Irish dressage rider Judy Reynolds has set a new record score for her country.
Competing at Qatar’s CHI Al Shaqab (2-5 March), Judy scored 79.7% with Vancouver K (“JP”) in the grand prix freestyle on Saturday (5 March), securing an individual place for Ireland at Rio.
This is the highest score ever recorded by an Irish competitor in an international grand prix freestyle.
She finished second in the class behind Sweden’s Patrik Kittel and Deja, who claimed the top spot with a score of 82.55%.
Judy’s father, Joe Reynolds, attributed her success to a banana boat ride on Saturday morning.
“[Showjumper] Denis Lynch, recognising the intensity of the situation, pulled Judy aside and said ‘pressure is for tyres’… so we set about creating a no-pressure relaxed atmosphere,” Joe wrote on his Facebook page.
“So Judy, [showjumper] Bertram and Ruben Allen and Patrick Heavey [Judy’s husband] headed off. This was followed by pool games, diving for coins that Ruben distributed on the bottom of the pool and an obligatory ducking for Judy.
“With about three hours to go Judy starts to withdraw into her bubble. Going over her test and music, her quiet time is respected. She gets up on JP at around 3.30pm, into the ring at 4.29pm. And you know the rest.”
Judy and the 14-year-old bay gelding broke their own record score in the process.
The combination previously set an Irish best of 77.425% at Lyon, France, last October.
The score earned Judy fifth place in the World Cup qualifier. The class was won by European Championships bronze-medallist Beatriz Salat-Ferrer of Spain with Delgado, who scored 82.875%.
“JP’s been a very, very challenging horse to train,” she told H&H last April. “When I tried him as a six-year-old he seemed like nothing special, but he was quite expressive and I liked him.”
With help from her trainer Johann Hinnemann, Judy managed to teach JP all the movements for grand prix.
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“Everything took a long time; the changes took a year,” she said. “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 once JP understands something, it’s in there forever.”