In sports, great athletes achieve success with hard work, dedication and a passion to win. It takes guts and courage, too, to be successful. And, at times, it helps to have great bloodlines. Such is the case with Juan Matute Guimon, also known as Juan Matute Jr.
Matute Jr. has emerged in recent years as one of dressage’s best young talents. His family moved to Wellington from Spain in 2008. If you look at the career of his father, Juan Matute Sr., it’s clear that the younger Matute was born to follow his father’s accomplished footsteps, whose first big victory was at the 1982 Young Rider World Championships. During the elder Matute’s career, he won six Spanish National Dressage Championships and had three Olympic appearances for Spain.
Currently, Matute Jr. is living in Spain where he’s competing in dressage and going to college at Madrid’s Universidad Camilo Jose Cela. He moved to Europe last year in pursuit of new challenges and experiences, both as an athlete and in academics.
“I am pursuing a degree in business, but next year, I will change to international relations,” Matute Jr. said. “The winter circuit in Wellington has served as a launching pad for my career as a dressage rider. Over the years, I have gained a lot of experience as a competitor, and this has enabled me to grow as a rider from Juniors to Grand Prix. It was time for me to fly the nest and get out of my comfort zone to continue evolving in all aspects.”
Balancing an athletic career with college is not easy, but he’s making it work. “It’s challenging psychologically and with time management,” he admitted.
Matute Jr.’s most recent competition was a second-place finish in Doha, Qatar in February and a fifth-place finish at the World Cup in Lyon, France last November.
According to his accomplished father, Matute Jr. is a better competitor now at age 21 than he was at age 21.
Right now, Matute Jr. is ranked in top five dressage riders in the world rankings of riders under age 25, and in the world’s overall top 60 riders.
“He is the best at his age. He has a special sense of determination,” Matute Sr. said of his son. “He has a magical touch with the horses.”
Matute Jr.’s career started in 2012, when he competed for the first time in a CDI Juniors while riding Don Diego. He eventually won that division’s gold medal at the European Championships in 2015 while riding Dhannie Ymas. In 2016, Matute Jr. had a banner year. In Wellington, he competed on 36 occasions, and he won 17 of them. That summer, he won the bronze medal at the Under 25 European Championships in Germany, aboard Don Diego.
In 2017, Juan won a bronze medal with Quantico at the Under 25 European Championships in Austria. And in 2018, he won a bronze medal with Quantico at the senior Spanish National Championships and participated with the Spanish national team at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C.
The greater dressage world offers high praise for Matute Jr.
“He’s honest, hard-working, and he’s had good guidance in life,” Olympic judge Gary Rockwell said.
“He’s a real talent, following in his father’s footsteps,” German dressage rider Christoph Koschel said.
“He’s a wonderful young man, and he’s very committed to the sport,” added Allyn Mann, director of strategic partnerships for dressage sponsor Adequan.
During his early days in dressage, Matute Jr. maintained a family tradition. In 2014, he wore his father’s 30-year-old tailcoat in competitions. The tailcoat experience was short-lived. “It was a huge honor and privilege to wear his tailcoat,” he recalled. “I wore it for one year. I simply outgrew it.”
As Matute Sr. reflects on his competitive days, one of his fondest memories was coming out of retirement and participating at the 2013 Nations Cup in Wellington, where his two children were his teammates and his wife Maria was the team chef. The Matute triumvirate won the bronze medal.
As for his future in dressage, Matute Jr. explained that his dad has given him great advice. “He constantly reminds me to keep a broad perspective and to remain patient with my ambition to one day become one of the best in the sport,” he said. “Success in our sport depends on the human-horse partnership, and it takes years to form a powerful bond.”