The native Japanese Kisouma (Kiso horse) can be found at the Kisouma no Sato (home of the Kiso horse) in Kaida Highlands. Other types of native Japanese horses include Dosanko from Hokkaido and Misakiuma from Miyazaki Prefecture.
Kisouma are marched through villages to give thanks for a bountiful harvest of grain during the Tadachi Hanauma Festival in Nagiso Town. (protected species in Nagano Prefecture)
Kisouma have been owned in Japan since olden times. They are called Japan’s native horse or Japanese species. The horse is mid-sized, and the average body height is 133 cm.
Bred and raised in the severe environment of cold mountains over many years, the Kisouma is very robust and can live on simple diet. Its hooves are so hard that it does not need to be horseshod.
Kisouma can steadily climb up and down narrow and steep mountain trails with their sturdy, stable legs.
Kisouma have been raised for military and agricultural purposes since the Heian period (the 8th-12th century).
Points of Interest
Some 30 horses are protected and fed in Kisouma no Sato Park Horse Riding Center.
You can ride a horse and a horse cart in the park. The Kisouma is small in size with a gentle personality, so children two years and older can experience leading a horse.
The Kaida Local Museum displays horse tack and books for horse doctors, fitting for Kaida Highlands, the home of Kisouma. Old farm tools and furniture are also displayed.
Takeru Nakagawa, from Kisouma-noSato Park Horse Riding Center
We interviewed Mr. Takeru Nakagawa. He works for Kisouma-no-Sato Park Horse Riding Center.
“People traveled mainly on the Tosando Road, and then the Nakasendo Road became crowded. That’s why the Kaida area has been developing. Horses have been kept here for 900 years. People used to make a living by growing crops with farmyard manure and selling horses.
People and Kisouma living here together is part of this area's history. Horses are like family,” said Mr. Nakagawa.
“Do you know horse therapy? It is a kind of animal therapy. From the standpoint that emotional healing can lead to diseases being treated, having patients feel relief and trust that only animals can offer is by itself a therapy. Because the Kisouma is faithful to its master and gentle-natured, I think it’s well suited for horse therapy. I’m always being healed.”
I think we found the reason behind Mr. Nakagawa having a gentle air about him.
At the ranch
He guided us around the ranch.
“For someone who rides a large horse, a Kisouma is difficult to deal with. However, a short horse makes you feel secure. Some people want to keep one as a pet. Each family in this area had several horses 50 years ago.
Horse therapy is not common in Japan, but seems to be in foreign countries. Having horses can make you feel a bit like a celebrity. *laughs*
The Kisouma is both a domesticated animal and a protected species, which is rare.
I think our 35 horses alone are the culture of Kiso that is being forgotten.
To let local people become familiar with Kisouma, we organize a race with horses at the primary school. I wish to have more opportunities to communicate with children so that we pass down the culture of Kiso to them.
Mr. Nakagawa and Kisouma
The spot with the best view in the entire ranch
I think it’s important to preserve Kisouma in a natural environment.
Preserving Kisouma requires money. We sell postcards and souvenirs featuring horses and collect donations to preserve Kisouma.
Horse riding experiences are available year-round in this center. I work even on New Year holidays. Visit us anytime!”
He is always ready to welcome you with a gentle smile in Kisouma no Sato Park.
Kisouma-noSato Park Horse Riding Center offers horse rides with a lovable Kisouma. Enjoy the view of grand Mt. Ontake and the landscape as you ride.
From the closest station & interchange
From Kisofukushima Station on the JR Chuo Line
40 minutes by car
From the Ina Interchange on the Chuo Expressway
National road 361, 60 minutes by car
From the Shiojiri Interchange on Nagano Expressway
National road 19, 60 minutes by car
Kisouma-no-Sato Park Horse Riding Center
Suekawa, Kaidakogen, Kiso Town, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
The Kaida Local Museum
1899-4 Suekawa, Kaidakogen, Kiso Town, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture