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MAY 2011 THE RIDER /69 Ride a Horse and Raise Money for Japanese Relief

“Approximately 150,000 residents must leave their homes because of rising radia- tion levels.” That was what Takayuki Yamazawa heard on the radio before he headed down to the barn where 20 hun- gry horses were waiting to be fed. Today, instead of feeling disheartened by the news of this most recent disaster in a string of tragedies that have devastat- ed his island, he has hope. Hope that Japan would survive its largest crisis and that he could help.

When Mr. Yamazawa left his home in Kashiwa City last November for a year in Cana- da, he had no idea that he was going to be spared from immi- nent disasters—earthquakes, tsunamis and widespread nucle- ar contamination. This 29-year- old equestrian coach came here on a working holiday visa to improve his riding, teaching and English, just in time to take in the 2010 Royal Winter Fair. Months went by and he settled into a routine at Country Hill Equestrian Centre, just east of Stouffville. He soon became a popular member of the team who taught, trained and tended to the needs of the horses that resided on its 30-acres.

“Everything was going well for me, and I was really happy until I heard news of the earthquake hitting Japan on March 11th and the first thing I could think of was to contact my family and find out how

As a certified instructor, Mr. Yamazawa has taught both dressage and jumping at the Mito Riding Club, has been a trainer at the Fuji Horse Riding Club and has acted as a guide leading horse treks through Yamato Horse Riding Park. “He is an expert horseman and has exceptional talent with young horses and riders,” says Ms Fremes, adding “he also has a wicked sense of humour and keeps us all laughing. He told me that he needs some students who speak Japanese—or even ones who want to learn it— because he is getting a little rusty. The only Japanese he’s spoken since arriving in Canada is ordering takeout sushi!” If any readers would like to help Japan by learning to ride, they can set up a riding lesson by contacting Mr. Yamazawa directly by emailing, or visit the farm website or by calling the office (905) 642- 2642.

Taka has painted an emblem on his saddle pad combining the Japanese and Canadian flag. On his polo shirt is “Pray for Japan,” and now he is donating his income as a riding coach to help his homeland.

thought that this would be it, but bad things kept happening in Japan and I began to feel very uneasy, even guilty, that I was safe,” he said. “Then I got an

raise money, then I could do something too. It didn’t take that long for my employer and me to come up with a plan. I will donate money for my fee for services as a coach and trainer to anyone I teach—from beginner to advanced—to the Canadian Red Cross. I know there are a lot of people who would like to help my country, Canadians but also Japanese visiting here, like me. By taking a riding lesson, knowing that my fee will be donated to help people who are really desperate and displaced from their homes, I think is a great idea. And it’s a way that I can help my country by doing what I do best—teach- ing people to ride a horse.” “I am happy to help Taka and Japan,” said Kathy Fremes, owner-manager and coach at Country Hill, an equestrian cen- tre she has run for over 20 years. “We’re a pretty tight team here, and I could tell Taka was worried about his home- land.”

Takayuki Yamazawa onboard one of Country Hill Equestrian Centre’s favourite school horses, Miss Chocolat!

they were. I was lucky enough to get through by telephone and was assured that my parents and brother were all fine, but getting in touch with my friends proved to be difficult,” said Mr. Yamazawa. “When the first tsunami hit so many people were trying to locate their loved ones that all lines of communi- cations were down. It took me days to get information, but in the end the news was good. “After the first disaster I

idea. My Canadian coach Jessi- ca Phoenix, who is on the Cana- dian Eventing Team, offered a one- day clinic for riders through a successful on-line auction, Horses for Japan, orga- nized by Morag and Selena O’Hanlon of O’Hanlon Event- ing. Jessica was just one of many talented equestrians who donated their fees to the Canadi- an Red Cross Earthquake Fund. “I thought that if Canadian horse people could do this and

‘The Canadian Red Cross has already raised $5-million and sent it to the Japanese Red Cross, so our country has extended a helping hand and Taka can too. Setting up a pro- gram that helps raise funds for relief seems like the least we could do while the crisis contin- ues. Today, I heard about aban- doned animals near the reac- tor—cows roaming free, eating contaminated grass—and I thought of how lucky and safe we are here at Country Hill. “I also have a special place in my heart for the people of Japan because since 1996 I have hosted young people from this country and have made many friends. They come to my farm to learn riding, experience liv- ing in the Canadian countryside and improve their English. Stouffville is ‘Country close to the City,’ so it’s easy for them to get here from Toronto and they have come in droves over the years. Many have stayed in touch when they go home, and I worry about their future too.”

For more information con- tact: Kathy Fremes @ (905)

642-2642, Kathy.fremes@sym-

Mr. Yamazawa loves horses and his homeland and is raising money for the Canadian Red Cross Japanese Relief Fund by doing what he does best—teaching horseback riding at Country Hill Equestrian Centre in Stouffville, Ont.

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