3-Time Olympian Juan Matute Gets 1st of 2 Scores Needed to Ride on Family Team for Spain in Wellington Nations Cup

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Juan Matute and Don Diego competing at Wellington, Florida. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Juan Matute and Don Diego competing at Wellington, Florida. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 15–Juan Matute, a three-time Olympian, rode his son’s Don Diego on Friday to successfully get the first of two scores to qualify for Spain on a family team at the CDIO3* Nations Cup in Wellington next month.

Juan Matute came out of retirement from international competition to ride his first Prix St. Georges in eight years–and wearing a helmet for the first time ever at a show–in an attempt to qualify for a rare, possibly unprecedented, team made up solely of the same family members in a dressage Nations Cup.

Spain’s national federation set a requirement of two scores of at least 65 per cent for Juan to qualify for the team that his son, Juan, Jr., and daughter, Paula, are already qualified. His wife, Maria, will be chef d’equipe.

He succeeded in the first class, attaining a score of 67.039 per cent, and plans to ride again Saturday in hopes of completing qualification.

The family and a large group of supporters turned out in sunny weather for the ride.

Paula and Juan, Jr., his two teenage children who have been successful in junior and young rider competitions in Florida.

The team can include Grand Prix and Prix St. Georges combinations in the CDIO3* event April 11-14 as it is designed to test a format for the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015.

Juan Jr. has been competing Don Diego, a 10-year-old gelding, as a junior rider winning 18 of 20 FEI competitions in Florida in the past 14 months.

Juan retired from competition after the 2008 Beijing Games and the family moved to Florida for what was to be a time out for one year but after a few years does not look like ending any time soon. He has become a popular trainer in Wellington, home of the Winter Equestrian Festival and the companion Global Dressage Festival.

Spain’s family team is another unique feature of the Nations Cup aside from its first-ever mix of small and big horse teams.

The event was created as an undertaking by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the U.S. Equestrian Federation and Equestrian Sport Productions, organizers of the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington of which the Nations Cup will be the finale of the 2013 winter circuit. The event is sponsored by Stillpoint Farm of Wellington and will be staged at The Stadium, a state of the art dressage complex that is part of Palm Beach International Equestrian Center which hosts the world famous Winter Equestrian Festival and the companion Global Dressage Festival.

The event is in its second year in Wellington as the only non-championship Nations Cup in the Western hemisphere. It is designed to transition dressage at the Pan Ams, the multi-sport championships that are second only to the Olympics in size, to Grand Prix from small tour. The Games, held once every four years, are a qualifying competition for the Olympics the following year.

Along with teams that can compete in the Pan American Games, the Nations Cup competition is open to teams from all nations, including Europe and Australia. While initially it was proposed that team nationalities would be restricted, the competition was opened to teams from any country, as it was in the 2012 event.