Session 2: Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games

15 April 2019
15 April 2019 Author: fei

Tim Hadaway, FEI Director of Games Operations, opened the day’s second session focused on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games with an update on construction work at the two equestrian venues, Baji Koen and Sea Forest, and plans for the Ready Steady Tokyo test event (12-14 August 2019). He also talked about the potential challenges posed by climatic conditions in Tokyo, including analysis of historical weather data combined with data collected at the venues over the past two years, as well as an outline of what mitigation measures are already in place and what is being planned.

FEI climate specialist Dr David Marlin and Chair of the FEI Medical Committee Dr Peter Whitehead spoke in greater detail on ways to prevent potential heat-related issues and how to optimise performance in the equine and human athlete, as well as how these measures will also be useful for officials and spectators.

Following British veterinarian Dr Rachel Murray’s brief on optimal warm-up techniques, Chair of the FEI Eventing Committee David O’Connor provided an insight into how Eventing is constantly fine-tuning its approach to competition in challenging climates. FEI Veterinary Chair Dr Jenny Hall advised delegates on what additional measures would be in place to ensure horse welfare and the study that would be made at the test event, and this was followed by a panel discussion involving representatives from each of the disciplines: Kyra Kyrklund (FIN) for Dressage, Göran "Yogi" Breisner (SWE), Henrik Ankarcrona (SWE) for Jumping and Joyce Heuitink (NED) for Para Dressage.

See below for more on this session.

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15 April 2019, 11:00 - 12:30
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Following a whirlwind visual tour of the Tokyo 2020 equestrian sites, Tim Hadaway spoke about the creation of the FEI Climate Mitigation Working Group and the work being done with the individual discipline committees on potential additional mitigation measures. He spoke about the air-conditioned stables, multiple cooling facilities and mobile cooling units that will be provided by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, as well as competition scheduling for early morning and evening sessions. The national weather agency will also provide very specific venue weather predictions and reports, delivering on-venue monitoring and advice on an hourly basis. Delegates were reminded of the National Federation advisory document available on the FEI website:

Dr David Marlin talked about the ongoing FEI research programme that has been in place since the Barcelona 1992 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with new cooling protocols introduced for Atlanta 1996. Trigger points for when mitigation processes need to be implemented based on the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) are constantly being refined. Talking about the preparations for Tokyo 2020, he said: “I believe that this is the best the horse world has ever been prepared for the Olympic Games”.

A key message reiterated by all speakers was that thermal stress is likely to result in reduced performance. The effects of heat and humidity are cumulative, both on horses and on all humans. “If teams don’t prepare properly then horses and riders may suffer in their performance, but we want to stop them getting to the point where their health and welfare is compromised”, David Marlin said.

Dr Rachel Murray, veterinarian and scientist at the Animal Health Trust, spoke about the threshold of intensity versus performance and how increased intensity during warm-up in a challenging climate can result in decreased performance.

As body temperature increases more rapidly in hot climates, Dr Murray recommended a reduced duration and intensity of training/warm-up, splitting up the session into 3 x 15 minutes versus 45 minute, interspersed with cooling and rehydration. She stressed that cooling in the warm-up does not mean the horse’s muscles will become cold. She also recommended rest periods in shade and pre-cooling prior to exercise, in addition to ongoing monitoring and assessment of the horse.

David O’Connor, Chair of the FEI Eventing Committee, spoke about the lessons learned before and since Atlanta, “the hottest Olympic Games we’ve had”. He urged National Federations to get the message back to their trainers and the athletes about the importance of preparation and understanding cooling techniques, particularly pre-cooling, which a lot of countries would not be used to.

He also stressed the importance of hydration. “If you’re thirsty you’re already late, you’re already behind your hydration pattern. The problem is with horses they don’t drink until they’re thirsty and so physically they’re always behind the curve. It is very important to monitor hydration. You can tell an athlete to rehydrate . . . but you can’t tell a horse that.”

Dr Jenny Hall spoke about a new concept, individual horse intervention, a formal protocol for support during post-travel recovery and training, which will be in place for Tokyo. This collaborative process, working with the horse’s own team, will provide the ultimate protection of horse and athlete health and welfare, with horses at exercise always being monitored.

There will be agreed triggers for intervention, which will include excessive sweating, increased respiration and general demeanour. Any required intervention, which will include moving a horse into shade to record the rectal temperature, heart rate and respiration and cooling if indicated, will be used to gather objective data. She also referenced best practice in relation to cooling, and the awareness and education programme that is already in place and which will be ramped up over the coming months.

Dr Peter Whitehead presented on optimising human performance in thermally challenging climates, but emphasised that it wasn’t just the athletes who could be affected by heat and humidity, but also the workforce. Acclimatisation applies to us all, both humans and horses, he stressed. “We’re all mammals and the principles are very similar.”

Health before travel is important, fitness and hydration are paramount, and this applies to everyone, not just to athletes. Dressing appropriately for the heat, maintaining hydration, eating well and sleeping in air conditioned rooms are also key.

The four discipline trainers also supported the need for awareness and working with athletes and their entourage from now on in their preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. And also the importance of monitoring. “It’s very important in the build-up, not just the last few weeks but right through, to get to know your horse as an individual, what is normal”, Yogi Breisner said. “Get the benchmark on your horses of what’s normal because if you know what’s normal then you can monitor the abnormalities.”


Presentations by

Tim Hadaway, FEI Director of Games Operations

Dr David Marlin, FEI climate specialist : Part 1 & Part 2

Rachel Murray, British Veterinarian 

Jenny Hall, Chair of FEI Veterinary Committee

Peter Whitehead, Chair of FEI Medical Committee


Supporting document

Speakers bios

Executive Summary Session 2 - Tokyo 2020