‘What a trip it’s been’: Olympic horse bows out aged 19 ahead of Tokyo

  • Ireland’s top dressage rider Judy Reynolds has retired her Olympic horse Vancouver K, at the age of 19.

    The Jazz x Ferro gelding was Judy’s ride at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Judy became the first Irish rider to qualify for the dressage final when she and “JP” made it through to the grand prix freestyle, and finished 18th.

    As well as the Olympics, Judy and JP also represented Ireland at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Caen and the 2019 European Championships in Rotterdam, where they once again made history by leading the quartet that would secure Ireland’s first ever team qualification for an Olympic Games. They also finished fifth in the freestyle with a career best score of 85.89%.

    The pair were regulars on the winter World Cup circuit, qualifying for the final in 2016, 2017 and 2019. Their best result was in Omaha in 2017, where they finished fourth.

    JP’s final competitive outing was Stuttgart CDIW in November 2019, where he and Judy were sixth with 80.75%.

    “I’ve always said that JP would decide when it was time to retire but I’ve had to make that decision for him,” said Judy.

    ‘This horse has more heart than anyone can imagine and at 19 he still tries to give me everything. Too much. I’ve decided that it’s time to stop asking. What a trip it’s been. A good horse can carry you all around the world and back again.

    “JP still wants to work and we have given him every chance to be able to perform on the world’s biggest stage one more time but alas it is not to be.”

    “He has had injuries in the past and given what he has delivered, it doesn’t do him justice to present himself at a lower level – he doesn’t deserve that,” the Germany-based rider told H&H. “He has felt fantastic during this spring – I only had to pick up the reins and he squeals with excitement – but I felt the body wasn’t quite there to do what the brain still wanted to do.

    Judy said the highlight of her career with JP was the 2019 Europeans, but that it was one of many highlights.

    “We kept having these milestones when I would think, ‘This is it!’, and then he managed to pull something else out of the bag,” she said.

    “Another highlight was coming third in the Neumünster World Cup qualifier in February 2019, because we finished just behind Isabell Werth and Helen Langehanenberg. I like to do well, but I don’t mind not winning if I am beaten by people that good.”

    Judy’s journey with JP has been all the more special because the Jazz son was so notoriously tricky as a youngster, with many people doubting his ability to get to the top.

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    “He is a very intelligent horse so the early work didn’t satisfy him,” Judy explained. “It left him with far too much brain not engaged that could think of all these other wild things to be doing. But at the same time he like to understand what he is doing and feels much more secure if he knows the way in a test.”

    The news that Vancouver K has retired leaves Ireland without their leading combination ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games next month.

    “Tokyo of course made this decision harder. I would so love to be there, but I don’t want to just be there, I want to be competitive,” said Judy. “But I’ll aim for Paris 2024 – I have no intention of JP being my only good horse.”

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