Spain’s Juan Matute, Jr., 19 Years Old, Wins Florida CDI4* Grand Prix for First Big Tour Victory
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 16, 2017–Juan Matute, Jr., son of a multi-Olympian for Spain and one of the most successful youth riders in the world, won the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI4* Grand Prix Thursday on Quantico Ymas for the first Big Tour victory for the 19-year-old Spanish rider.
Juan, a senior in high school who may be a year behind because he has focused on riding, and the 11-year-old gelding with jumping bloodlines scored 68.660 per cent for the win.
Arlene “Tuny” Page of Wellington on Dr. House placed second on 67.600 per cent with Shelly Francis of Loxahatchee, Florida on Doktor third on 67.220 per cent.
Quantico is a horse that his family, based in Florida, has owned for nine years, and has been ridden successfully by Juan from Young Riders and Under-25 on both sides of the Atlantic including wins at some of the most prestigious events in the world such as the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany.
As a very hot horse but one that Juan says he has a “very special connection, a special bond,” he tried something new for the CDI4* that is the highest rated event so far for the pair on a day of bright sun but cool temperatures.
“The weather is a factor,” he said, “he can sometimes create chaos and sometimes energy. Today, the energy was there and he was really willing to give me his best.”
“The less he stresses and more he cooperates, the better he can be. He has lot of character. We sometimes call him Quantico airlines; if he had wings he would really fly.
“Today we didn’t canter or trot around the ring before going in. We walked in. The least amount of pressure he feels the better.”
Since his family moved to Wellington and he began competing as a junior six years ago, Juan has succeeded through the levels on several different horses. He competed as a junior at four European Championships, taking the freestyle gold on Dhannie Ymas in 2015.
At the inaugural Under-25 European Championships in 2016, he took Grand Prix bronze on Don Diego Ymas.
At this winter’s Global circuit, however, Juan appears to have risen to a higher competition level, as demonstrated by the first senior Big Tour win and 11 other victories in 28 starts on four different mounts from young horse to Big Tour.
He still lives at home and credits his family and sponsors Yeguada de Ymas with providing both the financial support as well as coaching and guidance in enabling his success.
“I’m maturing as a person and a rider, growing up,” said Juan in an interview with dressage-news.com, but who has always been highly thought of because of positive attitude, respect for other competitors and dedication to the sport.
“I feel there is a difference; not only am I learning but I’ve moved up with horses from junior levels so both the horses and myself are learning together.
“It’s exciting to see the progression. I’m much more comfortable in the ring. Before when I rode a test I hoped not to make mistakes. Now, I go deeper, trying to make it more technical.
“Every day I wake up with the same mentality of ambition and motivation, keeping in mind that it takes a long time to learn, to make even stronger our strengths. It’s very rewarding when you go in the ring and the judges see it.”
Juan said he should have already graduated high school but has focused so much on riding with the seven Wellington Global CDIs over winter starting as early as Wednesday and running through Sunday that he has lost a lot of time in his online studies. And he’s also been studying German to add to the Spanish and English in which he is fluent.
He plans to enroll as an online student at a Spanish university, opting to focus on history and geography instead of math-related subjects as originally planned because he wants a broader education in culture having decided on a career in international sport.
“Riding is a priority, but so are academics,” he said. “I value them both equally.”
The goals for this year, he said, are to go to Europe after he competes for the first time at Tryon, North Carolina, the venue for the 2018 World Equestrian Games and about 10 hours drive from Wellington.
The Spanish championships the first week of June, Rotterdam CHIO where he has not previously competed and Aachen are in his plans for 2017. He’s thinking about staying longer in Europe to experience some indoor competitions.
“It’s a very big challenge,” he said, “but it’s also a very important next step forward for me. If I want to keep improving I have to go and learn from the big riders in the world.
“I’m a competitive and ambitious young man.
“I think about fighting for a spot on the adult European Championships team that would be a big challenge with a big reward, but I don’t know if it’s the best choice. I still have lots to learn and to keep improving. I still have six years to go in the Under-25s.”
Faced with a similar situation in 2016 when Spain was qualified with a team, he decided against campaigning for a spot.
“If I had made it, I might have been an Olympian at 18 but athletically it would not be as successful if you don’t make it beyond the first round.”
Instead, he continued riding in the Under-25 division and won bronze in the inaugural European Championships.
“I want to win, but there’s no rush. I want to be involved in the sport my entire life.
“I’m still an apprentice. Some people ask me to give them lessons, but I say, ‘No’.
“I’m 19. I live with my parents. I earn enough money to pay for my car and gas, and get a fancy new pair of sunglasses. I’m blessed. I’m quite a happy guy.”
CDI4* Grand Prix