Encountering a sumo wrestler would scare just about anybody, except maybe another sumo wrestler, of course. So, one can imagine what might race through a horse’s mind when it sees one?
That question may have been answered for some riders in the Tokyo Olympics equestrian show jumping competition, who have said horses were spooked at a sumo-themed jump during Tuesday’s qualifying round.
British rider Harry Charles told The Associated Press he saw “four or five horses really taking a spook to that.”
NBC commentator Melanie Smith Taylor referred to it as “the spooky fence” during U.S. rider Jessica Springsteen’s qualifying run. Springsteen cleared the sumo fence, but her horse Don Juan knocked a rail down later in her run and failed to qualify.
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The jump, which is the 10th on a 14-obstacle course, features a life-like and life-sized squatting sumo that faces away from the horses as they approach.
“As you come around, you see a big guy’s (butt),” Charles told the AP. It also features an elaborate array of pink cherry blossom flowers.
“It is very realistic,” Israel’s Teddy Vlock told the AP. “It does look like a person, and that’s a little spooky. You know, horses don’t want to see a guy, like, looking intense next to a jump, looking like he’s ready to fight you.”
Britain's Ben Maher on his horse Explosion led the show jumping qualifiers on Tuesday, followed by Ireland's Darragh Kenny and Israel's Ashlee Bond, ahead of the individual finals on Wednesday.