A sumo wrestler that spooked horses was knocked out of the Olympic equestrian ring.
The statue and a nearby patch of cherry trees that riders thought might be startling the animals during the individual jumping event were among the obstacles swapped out on Friday.
Officials say designer Santiago Varela had planned on removing the sumo wrestler even before riders said the life-sized rikishi might be rankling their animals.
Several pairings in individual qualifying stopped short near the sumo wrestler, who was positioned next to the 10th obstacle on the 14-jump course on Tuesday. The hurdle was located right after a sharp turn, and the wrestler’s wedgied backside was the first thing in sight for horse and human.
“As you come around, you see a big guy’s (butt),” British rider Harry Charles said, adding “I did notice four or five horses really taking a spook to that.”
The jumping course is always reconfigured between the individual and team rounds, and several of the Japanese-themed barriers were swapped out. The new fences include a life-size samurai and jumbo-size sushi.
Fences are a trademark of Olympic jumping venues, and in the end, it’s the riders’ jobs to keep their animals calm on the course.