Can athletes, horses and vaulters handle heat waves at Championships?

The answer would be yes, because they have done it at Ebreichsdorf this year for the Junior Worlds and Senior Europeans.

Human can surely hydrate themselves, stay in the shade and organize their training according to the time of day he has to run into the competition arena. But what about the horses? They are surrounded and taken care of by horse people, but some of them might just not be able to handle so much heat. Would it have been possible to have a very early start of the competition with a long break during midday and a finish later in the evening, when temperatures are lower? And what about the judges sitting down all day long, they could have had a heat stroke, couldn’t they?

We asked Nienke de Wolff what she thought of the weather situation, and she definitely thinks that it is possible to train and compete, provided that the humans care for their horses. She said: “Vaulters should cool the horses with water all the time, during training and during the warm-up, and also right before the start. I was glad to see some horses with wet towels around their neck to cool down the horse right before they had to enter the competition arena. On the other hand, there were also teams training during the hottest time of the day, on their day off. Even though it was pretty hot and muggy in the competition arena, it was possible to compete there for a few minutes. Fortunately, the warm-up arena was much better.”

French championships also took place under severe heat these last years. The arena in Le Mans, well-known for hosting Worlds and Europeans, gets so hot during the day that you are better off competing at 8:00 AM. Sometimes you wonder whether any throught went into the building of the arena. It may be expensive, but a way to get a wind draft into such a big covered place must have been possible…

Judge Pavla Krauspe told us her point of view when asked about the heat wave, the hot and muggy arena in Ebreichsdorf: “It was hot, it is true that not every judge is in condition to survive these temperatures without affect. In Ebreichsdorf we had a case when a judge got sick of such a high temperature and needed to be replaced by other judges. In really hot days I felt like I was going to melt there.” She also said no specific rule exists concerning so much heat, and added: “It never happened. On championships there is a reserve judge invited in case one of the judges is unable to attend. These rules do not cover the unusual case that a judge is there but cannot judge. Right now the President of the Ground Jury and Technical delegate are the decision makers in such cases. It would be helpful if the committee would make a rule or some guidelines for such cases.”

What about other equestrian sports? Other disciplines such as dressage and show jumping and obviously cross-country take place outdoors. Maybe vaulting could try the same, but we would need to think about our judges who might suffer more from the sun. Regarding horse racing, some races were cancelled due to too high temperatures in France at the end of June if I am not mistaken. But they were rescheduled a few days later. In terms of organization, it would be a bit difficult to cancel and reschedule a World Championship!

To keep your horse cool, take a look at these 10 tips.

Charlotte Rimaud

I am an Irish vaulter, becoming a judge but I am also French and live in Paris where I work for a horse racing daily newspaper. I am also the author and owner of the blog vltg.fr .