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From Olympic ambitions to riding in a taekwondo suit — 9 things you may not know about dressage star Juan Matute Guimón

Top Spanish dressage rider Juan Matute Guimón has had more to battle against in 2020 than most, having suffered a brain bleed earlier this year and spending 25 days in a coma. Since leaving hospital at the start of July, the 22-year-old has made astonishing progress and is fully focused on his goal of being selected to ride for Spain at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021

1. Juan’s Olympic dream was inspired by his father

With a triple Olympian for a father in Juan Matute Snr, it’s no wonder that Juan Matute Guimón Jr is so dedicated to his Tokyo goal.

“The Olympics has been on my mind my whole life — as a little boy I remember wanting to be the best in Spain,” he says. “I was aiming for the Olympics even then — I wanted to be like my father. I love the pressure of it, nothing drives me more than trying to succeed, to give my best in battle.”

2. His earliest riding memories feature taekwondo suits…

“I started riding at around six years old on a pony that my sister Paula and I shared. She used to get bucked off a lot, so one day I told my dad I wanted to get on and have a go,” remembers Juan. “I used to do taekwondo in the afternoons after school, and so I would get home and just ride in my taekwondo clothes.”

3. Being trained by his father isn’t always plain sailing

“We argue so much,” he laughs. “But to me that is part of the experience and part of our relationship to have these disagreements. He’s the trainer, the boss, and in those situations I am his student and I must understand at times that I am wrong. He sees some things differently to how I feel it, and of course the beauty of dressage is not just how it feels, but how it looks. The judges don’t feel what the rider feels after all.”

4. He was riding grand prix movements within a month of leaving hospital

Having collapsed at home and been rshed to hospital on 5 May, Juan Matute Guimón returned home on 3 July, and was back on a horse before the end of the month — riding three horses on that first day.

“I was riding tempi changes and piaffe-passage again that same week – maybe the fourth day,” he says. “But I had lost so much strength – there was maybe a 50% deficit on my right side.”

5. He credits his faith for keeping him positive throughout his ordeal

“Everything is possible when you believe and you have faith,” he says. “For those of you that are struggling with something within your own life or a family member around you is having a difficult time, believe in the Lord and have faith that everything will be alright. The Lord is good and He has a plan for evey single one of us.”

6. Totilas is the dressage horse he most admires

“For me, Totilas was the best horse in the world,” Juan explains. “He is so elegant and elastic, and Edward Gal is such a great rider. He is a real inspiration to me.”

7. But, there’s another rider out there who inspires him even more…

“Sweden’s Patrik Kittel is the biggest inspiration to me for sure,” says Juan Matute Guimón. “Germany’s Isabell Werth too, and Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. I admire their elegance and sensitivity, and the beauty of the connection that they have with their horses. Watching people like them makes me emotional.”

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8. His skills don’t only lie in the dressage arena

In 2018 and 2019, Juan presented the FEI Awards alongside British Paralympian Natasha Baker.

“For me it is a huge joy to jump up on a stage and present to wonderful people. I love it — it isn’t work for me, and I don’t get any stage fright,” he says. “Natasha is such fun to work with too, and we are good friends.”

9. He is sceptical about shortening the grand prix test

“I don’t agree with changing the principles of dressage — they are the foundation to our sport,” he explains. “Too many changes to the technical side brings us away from the full experience of the grand prix test. I think we should be doing lots of trials of different tests to find the one that hits the right point. But we must be careful never to take away the essence of dressage.”

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