A farm taking care of retired racehorses in Hokkaido, northern Japan, has set up a fan club to help realize a sustainable system to look after the animals in their twilight years.
While some retired racehorses get a new lease of life as stud horses or riding horses, many are slaughtered. Takafumi Iwasaki, 27, who runs a racehorse farm, established in spring a separate farm dedicated to retired racehorses in Hidaka.
"I wanted to save as many racehorses as I can and let them spend the rest of their lives in peace," Iwasaki said as a reason for starting Versaille Resort Farm.
About 20 retired racehorses, including Japan Racing Association Grade 1 five-time winner Taiki Shuttle and G1 two-time winner Rose Kingdom, are kept at the farm.
Many racehorse owners have inquired about whether they can leave their horses with the farm, Iwasaki said, but the high cost has been a source of anxiety. At least 80,000 yen ($735) per month is needed for expenses such as food, healthcare, lighting and heating.
There is financial aid from horse-racing authorities for keeping retired racehorses that won major races, but this is limited to 20,000 yen per month. The fan club was launched in June to involve fans of horse-racing in this effort, but for retired racehorses in general.
The fan club asks members to donate 2,000 to 10,000 yen per month. In return, members will receive e-mails updating them about the lives of the horses and an opportunity to interact with them when they visit the farm.
There are a total of about 160 fans from both inside and outside Hokkaido, many of them women in their 30s to 50s, Iwasaki said. "I want to find the best way to satisfy the fans and continue to contribute to the region as well."
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