Boyd’s Japan Diaries: A Day in Hokkaido

Between the two three-day clinics, Yasuko from Godolphin was kind enough to zip us up to Sapporo, in Hokkaido. I’ve been there 18 years ago when I had a job breaking in horses, so it’s the second time I’ve been there. Hokkaido is famous for having the most open space in Japan and it seems that all of the Thoroughbred breeding and equestrian businesses get started up there. The first stop was Godolphin’s training center where we saw all the yearlings that have been started, and are in training for racing next year.

The head trainer William Balding was there and they have about 50 yearlings that have been in training for about three weeks. I was impressed with the horsemanship and care of the horses, obviously they’re some of the top bred horses in the country. They went out in sets of about 15 and all the riders really took their time, got them started at walk and trot in the arena and then on to the track for a canter. I was pretty impressed with the facilities there and the attention to detail by William. Obviously a trainer of his stature is in charge of millions of dollars’ worth of horses and every attention was paid to their grooming, training, cooling out and care. After only three weeks of work the horses looked confident and comfortable in their job.

The indoor gallop, still under construction but almost finished, is nearly a mile long, going uphill. It’s a wood chip track and apparently comes in very handy when the weather gets bad in winter. They also have a 500 meter indoor circular track so this will be good for working on their cardio, with the longer distance and the hill.

Next stop was the Shadai Stallion Station. It’s a real honor and privilege to visit Shadai, I understand it’s generally not open to the public but being a guest of Yasuko I was fortunate to go in and see some of the most valuable stallions in the world. Deep Impact is their most famous at the moment and stands around $400k a pop. He is covering four of five mares a day in the middle of the season. He’s so valuable he has his own stable block, with 24-hour security going wherever he goes. We also saw a couple of the other stallions like Lord Kanaloa and Orfevre.

Lord Kanaloa


At the gates to Shadai Stallion Station. What an honor to go in and see these magnificent stallions.

Deep Impact

Deep Impact

Next stop was the Godolphin breeding farm with thousands of acres of barns and pastures for mares and weanlings and foals. It was breathtaking: the facility, quality of fields, fencing and stables, and the care of the horses. And the last stop was Northern Farm which is the biggest equestrian operation in Japan. They also have a mile-long indoor gallop and are building a massive indoor circular track. An unbelievable number of horses are worked there every day and it’s amazing the amount of money poured into Thoroughbred horses here in Japan.

Tonight we fly right down to the bottom of Japan to start the last three days of the tour, where we’re working with about 20 horses starting their careers in eventing. I’ll post a few photos on social media and update the blog in a couple of days, so be sure to check back for more.



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  1. Cynthia Lawler says

    Awesome Blog Boyd

    So Cool To Be Able To Follow Your Adventure

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