A legal challenge by two Irish dressage riders may yet see Ireland field a full team in Tokyo. Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) climbed down from their decision to send an individual only, despite qualifying a team for the first time, after Dane Rawlins and James Connor successfully appealed to an all-day hearing in Dublin yesterday.

HSI has agreed to send Certificates of Capability for the two riders to the FEI. A third Irish rider, Heike Holstein, has already been entered at the Olympic Games as an individual.

Much may yet depend on team spaces being available as the dressage was shown as full when nominated entries closed last week and Belgium has meanwhile taken up Ireland’s team place.

However, a buoyant Rawlins says the pair plan to go into quarantine at Aachen with other contenders in the hope spaces open up. He told HorseSport.com that procedural issues must be addressed at a later date. The Irish team had not been withdrawn by the Irish Olympic committee itself (OFI) as protocol dictates.

Last week Connor and UK-based Rawlins, both in their 60s, drew huge support on social media and in Ireland after HSI’s dressage performance director Jo Hinneman decided not to select a team from riders left available when Judy Reynolds, Kate Dwyer and Anna Merveldt dropped out. Others on the Irish performance squad had achieved their Minimum Eligibility Requirements, but Hinneman wanted average scores of 2% more in Grand Prix ‒ 68% ‒ and only Holstein had done that.

Rawlins said at the time: “The HSI are not only killing the dreams of these riders but of a whole generation who will now think if they are not first string they will not be considered.”

A statement from the rider’s legal team said: “ This u-turn is a very much welcome turn of events. It comes following a long day of legal challenges by the pair which went on until late yesterday [Monday] evening.

“Dane and James has instructed their solicitor Aisling Jordan and counsel Bebhinn Murphy to take the matter to the High Court for urgent review but the actions of HSI in undertaking that they will file the certificates have removed the necessity for an injunction.

“Albeit it is out of time, there may still be hope if there are any slots left, particularly in circumstances where they say that the withdrawal of the team by HSI to the FEI should not have been accepted as only the OFI that can withdraw a team.

“The riders are humbled by the support of the nation that has been shown over the last week.”

HSI confirmed the decision in a brief statement and the independent arbitrator, Dermot Kelly SC, will issue a fuller notice later today.