Irish dressage rider Judy Reynolds set a new international grand prix freestyle record for her nation at the recent Hagen CDI4* in Germany (22-26 April).

Germany-based Judy — a recent entrant into the top 100 world ranked dressage riders — scored 75.77% on her 13-year-old Jazz x Ferro gelding, Vancouver K (“JP”), for sixth place in very strong company.

The previous record score of 75.725% was set by Irish Olympian Anna Merveldt and Coryolano in Vienna, Austria at the end of 2011.

“JP’s been a very, very challenging horse to train,” Judy told H&H. “When I tried him as a six-year-old he seemed like nothing special, but he was quite expressive and I liked him.”

Judy had to have patience with the horse, but, with help from her long-time trainer Johann Hinnemann, she managed to teach him all the moves for grand prix.

“Everything took a long time; the changes took a year. Sometimes he’d spin round, sometimes he’d run backwards — anything.

“The pirouettes were also a nightmare to teach and piaffe was a disaster. If he thought he couldn’t do something he’d panic and ‘go blind’ — God help anyone in the arena with us.

“People asked why I persevered, but but once JP understands something, it’s in there forever.”

The horse thrives on work, and now that he understands what is being asked, has found his groove at grand prix.

“Amazingly, he never won a class in his life until he went grand prix,” said Judy. “Suddenly he relaxed, put on weight and learnt how to walk — before that we’d do a mad shuffly thing in tests.”

Since last year’s World Equestrian Games (WEG) — where JP was over-awed by his first outing in such a daunting atmosphere — the pair has gone from strength-to-strength.

“He seriously regressed at WEG; I’d protected him from big atmospheres too much,” added Judy. “He got his tongue over the bit in training and standing still was no longer an option. After that we made a conscious decision to go to the bigger shows and see the atmosphere and learn. We’ve ridden four- and five-star classes and World Cup shows over the winter, and he’s realised it’s not so bad.”

People are now approaching Judy, praising the horse. Olympic rider Richard Davison saw her at WEG and asked her to let him know if she ever considered selling the gelding.

The pair have come an exceptionally long way since their international grand prix debut in Rosendaal 11 months ago where they scored 60.64%.

And Judy believes that there is still even more to come from the horse.

“We still haven’t had a proper clear round and I’m sure we can hit 72%, or maybe more [their grand prix best is 70.7%],” she added.

The kür she rode in Hagen was a borrowed one from Coby van Baalen. A new one made specially for JP is in the pipeline, so this pair will have a good chance to break their own record again in future.

Judy also sees the future of Irish dressage as bright.

“It was fantastic to have team of four Irish riders at WEG — that really boosted the sport at home,” she said.

Roland [Tong] has a promising horse and Anna [Merveldt] has a young horse called Forget Me Not, so we have three potential plus-70% horses.

The same weekend that Judy was breaking records in Germany, Roland logged another win with his promising grand prix horse, Ambience IV (by Trento B x Metall and bred by Sarah Tyler-Evans) at Keysoe Premier League (report in 30 April magazine) in their debut season at the level.