Creative touches appeared to cause culture shock for four-legged competitors in equestrian event.

The international nature of the Olympics means that visiting athletes aren’t just competing during the Games, but adapting to the host country’s culture as well. That doesn’t go for just the human competitors either, but the animal ones too, and that led to an issue during Equestrian Eventing earlier this week.

For those not familiar with the format, Eventing consists of three separate rounds for dressage, cross-country, and jumping. In order to add some local color, the Tokyo Olympics organizers designed special jumping obstacles with nods to traditional Japanese culture and aesthetics. One of the obstacles the horses have to jump over is styled like famous ukiyo-e woodblock print The Great Wave of Kanagawa, for example, while another has a cherry blossom motif.

But problems started occurring on Monday when horses got to the daruma obstacle.

Daruma are a type of round doll that also function as good luck charms. When bought new, they usually have blank spaces where the eyes should be. You make a wish or set a goal, paint in one eye, and then paint in the other once that dream becomes a reality.

But while daruma are a symbol of hope and success, the ones on the Jumping course seemed to unnerve the horses during the Equestrian Eventing Jumping Team Finals and Individual Qualifying rounds on Monday evening. An unusually large number of horses failed to clear the daruma obstacle, enough so that competitors and organizers began to think that the daruma’s appearance, with their brightly colored body and starkly contrasting oversized faces, were affecting the animals’ ability to perform.

▼ The on-screen graphic here shows that 26 of 44 horses were unable to make it cleanly trough the daruma section.

In Jumping a deduction is made to competitors’ scores when they fail to clear an obstacle, and with every horse running the same course one at a time, the unexpectedly difficult daruma obstacle wouldn’t necessarily affect the relative standings of the competitors. Still, a success rate below 50 percent wasn’t what organizers had in mind for their showcase of the world’s greatest equestrian stars, and so following the team finals and individual qualifiers the daruma decorations were removed and replaced with ones featuring Tokyo Olympics mascot character Miraitowa prior to the start of the Eventing Individual Jumping finals later that night.

Hopefully the horses will recover from the culture shock and find some pleasant surprises while in Japan too, like some of the humans in town for the Olympics have.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun Online via Golden Times
Top image: Pakutaso (1, 2) (edited by SoraNews24)
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