Advice from Youth at the International Equestrian Federation Sports Forum

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Juan Matute, Jr. at the FEI Sports Forum. © 2018 FEI/Anthony Demierre

Mar. 29, 2018

Youth had their say on aspects of equestrian sport in a panel discussion at the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Sport Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland this week.

Among the issues were some that are raised frequently by so-called “guardians” of horse sports, usually by officials of a different age group. On this occasion, some questions were asked of the youth by Frank Kemperman, chairman of the FEI dressage committee.

Two excerpts of opinions voiced by Juan Matute, Jr., a 20-year-old dressage rider who lives in Wellington, Florida and although he recently became an American citizen continues to ride under the flag of Spain which his father represented at three Olympic Games. Juan is balancing a full-time riding career and online college pursuing a business degree.

Audience enjoyment of horse sports?

The element of fun seems to lack, especially in dressage bcause we ask and demand our audience suppress their emotions. When you feel an emotion and you don’t let it out and keep it within yourself after a time it turns into a frustration and you would like to avoid it. I think it’s a pity that in some tests—for example, I can recall at the European Championships at Gothenburg last year, I specifically remember one of Isabell Werth’s tests; as she was finishing up the last centerline everyone was clapping and cheering and enjoying that masterpiece that we were all enjoying and spendng our time there learning… just enjoying the moment.

It’s a pity that we demand the audience at dressage to keep quiet, do not talk loud, do not cheer if you see something you like; just keep it until the end to make a noise. But unfortunately that creates distance between the audience and the rider and the entire discipline, in my opinion. So I think we should encourage proplr to support and show their emotions. If you think something is beautiful you want to say, “Wow!” You can, you should. I don’t think you should keep quiet until the end of the test to make noise and cheer. It is a big issue. We are missing the element of fun, It’s fundamental. I don’t want to take it to an extreme, but an overall relaxed atmosphere would be better.

Dress code in equestrian sport, especially dressage?

In my opinion, there are certain pillars that should not be changed. I do not believe that changing an outfit you are going to change a mood, a kind of competition. People like the sport or they don’t. I don’t think it’s a matter of whether you’re dressing a little bit more classy or a little bit more sporty. As a matter of fact, among the different disciplines we dress quite differently, and the success among the bigger audience, the tv broadcasters, is pretty much the same. I think the outfits represent tradition, they represent elegance and at the same time they represent a value. It’s about elegance on top of a horse that is strong, that is sweating and is very involved. There are certain pillars that should not be changed. I don’t think it would really contribute but take away from the essence of the equestrian sport. i don’t think the dress should be changed.

Juan Matute, Jr. dressed to compete in the 2017 European Under-25 Championships. © 2017 Ken Braddick/