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Did a statue of a sumo wrestler’s butt ruin equestrian at the Olympics?


The Tokyo Olympics have been relatively incident free so far. That was until equestrian, where the horses seemed unsettled and nervous all day. Annika Schleu, who seemed destined for a medal in Pentathlon, had her afternoon ruined when her horse refused to jump.

This was just the beginning of horse-based problems. Things got worse in Equestrian, and in the wake people were looking for answers. What was happening? Were the horses used at the games not up to snuff? Looking for answers a culprit was found: A big old butt.

Equestrian - Olympics: Day 11 Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

One of the features of the Olympic equestrian course was an extremely lifelike statue of a sumo, which was curiously placed next to one of the jumps in the arena. There was speculation that the bulbous, realistic derrière provided a distraction for horses trying to focus on the event. It was intended to be one of several traditional decorations on the course, along with statues of geisha and taiko drums — but the sumo was different. British rider Harry Charles explained to the Associated Press why he thought the butt was a problem.

“As you come around, you see a big guy’s (butt),” [...] I did notice four or five horses really taking a spook to that.”

Realizing that the sumo was proving to be a distraction, organizers removed the sumo statue so competition would resume uninterrupted — but by then the damage was done. The question is: Could horses really be scared by a butt so badly they’d refuse to listen to commands?

A 2013 article by Horse Nation explored what causes a horse to spook, and it comes down to their natural instincts as a prey animal.

“To survive in the wild, a horse must constantly be on the alert for predators. They are scanning with their eyes (and remember they can see almost 360 degrees around their body), listening to everything going on, and taking in all the scents wafting by.”

So imagine you’re a horse for a second. You’re already being put in a foreign environment and being ridden under pressure, now you’re facing a huge jump and you’re met by a giant ass. You don’t know if that’s a statue, or some wild animal you’ve never even seen before, about to consume you. You’re not going to jump and put yourself in a vulnerable position like that, you’re going to take off and be anywhere but that area.

It’s like the old horse song goes:

These horses do not like big butts and they will not fly
You other equines can’t deny.
When a sumo walks in with a loincloth waist
and puts that thicc thing in your face you get flung.