providing more places where horses can continue working so they will not be killed.”
Initial costs to buy Yumiko, set up a new stable and prepare other things totaled 5 million yen ($45,600). Miyazaki also needed monthly expenses to feed the large horse.
To cover the costs, Miyazaki proposed a plan to use Yumiko for tourism promotion. She collected 4 million yen in donations from 347 individuals nationwide on the internet in one month, allowing her to buy Yumiko.
The horse was sent to a farm in Makubetsu, Hokkaido, in late January for carriage-drawing training.
Following the two-month education program and the installation of a stable in Tosa-Shimizu, Yumiko is expected to return to Kochi Prefecture and run on a practice course in April at the earliest.
The carriage, with a maximum capacity of 10 passengers, will feature camellia, the flower of Tosa-Shimizu.
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