Juan Matute, Jr. Embarks on New Chapter in Dressage Career With More Time in Europe, Less in Florida
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April 26, 2018
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Juan Matute, Jr. has embarked on a new chapter in his dressage career, arriving in Europe Thursday for the first of what he plans as extended stays in an attempt to fulfill long term goals and dreams of becoming a top rider.
The 20-year-old Juan, who recently became an American citizen along with his family but continues to ride for his homeland of Spain, plans to return to Florida for the winter-long Global Dressage Festival but then go back to Europe for most of the year, reversing the schedule of the past six years.
And in the next month, he will have a better idea of his chances of making Spain’s team for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina in September or whether to continue in the Under-25 division where he has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic.
“I think for my goals,” he told dressage-news.com, “I need to spend more time in Europe learning from the big mentors of our sport–watch them ride, train, warm up, all those things I get to do when I’m there in the summer.
“In the States, the quality of the horses and riders has been improving dramatically over the past few years, and that’s very exciting for the States. Also now I’m a U.S. citizen I don’t want people to think I don’t want to come back. I love Wellington and want to continue being a Wellingtonian.
“But I want my focus to be a little different, by spending the majority of the year in Europe then come to Wellington in the winter then head straight back to Europe.
“Florida has been a huge launch pad and I want to continue coming back because, in my opinion, it is one of the best equestrian winter circuits in the world.”
Juan has spent more than half his life in Wellington, since the family moved from Spain after his father rode in three Olympics.
For the past six years he has spent about three months over summer in Europe; his first championship the European Juniors in 2012 on Don Diego Ymas, and again the following year. In 2014, he rode Dhannie Ymas in the European Juniors and the same year made his first appearance at the World Young Horse Championships on Jamaicano de Ymas III. By the 2015 European Juniors, he and Dhannie Ymas were placing in the top four.
The breakthrough year was 2016, beginning with 17 victories in 36 starts in Wellington on five different horses at levels ranging from young horses to Under-25 and small tour in Nations Cup. The European circuit was successful–inaugural European Under-25 Championships individual bronze on Don Diego Ymas and victory in the Under-25 Grand Prix and runner-up in the Freestyle at the premier World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany.
Last year more so. Wellington was longer, with 41 starts before heading to Europe. First place in Under-25 Freestyle in Rotterdam, second and third places in small tour and Under-25 on different horses at Aachen, then sweeping both competitions in the first ever Lövsta Future Challenge Under-25 invitational held in conjunction with the European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The European Under-25s in Lamprechtshausen, Austria started on the right foot for Juan with bronze in the Grand Prix, but the freestyle was canceled because of equipment failure.
“We had such a successful year in Gothenburg, the European U-25 Championships,” he recalled, “tremendous success with different horses at different levels. We finished with a bronze medal at the European championships, but a big pity not to be able to finish the freestyle.
“I plan to continue growing as a rider. to get more known on the international circuit, to get more experienced in the big stadiums, the big rings like Aachen, where there is amazing quality of riders and horses.
“When I look at long term goals, long term dreams I need to spend more time in Europe.
“I’m young but I’m very ambitious. I want to learn from the better riders and eventually become one of them.”
Competition on the Global circuit was cut back this year so the horses are prepared for the longer competition season in Europe.
The first several weeks will be spent in Spain for the CDI3* in Segovia May 10-13 then the Spanish championships May 31-June 3, also in Segovia. He also expects to work with the Spanish team coach Rudolf Zeillinger for the first time.
“Depending on how we do there will determine whether we will try for WEG or choose the U-25 route instead,” he said.
“We think we have a good chance for WEG but we don’t want to rush things.
“I’m young, we have potential but we want to enjoy and savor every moment, every step of the way. It’s a very long journey and we dont want to reach the goal and be too full. It’s a Spanish saying, when you are too hungry to reach a goal by the time that goal comes if you did not plan things correctly, you rushed things and try to eat the entire pie the outcome is not what you look forward to.”
In addition to 14 horses, four of his father’s for Juan to ride, and the rest for the Ymas team, they have young horses already in Europe to develop.
At the same time, he is enrolled in online college that he will pursue while in Europe.