• Christine Keate

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)

· Air-conditioning

· 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


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