Team GBR elected to send two riders to the Ready Steady Tokyo test event in Japan, which took place from 12–14 August – Georgie Spence with her own and Suzanne Doggett's Halltown Harley, and William Fox-Pitt with Catherine Witt's Summer at Fernhill. The test event is run to give organisers a 'practice-run' for the actual Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next year, so they can test out all the facilities and logistics. It also gives nations a valuable opportunity to gather information they can use in their performance strategies over the next year. Here's what happened... 

Having undergone quarantine procedures at home, the journey to the test event began with the horses travelling from their home yards to Frankfurt in Germany, where they stayed the night before travelling to the airport stables. From there, they were loaded into the jet stalls, ready to be loaded onto the plane to Tokyo. Travelling with the horses on the plane was Team GBR groom Alex van Tuyll.

 

 

The horses arrived in Tokyo and were loaded onto an air-conditioned truck so they could be transported to the Japanese Racing Association's Equestrian Park in Baji Koen. The Team GBR support staff had arrived in Tokyo ahead of the horses so they could prepare the stables and ensure everything was ready. The facilities at Equestrian Park were very impressive, with air-conditioned stables, a high-tech weighbridge and extensive cooling stations to help the horses cope with the hot, humid climate.

 

 

 

The horses had a few days to settle in and acclimatise to their new environment before competition began. They enjoyed plenty of hand-grazing and some light exercise with Alex and Georgie, who arrived the day after the horses. There was also plenty of opportunities for a good snooze!

 

 

Attendance at the test event wasn’t just about being competitive – it offered a very valuable opportunity for Team GBR staff, riders and support teams to get a taste of what to expect at the Olympic Games next year. The  impact of the hot, humid climate in Tokyo is one area the team were keen to explore, so William and Georgie tested out team kit to see how it performed, and the horses were filmed with thermal imaging cameras to see the effects the temperatures had on their bodies.

 

 

 

The horses flew through the first horse inspection, expertly turned out by grooms Alex and Adam. The team then headed over to Sea Forest, where the cross-country course was now open for inspection. Designed by Derek di Grazia, this three-star course is not the same one that competitors will face next year, but is located on the same site an hour away from Equestrian Park.

 

 

 

Dressage day dawned bright and early, with the competition starting early to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Both horses and riders coped incredibly well with the heat and humidity, with Georgie and Harley going into seventh on 30.60, and William and Summer not far behind in ninth on 31.40. The horses were cooled down before going into the arena and afterwards, when there are also misting fans for them to stand under.

 

 

 

When the horses had recovered from dressage, it was time to load them - and all their kit! - into air-conditioned trucks and travel to Sea Forest for the next day’s cross-country phase.

 

 

 

 

Cross-country was another hot and humid day out on the Sea Forest cross-country course, but that didn’t stop both Team GBR riders putting in brilliant performances. Georgie and Harley flew round clear inside the time to go into sixth place, while William and Summer at Fernhill added just 3.2 time penalties to their dressage score to go into 10th. As at Equestrian Park, the facilities at Sea Forest were excellent, with shaded areas and cooling stations available for the horses before and after their rounds. The team staff also checked out the ground where Derek di Grazia is expected to build the Olympic course for next year so we can be prepared for what we might face.

 

Image: FEI / Yusuke Nakanishi

 

The next morning, back at Equestrian Park, Summer and Harley passed the final horse inspection. It was then time for the showjumping , which was took place in the main arena in the shadow of the half-built grandstand seating Both William and Summer, and Georgie and Harley pinged over the coloured poles to finish clear inside the time. William and Summer finished in 8th on 34.6, while Georgie and Harley stayed on their dressage of 30.6 to rise to 4th place, just .5 penalties off the podium.

 

 Image: FEI / Yusuke Nakanishi

Image: FEI / Yusuke Nakanishi

 

 

After a few days to rest and recuperate, it was time for the boys to start the long journey back to the UK, again under the watchful eye of Alex. They travelled in a truck to Narita airport, before being loaded onto the plane. 

 

A huge thank you must go to the Suzanne Doggett, owner of Halltown Harley, and Catherine Witt, owner of Summer at Fernhill, for allowing their horses to compete at the test event. Both owners travelled out to Tokyo to support their horses and the British riders, and played a vital role in the fact-finding mission out in Japan by providing feedback to the Team GBR staff about how we can best accommodate and provide for the owners who’ll be attending the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year.

 

 

To see our daily updates from the test event, including lots of photos from the team staff out there, check out our Facebook page and the #TokyoTestEvent story on our Instagram feed.

 

Want to hear more about the Team GBR World Class team were hoping to gain from attending the Ready Steady Tokyo test event and their experiences out there? Then check out the two most recent episodes of the British Equestrian Podcast, our official podcast, through your chosen podcast streaming service or via the links below. Don’t forget to subscribe, rate and leave a review.

 

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/2GfdUuh
Google Podcasts: https://bit.ly/2SkkGUo
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2XOqqLS