Juan Matute Qualifies to Join Two Children as Spain’s “Family” Team for Wellington Nations Cup

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Juan Matute riding Don Diego to achieve scores to qualify for the Spanish team at the Nations Cup in Wellington, Florifda. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Juan Matute riding Don Diego to achieve scores to qualify for the Spanish team at the Nations Cup in Wellington, Florifda. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 17–With Juan Matute and his two teenage children qualified to ride for Spain as what may be the first ever all-family team in a dressage Nations Cup, they turned the focus to preparing more horses as back up for the CDIO3* in Wellington next month.

Juan Matute, a three-time Olympian, obtained the required two scores of more than 65 per cent at a national Prix St. Georges in the WEF Dressage Classic National Show at the Global Dressage Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium complex, the same multimillion dollar where the Nations Cup will be held April 11-14.

Juan, his daughter Paula, 17, and son, Juan Jr., 15, will ride on the team for the Nations Cup that is testing a new format of mixed big and small tour combinations aimed at moving to the top level dressage at the Pan American Games. The world’s second largest multisport championships after the Olympics has been at Prix St. Georges but the International Equestrian Federation wants the Olympic qualifying competition to be at Grand Prix.

To make it a complete family team, Maria, Juan’s wife and a member of the Ybarra family, will serve as chef d’equipe, following in the footsteps of her grandfather who was chef for Spain at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

“We’re so excited” Juan said, “it is hard to put into words.”

Paula and Juan, Jr. were not so short on words–their goal is to beat their father.

After the Beijing Games in 2008, his third Olympics, Juan retired from international competition in a career that also included being world champion in jumping in 1982.

Since the family moved to the United States five years ago, Juan had not ridden competitively but Paula and Juan Jr. have been active in dressage competitions in Wellington in South Florida which hosts the world’s largest horse shows every winter.

But the opportunity for the three of them to compete as a family for Spain was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Spain’s national federation set a requirement of two scores of at least 65 per cent for Juan to qualify for the team.

So Juan got serious–and in a sign of the times that have changed since he competed–wore a helmet for the first time ever at a show and attempted to qualify.

He succeeded in the first two classes he rode in, attaining the scores above 65 per cent.

A large group of supporters turned out to watch the rides, but more can be expected for the Nations Cup.

“It’s mportant for us because this is our second home,” Juan said. “We are not strangers. We feel at home in Wellington. A lot of people are  behind us, a lot of them Americans.”

The Matute family of Juan, Jr., Maria, Paola and Juan. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The Matute family of Juan, Jr., Maria, Paola and Juan. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Both Paula and Juan Jr. are students at the Palm Beach International Academy. As is not unusual in this equestrian community, they have been able work out a schedule that enables them to ride and train in the morning then go to school in the afternoon.

Juan Jr. misses eventing at which he was successful but dropped to take up dressage.

But both look forward to wearing the Spanish flag on their riding coats that they will earn as representatives of their country.

Although the three riders each have capable horses that have been competed successfully for years–Don Diego, Chicago and Gaspar–they are developing two horses as back ups to be sure they are prepared for any problems. The two horses, Califar and Escritor de Ymas II, are PRE, pure Spanish horses, an aspect that is important to them.

And they have owned the horses since they were youngsters and now are part of the family.