Olympics 2020 – how are the horses keeping cool?
Charlotte Dujardin and Gio make their Olympic debut © FEI
The FEI has been working on minimising the impact of heat and humidity on performance since before the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games and, the work on Tokyo 2020 is a continuation of that. At both equestrian sites there are many measures in place to help keep the stars of the show comfortable:
All stables are air conditioned
Equine cooling facilities include, shade tents, cold misting fans, unlimited ice and water; with the horses are under the constant watchful eye of the veterinary team
Training and competitions times are scheduled to take place early morning and in the evening under floodlights, with specific climate mitigation protocols for training and warm-up and during competition.
Horses in work are monitored using thermal imaging cameras. This enables body temperature to be estimated accurately from a distance of 5-10 metres so, not interfering with the athletes and helping with early identification of horses at potential risk of overheating, allowing timely interventions such as rapid cooling during training and warm-up and prior to competing.
On the cross-country course this also enables mobile cooling units, which are available during warm up and at all equestrian arenas, to be employed to provide rapid cooling wherever and whenever needed.
Weather and climatic conditions are constantly monitored, including using the Web Bulb Glove Temperature (WBGT) index (who knew there was such a thing?) – it measures heat stress in direct sunlight and, takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover (solar radiation) – this will be updated every 15 minutes during the cross-country phase.
Monitoring horses in work using thermal imaging cameras at Tokyo 2020 © FEI
Stable manager Patrick Borg is justly proud of the equine accommodation at Baji Koen, he says: “We can compare the stables in Tokyo with the Ritz in Paris. It’s five-star stabling for the horses. We try to do the very best for them.”
A few stats about the equine facilities:
Baji Koen stables:
· 333 stalls (4x3 metres)
· Rubber matting throughout
· Washing & drying machines
· Unlimited supplies of ice and water
Heat countermeasures in place onsite at both equestrian venues for humans:
· Provision of shade, special cooling tents/areas (including cold misting fans) for athletes and entourage
· Facilities and measures for officials/volunteers including rest periods, shade and rest areas, water etc