Juan Matute – The Team Leader: Father, Coach, and Trainer
Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Thursday, October 16, 2014
Juan Matute, retiring from his own pursuit to compete in international competition in 2008, in a career that included winning the 1982 Young Rider World Championships as well as competing in three Olympics for Spain, he not only trains horses up to the Grand Prix level in Dressage but he’s also shaping his children to follow in his Olympic footsteps. His two oldest children, Paula age 18, and Juan, Jr. age 16, are currently sweeping the top US dressage competitions after having competed in a European tour this past summer.
Only intended one year, father Juan, the children’s mother, Maria Guimon, Paula, Juan Jr., and youngest child Gonzalo, age 10, left their home in Spain and temporarily relocated to Florida. But, as Paula and Juan Jr. continue to soar in the rankings, the family decided to stay when the young riders began having top-scores with the Yeguada de Ymas horses at almost every level.
The strategy built with each horse and each young rider in Florida continues to prove successful, as the young Juan Jr placed second individually during the 2014 CDIO Wellington Nations Cup, an epic feat. The young riders went on to place second in the team final, after Germany and before the Dutch team in Europe at Aachen in the Under-25 Grand Prix this past summer.
Of the horse farm and sponsors, Yeguada de Ymas, Juan Sr. has said, “We are so thankful to Yeguada de Ymas! They are the motor to help us. Their horses are the best.”
Juan Sr. studied in Germany with the great coach Herbert Rehbein, and was awarded the Spanish National Dressage Champion six times during his career. A member of the Spanish team first in Show Jumping and then Dressage, he competed for Spain in the Seoul Olympics, the Barcelona Olympics, the Atlanta Olympics and was reserve rider in 2008 for the Beijing Olympic Games. He also competed in many European Championships.
At age 18 in the North of Spain, Juan Sr. worked hard to be a top jumping rider when he seized the opportunity to train with famous dressage riding coach, João Oliveira, son of Nuño Oliveira, master of the art of dressage. Describing João’s coaching, Matute said, “He gave me the opportunity to ride the nicest dressage horses. That is when I started getting a different feel for the horse, thanks to him.” Continuing to do a bit of dressage with his jumping horses and after winning the World Championships in France while in university, Juan was unable to keep up with the demands of studying and the standards he felt that jumping required. So, he moved completely into dressage.
While still in Spain, he built a business and began teaching his kids. On his children’s dressage riding choice, Juan explained, “My kids, Paula and Juan, Jr., started the same way by jumping and eventing. Paula really wanted to event and Juan always followed whatever Paula wanted. They came to realize and understand the importance of the dressage score.”
At first, Juan would scold his children about not controlling the more difficult ponies, “They were not easy ponies. Then I understood why my yelling at them didn’t work and how difficult it was for the kids to collect these ponies. I thought it was an excuse.” Finally riding those ponies himself, he came to understand why. “After riding the two ponies, I was wrecked. I couldn’t even stop one pony. It was a few days before the Spanish Dressage Championships and I stopped my business and all lessons to figure out these ponies, to get them turned around. It was impossible. After that, I really respected my kids.”
In 2008, the family moved to Wellington, Florida just after Juan won the Spanish Dressage Championships. He was hoping to ride the horse in the Beijing Olympics for his country, but it was not meant to be. The horse was the youngest of the team’s horses and the coach decided it was too big a risk. He decided to sell the horse to the British Team when they made the move to Florida. New to Wellington, Juan explained his unfamiliar surroundings, “When we moved to Wellington, it as a whole new era for me!”
In 2009, daughter Paula began competing in the dressage shows. Now 5 years later, Paula and Juan, Jr. are gaining ground in the international ring. This year in 2014, Juan Jr. placed second individually in the CDIO Nations Cup in Wellington on Don Diego Ymas. At the largest European competition in Aachen, Germany, Juan Jr. placed an amazing third place in the Under-25 Grand Prix and Paula placed tenth among some of Europe’s best riders and placed second as a team for Spain.
Juan acknowledges, “Because I have shown in the international arena for most of my life, my children listen to the mistakes I made. And, I made all the mistakes. So, I know how to help my kids and my students. I don’t want them thinking too much about the atmosphere, or thinking about the judges.”
Juan, Jr. proudly wears his father’s 25-year-old tailcoat in competitions. His father bought the thick wool coat with tails in Hamburg, Germany to wear when competing at the international dressage competition, the Hamburg Derby.
Although not a current fashionable style and showing its years, the coat has much meaning to Juan Jr. who says to attendants, “There is a small hole inside here. Please be careful. It’s very important; it’s my father’s and I have to be in the Olympics in this coat!”
Of the horse farm and sponsors, Yeguada de Ymas, Juan Sr. has said, “They started supporting me through the European Championships in 1995, where Spain presented the first ever dressage team at the European Championships. They love Wellington with all these opportunities. We are so thankful. They believe in us, and, in the youth. They care so much about the horses. “ Yeguada de Ymas breeds horses for international dressage movement in Spain. Owners, Cristina Danguillecourt and Javier Bacariza are unbelievably knowledgeable and dedicated in developing a breeding program that continues to bring horses up to the international level.
Together Team Matute and Yeguada de Ymas have a shrewd philosophy that riders and horses learn by taking one step at a time. Juan Sr said, “And, now, we are lucky that all the horses we trained together are having so much success. We are so proud!”
The future looks bright for Juan Matute Sr. and this whole team.