I recently watched the Icelandic movie "Of Horses and Men." It was a very impressive movie in which sometimes unexpected and at times surprising episodes involving people living in the bleak landscape of Iceland unfold side by side with the country's distinctive Icelandic horses. These horses are famous for having five different gaits: namely, the walk, trot, canter, tolt, and pace. Of these, the tolt marks a 4-beat rhythm in which the horse moves both its front and hind legs on the same side simultaneously, lifting its front legs high as it runs. It is thought that the horses likely acquired the tolt gait by virtue of inhabiting an environment covered by muddy volcanoes, and it's a movement that probably many people have never seen before. The film's opening scene offers an opportunity to truly enjoy the beautiful movement. I think the film is worth watching if only for the scenes of horses performing the tolt as they run.
This issue kicks off with "Reintroducing Przewalski's Horses to the Wild: The Current Situation and Issues" by Yu YOSHIHARA et al. Przewalski's horse is an animal that was first introduced to Western world after being discovered on the grasslands of Mongolia in 1878 by the Russian explorer Colonel Nikolai Przhevalsky. After that, many individual horses were captured and have been raised at zoos and the like all over the world, but they have not been seen on the Mongolian grasslands since 1969 and are thought to have become extinct in the wild. In 1992 a project was launched to return Przewalski's horses to their native Mongolian grasslands and restore their natural population in the wild. The number of horses is currently increasing in national zoos, and they have now become capable of maintaining their herd in a sustainable fashion. Yoshihara and his colleagues, who advocate returning the Przewalski's horses to the Eurasian Steppe as a whole, analyze in detail the current situation and the problems being faced.
For the second piece, "Equine Comings & Goings" features "Defunct Okinawan 'Uma-Harase' Horse Racing and its Revival" by Harumitsu UMEZAKI. Alongside his busy job as a horse racing reporter for a sports newspaper, Umezaki frequently visits Okinawa. He is the one who researched Okinawan "Uma-Harase," a style of horse racing that was almost buried in the annals of history, and shone a light on its cultural value. Last year, "Uma-Harase" was put on in Okinawa for the first time in 70 years, marking a welcome comeback. To say that the book Umezaki wrote, "Defunct Okinawan 'Uma-Harase,' Chasing After the Fantastic and Famous Horse 'Hikoki'" (published by Borderink) served as the catalyst for that revival would be no exaggeration. Umezaki summarizes the history of the development of the globally unique Okinawan "Uma-Harase," its rise and fall, and its revival, all in an easily digestible way.
For the third article, we have "Equine Affairs on Jeju Island, Korea: Report of Visit to Jeju Race Park and the Korea Polo Country Club," contributed by Kora IWATA. A huge horse fan, Iwata also contributed to Hippophile No. 56, so many of you may be familiar with him. Iwate traveled to Jeju Island and actually practiced polo at the local polo club. The sequence of stick and ball sequence he summarizes in a chart lets us see the relation to other equine sports, offering a very interesting perspective.
The honor of closing out this issue goes to "Akhal-Teke and Horse Racing in Turkmenistan" by Atsushi HIRAGA. Hiraga was invited to the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan in his capacity as an expert in equine exercise physiology, and while he was there he gave a lecture about the management techniques used for Japanese race horses. He graciously provided a report on what he saw and heard there regarding the legendary Akhal-Teke and Turkmenistan horse racing. The numerous beautiful photos make us want to travel to Turkmenistan.
While this issue contains only four articles, I believe you will find each one to be highly unique and well worth reading.
(Editor-in-chief Ryo Kusunose)