Judy Reynolds made history today as the first Irish rider to qualify for the dressage freestyle at the Olympics.

“It’s a bit mental, isn’t it?” she said. “I’m just so pleased we could do what I knew we were capable of doing, but haven’t always been able to show in the past. It’s fantastic to be able to actually do it and show what we do.”

Judy scored 74.09% in the special with her parents Joe and Kathleen Reynolds’ Vancouver K for 17th place. The top 18 (but a maximum of three per nation) qualify for the freestyle.

“I’m delighted. It’s definitely the best special we’ve done, so I’m thrilled,” she said.

The best placing achieved by an Irish rider at the Olympics is 11th, achieved by Anna Merveldt riding Rapallo in 1992. She was 16th in the grand prix at that Games in Barcelona to qualify for the special and finished 11th in the special, which was the individual final at that time.

“I don’t think we can equal Anna’s record, I’m just delighted to be there and if we can manage a top 15 that’d be fantastic,” said Judy. “I said coming here that I wanted to get into the final and once we get there, who knows? We all start from zero.

“We don’t have the absolute best freestyle — we talked a lot this year about re-doing it, but chose not to because ‘JP’ is a horse who really needs to know where he’s going and be confident in his floorplan.

“We needed to concentrate more on the special this summer because without a good special we wouldn’t get into the freestyle anyway. We’ve received some great scores on the freestyle — 79.7% is our best to date and it’s not bad to be hitting 80%, but possibly a different freestyle would give us a few more points. But as the saying goes, if it’s not broke don’t fix it and it was definitely the better decision for him to stick with the old one.”

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Judy and husband Patrick are planning to do some sightseeing tomorrow (Saturday) before the individual final on Monday.

“JP will still have a day off tomorrow as planned — he’ll have a nice easy day, he’ll just go out and walk, have some grass and get a massage,” she said. “We’ll have a bit of an easy day as well and not have to get up at 4.30am, which will be lovely. Hopefully we’ll see a few sights as I think it’s going to be our only chance as Sunday we’ll be back here doing a light training session.”

Full 20-page report on the dressage from Rio in H&H next week, out Thursday 18 August, including full analysis of how the medals were won and comment from Richard Davison and Peter Storr.