HORSES that competed at the Ready Steady Tokyo Test Event in August, in general, coped extremely well with the conditions in Tokyo for the duration of that test event, says a report published by the FEI this week.
Held at the same time of year as the Olympic Games will be next year, the study, commissioned by the FEI, was aimed at identifying best management of horses training and competing in hot and humid environments. Horses were monitored before and during the event.
Conditions during the test event were in the region of 32-33°C and the report confirms that on cross-country day (August 13th last), the heat, steep initial climb and sharp turns on the course produced a significant challenge for competing horses.
Heart rates during cross-country, and blood lactate, plus heart rate and rectal temperature after cross-country indicated that horses were working at close to maximal capacity.
The report suggests that the start time of the cross-country phase should be brought forward in order to avoid the hottest period of the day, as well as a possible length reduction of the 10-minute course.
“All possibilities must be explored to mitigate the effects of the likely climatic conditions, including reduction in distance appropriate for the conditions and bringing the cross-country start time forward to avoid the highest WBGT (Wet Bulb Globe Thermometer eg, heat) conditions that would normally peak between late morning and mid-afternoon,” the report highlights.
Following discussions between the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG), the IOC and the FEI, consensus has been reached on advancing the cross-country start time to either 07.30 or 08.00 on August 2nd 2020 as part of the heat countermeasures.
A final decision on the move will be made by the IOC Executive Board.
“We have worked very closely with TOCOG to put in place the best possible heat countermeasures for both our equine and human athletes for Tokyo 2020, and the findings in this important research study will play a crucial role in guiding final decisions on appropriate facilities and support,” FEI veterinary director Göran Akerström said.
“The report will also be a valuable tool for athletes and National Federations as they prepare their horses in the build-up to and during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”