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Tokyo 2020 Olympics Equestrian Update By Western World Saddlery Clothing Equipment Caboolture

2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics is set to be HOT, HOT, HOT

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics is set to be HOT, HOT, HOT for all concerned – but horses may suffer the most 

The Ready Steady Tokyo test equestrian event in August went down a treat with past Olympian winner Michael Jung and other contestants, but participants’ concerns about the heat and humidity didn’t go unnoticed. Melissa Gibson, co-owner of Australia's leading country outfitters, Western World Saddlery and Saddleworld Caboolture, explains the effects of extreme temperatures on horses and what counter-measures can be expected at next year’s summer Games. 

Acting as a dress rehearsal to the real McCoy, many of the world’s top riders jumped at the opportunity to sound out facilities at two venues, Sea Forest Cross-Country Course and the recently refurbished Equestrian Park at Baji Koen. By all accounts, the event was a rip-roaring success. 

Set in a spectacular public green space in the city’s Heritage Zone, the latter is one of many original 1964 venues revamped for 2020, in line with the city’s commitment to a 50% pre-existing venues quota. The cross country course runs over reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay and was created by acclaimed US course designer, Derek di Grazia. 

“Everybody, from gold medal winner Jung to the spectators, only had positive things to say about the facilities and courses, but there were concerns about the hot weather and its effect on horses and riders,” Melissa says. “While 1964’s Games were held mid-October during autumn, next year’s event starts at the end of July – and it will probably be brutal.”

While the organisers have been taking advice from other hot host cities like  Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), Japan’s recent record-breaking temperatures, and 57 heat-related deaths in the country from 29 July to 4 August this year must be keeping them up at night. Although measures to battle the heat in Olympic equestrian competition is nothing new, and water misters were first seen in 1996 at Atlanta, there’s no doubt that temperatures, and concerns, have risen. 

Cooling down measures evaluated at a beach volleyball event in July include mist sprays, shaded resting areas and ice packs for spectators. Organisers also believe resin-based, infrared-reflecting paving for the 42 km marathon course and other major roads will lower the surface temperature by as much as 8˚ C. 

Keeping the roughly 200 animals taking part in the Olympics cool is critical, as a rider could be forced to retire due to the condition of a horse. After completing the cross-country section, or instance, the heart rate, body temperature and other vitals of the horse are checked. It is not uncommon for even top riders to be eliminated from the competition at this stage.

 “Horses are up there with humans as one of the sweatiest in the animal kingdom, and like us, show signs of heat exhaustion. Their body temperature is roughly two degrees higher than ours, but a tough 6km cross-country course can push it beyond 40˚ C,” she explains. “

They will have to work hard on the course and in the arena, but back at the (air-conditioned) stables, competing horses can expect nothing less than state-of-the-art, and will have every resource and technology thrown at making their stay as comfortable as possible. “There were no complaints about the horses’ facilities, Melissa laughs. “The riders will have to make do with much less lavish accommodation at the athlete’s village.” 

Events are scheduled to avoid the midday sun and high humidity, either early morning or in the evening, with cross-country starting at 8.30 am. Also planned for Tokyo 2020 is the installation of large tents with giant fans and water misters to create a workable environment for horses and riders.

Melissa feels it would be a shame if the stunning facelift the 1964 Equestrian Centre was given and the beauty of the bay-side cross-country route is overshadowed by unbearable conditions. “The world has certainly become a hotter place in the last 20-odd years,” she notes, “But the organisers realise this and seem to have upped the game.” 

If you require Horse Riding Equipment, Western Saddlery, Horse Supplies, Saddles, Horse Rugs for Sale, Western World Saddlery, Australian, English Saddlery, Western Show Clothing, in Caboolture, Brisbane, Australia or anything equine then go no further than the expert team at Western World Saddlery in Caboolture or call (07) 5428 1564.

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