Juan Matute Jr. and Don Diego Ymas with their U25 bronze medal. Photo courtesy of Juan Matute Jr.
Hagen, Germany – June 25, 2016 – After a stellar winter season in Wellington, Florida, Spanish young rider Juan Matute Jr. has been competing in Europe this summer. We caught up with the U.S.-based athlete recently after the inaugural European Under 25 Championships in Hagen, Germany, where he won an individual bronze medal, led the Spanish team to fifth overall, and had top 10 results in all three tests.
Why did you decide to do the U25 Championships rather than the Young Riders Championships with Dhannie Ymas?
We are based in Krefeld (Germany), which is about two hours away from Hagen, so transport-wise for the horse it was better. The European Championships for Young Riders are in Valencia (Spain). Coming from Germany that would be very far, and also it’s going to be held in July so the temperature is going to be very hot.
For us, it was also an emotional choice. To be able to compete in this new championship on Don Diego, the horse that I did my first European Championships on as a junior, was very special to my team and me, especially to my family. To be able to compete in the U25 Championships and be one of the first medalists was very emotional, and we are very proud of the results.
Juan Matute Jr. and Don Diego Ymas
Talk me through your tests at the U25 Championships. How did they go, and how did you feel about your rides?
I think we had a good performance overall. It was a pity that in the Freestyle we had too many mistakes in the canter tour, which dropped our position to ninth place, having placed third the second day (in the Grand Prix). I think that overall we had a good performance. Don Diego felt great; he was very fresh thanks to the cool temperature. He was relaxed but at the same time cool and listening to my aids.
What was it like to be representing Spain on a team at a championship event?
It’s always a pleasure and an honor to represent your country at a meet this big. It’s fun to see old friends at championships – all the international riders. I think it’s fun to see how through the years we have all evolved and gone from juniors to young riders and now to the U25, which is pretty much Grand Prix. So it’s very emotional to see how we all grew up together, and now we are in this together.
Are you still thinking about riding for the U.S. at some point, or is that still to be decided?
We can apply for U.S. citizenship next year in April and then go from there. It’s something that we still have to decide. It’s going to be a tough decision to make because even though I feel very proud of being a Spanish rider, I have lived half my life in the U.S. As well, I’ve developed as a rider in the U.S. We’ve been living there for eight years now, and my first competition in dressage was there, so I feel emotionally attached to both places. Spain is my home country, my nation, but at the same time the U.S. now feels like home as well.
The U25 Championships are new this year. What are your thoughts on the inaugural event? Do you think that’s an important division to highlight with a championship?
I think it’s essential to have this category and to highlight it with a championship. This year the quality of riders was very impressive. Many placed in the top 10 with over 70 percent, which I think is a huge success. I think it’s a great developing ladder so little by little it gets the transition to the Grand Prix. If not it’s a bit too immediate, the transition from Young Riders to Grand Prix – all of a sudden you’re put there in the professional world. So I think it’s a great idea that the FEI created this division and this championship.
Before the European U25 Championships you competed in the Spanish National Championships. How did that go?
It was a great experience to compete in Spain again. We don’t get to do that very often, maybe once or twice a year. We have family members come and cheer for us; it’s always very exciting. We had a great week and great results: we won both tests, the Young Riders and the U25, with Dhannie Ymas and Quantico Ymas. Then with Don Diego in the adult division, we placed in the top 10 all three days. We maintained the same scores we were having in Wellington, so I was quite happy. We had some mistakes here and there, but we all know that that can happen.
How does Don Diego react to showing abroad in Europe vs. showing in Wellington? What are the different challenges?
In Wellington we are about five minutes away from the showgrounds, which is great because it’s all pretty much home. The horses don’t feel the pressure as much as they do here at the competitions. Don Diego is a horse that travels quite poorly. He really suffers from the long distance trips.
In Europe, because the distances are so large and each show is usually in a different country, you have to be very, very careful with the timing. We try to be there from the first day that they allow you to be at the show so the horses can settle in and get used to the climate and the place.
What are your plans for the rest of the summer season?
In a few weeks we have our last show of our European tour, Aachen. I will be competing in the small tour with Dhannie Ymas and then in the U25 division with Quantico Ymas. We’re not sure if Don Diego will be competing or not yet. He just finished the European Championships, so he’s having some time off to rest and recuperate. Depending on how he feels, we’ll decide if we want to compete with him in Aachen as well.
Juan Matute Jr. and Don Diego Ymas