Juan Matute, Jr. & Dhannie Ymas Top Small Tour Pair to Give Spain 3rd Place Midway Through Wellington Nations Cup
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WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 30, 2016–Juan Matute, Jr. on Dhannie Ymas was top of the Small Tour Wednesday to help place Spain in the bronze medal position midway through the CDIO3* Nations Cup at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.
The all-Small Tour Spanish team was behind only the United Stares and Canada made up of Grand Prix combinations among the six teams in the first of the 2016 International Equestrian Federation (FEI) series of seven Nations Cups, six of them in Europe throughout the summer.
Juan and the nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding scored 71.868 per cent to head up the Small Tour division. The Grand Prix Special and Intermediate 1 will be staged Thursday to decide the Nations Cup.
The 18-year-old high school senior whose father, Juan Matute is a three-time Olympian for Spain and has spent the past eight years living in Wellington is faced with a dilemma even before the family is eligible for American citizenship next April.
Juan is seeking to contend for a place on Spain’s team at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, which means earning scores at Grand Prix high enough to be named to his country’s teams to have a chance for Rio.
However, he is competitive at Young Riders and Under-25 as well as riding senior Grand Prix. On the FEI world rankings he is eighth on Don Diego Ymas among Spanish combinations, with Beatriz Ferrer Salat filling the top two places, Jose Daniel Martin Dockx on Grandioso third, and Morgan Barbançon in fourth and fifth, including the now retired Painted Black. He is ranked with three horses in Under-25 world standings, including being the second highest Spanish combination and is 14th on the Young Rider world standings.
At the same time as he wants to give himself a chance to make Spain’s Olympic team, he is also looking to qualify for the Spanish team at the European Young Rider Championships in his homeland a week after the Olympic decider in Aachen, Germany in mid-July. A month before that will be the inaugural Under-25 European Championship.
Longer term, although Wellington has been his home for almost half his life he wants to spend more time inEurope where he sees the sport as still the top in the world and wants to compete with and learn from the best.
Juan said he is giving a break to his Grand Prix mounts, Don Diego Ymas and Quantico Ymas, ahead of a long and intense European season, crediting Steffen Peters with the example he is following.
“We try to bubble wrap them to keep them fresh not only physically but in the mind,” he said. “That’s how you keep doing good and they keep having fun which is what it’s all about. We’re not building spaceships. We’re riding horses. We’re supposed to have fun. We’re all competitive and we want to do our best all the time but staying fresh in the mind is always necessary.”
Asked about his chances of making Spain’s Olympic team, he laughed and said, “We’re in the top eight. But you never know what can happen at the last minute. There’s always a chance.”
At his age, he said, “we’re in no rush. We need to keep up, keep improving, keep enjoying the journey which I think is what it’s all about.”
The Olympics, he said, would be “a dream come true” but the options of the European Young Rider and the Under-25 championships also this summer would “make me very happy, very proud and exciting.”
If he did make the Olympics, he said, a downside would be that the rules would deny him years of participating in Young Riders and Under-25 championships–“that’s a big sacrifice.”
As for life beyond high school graduation and Olympic dreams, Juan said he wants to go to college but has not yet decided whether it would be in the United States or Europe and his future in dressage.
To have a shot at being at the top of the sport, he said, he thinks he may want spend more time in Europe, “to have European riders beat my butt, work harder and analyze things even deeper. I love it here. The circuit here in Wellington is absolutely fantastic but the European league, I think is still a little bit higher when it comes to the degree of difficulty and the quality of the riders and horses.”
Juan said that he will be very proud to be Spanish-American, to retain Spanish citizenship in addition to being an American.
“I grew up in both places and feel very attached to both countries in different ways,” he said,
He gets emotional and feels proud when he hears the U.S. national anthem, but he also enjoys being in Spain. His parents, he said, always tell him, “you never no where life might put you so keep your doors open and opportunities available.”