Olympic Logistics: Feeding the Horses in Tokyo

Have you ever considered the logistics of feeding high-performance horses as they travel around the world? Kentucky Equine Research® has a long history of working behind the scenes at top international equestrian events, including six Olympics, the World Equestrian Games, Pan American Games, and Asian Games.


For the Tokyo Olympics, Kentucky Equine Research serves as a consultant to JRA Facilities Co. Ltd., a company that supports horse racing in Japan, including the procurement and importation of feed and bedding. In this role, Kentucky Equine Research sources products, assists the national federations in placing orders, and supports the team that fulfills on-site orders for feed, hay, and bedding.


This event has presented some unique challenges, including a yearlong postponement due to the pandemic, a compact venue with limited storage space, and the unique regulatory requirements of bringing agricultural products into Japan. In each case, Kentucky Equine Research has worked with event organizers and JRA Facilities to ensure a smooth experience for horses and equestrians upon their arrival.


Kentucky Equine Research President Dr. Joe Pagan will be on-site to ensure a smooth lead-up to the event as horses begin to arrive for the competition, and other key employees will be available as virtual office assistants. From their offices in the United States and Australia, these employees will answer questions via online platforms and communicate orders to the fulfillment team on the ground during the event. They have also set up an online store to enable team representatives to place their orders virtually.

There will be several forage choices available once the horses arrive in Tokyo, including both first- and second-cutting timothy hay and alfalfa (lucerne) hay from Anderson Hay & Grain Company in Washington State, plus bagged haylages from New Zealand and Lithuania. Past experience has shown that the bulk of the forage fed to the horses will be timothy hay. Since timothy is somewhat novel for many European horses, Kentucky Equine Research worked with the national federations to coordinate an advance shipment of the hay to Europe so that horses could become accustomed to it before travelling to Japan, in order to reduce the risk of palatability concerns or digestive issues that might occur from rapidly changing forage sources in the midst of or immediately following a lengthy journey.


The company anticipated sending a 20-foot container of hay to Europe, but the demand for the hay for transitioning horses prior to travel proved overwhelming. The European federations instead requested 1,200 double-compressed, half-cut bales, requiring two 40-foot shipping containers. Havens Horsefeed in The Netherlands served as a logistical partner, receiving the containers, storing the pallets, and delivering them throughout Europe. Overall, this transition hay was delivered in 56 orders to 30 locations in eight countries across the continent.


In addition to providing the advance supply, Kentucky Equine Research also used its research capabilities to better understand and advise horse managers of the hay’s nutritional profile. The research team assessed its digestibility, as well as glucose and insulin responses of horses after consumption. This information can help horse managers better understand the quantity to feed as well as the energy it will provide to their high-performance horses.


The Tokyo Olympic Games will commence Friday, July 23, and run through August 8, followed by the Paralympics August 24 to September 5. Equestrian events will take place in two venues, the Baji Koen Equestrian Park and the Sea Forest cross-country course, situated on an island in Tokyo Bay.


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