A white New Zealand horse, formerly a hunter, clerk of the course mount and star of parades and television commercials has had a complete change of lifestyle. Formerly known as Ash, he is the fourth white Kiwi equine to be sent to Japan as a gift of friendship from the Government and people of New Zealand to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine and the people of Japan.

There has been a New Zealand white horse at the Shrine since 1964. His new name, Kotuku, means “Rare and Sacred Visitor.” He was owned by John Lozell and for a number of years he was used as a Clerk of the Course horse at Ellerslie, Avondale, Counties Racing Club and Alexandra Park. He has led many famous racehorses back to scale and has caught many a runaway riderless horse in his time. Ironically, whilst he was performing his duties at the races, John was often asked by Japanese tourists if they could take a photo of themselves with “the white horse”.

Ash in his role as John Lozell's hunter with the Pakuranga Hunt

Ash in his role as John Lozell’s hunter with the Pakuranga Hunt

In winter Ash was also one of John’s main hunters. Due to his laid back nature, Ash was used on a number of occasions in promotional work, including parading down Queen Street in Auckland and being a flag bearer in Alexandra Park’s “Farewell to Lyall Creek” when the champion trotter went to race in America.

He was also often used in television commercials when a sensible, handsome grey horse was required. John Clydesdale, former International Director of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, provided advice and practical assistance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to source the White Horse, while COSCO (New Zealand) Ltd kindly shipped him to Japan free of charge.

The shipment was handled and co-ordinated by Sea Horse Sea Freight. Kotuku left from Auckland’s Ferguson Wharf in September, he traveling to Japan on board a container ship in one of Sea Horse Sea Freight’s custom-made horse containers, accompanied by Sea Horse Sea Freight groom Kevin Ryan.

Once on board the ship, all partitions were removed from the container and a thick bed of sawdust laid on the floor to create a “home away from home” for Ash during the 12 day trip to Yokohama where underwent 10 days post-arrival quarantine before being moved to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine.

Nikko is a short train ride north of Tokyo and is nestled in the mountains. Toshogu Shrine is set in a grove of magnificent ancient Japanese cedars planted over a 20-year period during the 1600s by a feudal lord named Matsudaira Masatsuna. Some 13,000 of the original trees are still standing, adding a sense of dignity to the mausoleum and the shrine.

The Shinkyu was constructed in 1636 and remains in its original condition, although it’s partitioning and its transom have been slightly altered. This structure represents the type of stable found in Shoin-zukuri, the typical architectural style for residences of feudal lords. It is the only unpainted bare wood construction among all of the buildings of Toshogu and it is the largest extant horse stable constructed at that time.