A Dressage Clinic with Juan Matute at Woodspring Farm

“We are the luckiest people in the world to being doing what we do.” Juan Matute commented during a four day clinic at Kathy and Gary Priest’s Woodspring Farm, in Versailles, Kentucky. “To be doing what you love, is not hard work.”

Starting at 8 AM with about 15 horses a day, Matute watched, encouraged, explained, and inspired 15 horses and riders, all at different levels and abilities.

Matute quickly saw the good in each horse and the rider, yet was tough when he felt they could give more. The Olympian has been a longtime member of the Spanish Dressage Team, which has won multiple team medals in international competition Olympic and World Equestrian Games competition.

See some of the horses Juan worked with, the excersises they did, and finally read some of the "Juanisms" frequest comments and training tips.





Knowing the Bloodlines Helps to Make the Connection

“Juan is a real student of the pedigree.” said Kathy, and during the clinic as he observed each horse and evaluated their movement Matute concurred. “I prefer to know the bloodlines of the horses I am teaching.” said Juan. “I always look at the horse and its conformation first but when I know the bloodlines I can often make a connection with the horse quicker.” Matute put his knowledge and eye into selecting six to eight horses a year which he develops on his beautiful equestrian facilities nestled in the picturesque hills in Madrid Spain.

There, an assortment of horse breeds including Warmbloods, Lusitanos, and Pure Spanish (P.R.E.) are available for sale. Many of them have been sold to riders throughout the world where they continue to succeed in the F.E.I. show ring. And he is excited about his next Olympic prospect, who he plans to bring to Wellington for the winter of 2006.






Kathy Priest, who has been training with Matute for four years worked with several clients’ horses and well as her own young 5-year-old Westphalen, Ronaldo, an exciting young horse talent she purchased from Matute earlier this year. The handsome bay gelding by the thoroughbred sire, Rockwell, Ronaldo had placed eighth at the 2005 Bundeschampionat for Young Horses is Germany. Matute had purchased Ronaldo as a three-year-old, and had planned to keep him for himself, but after they spent over a year searching for the right horse for Kathy, Matute sold her the horse. Kathy and Juan both are clearly excited about Ronaldo as Kathy’s next big time horse.

For this session they worked the young horse in a double bridle, and after a light session as the heat of the Kentucky summer day began to rise, trying the exercise used to introduce the passage movement. Starting with a forward moving shoulder in along the wall, to collected small trot steps, then forward. “Don’t always stop first then try to piaffe,” explained Matute. “Go ahead and make a small trot then in and out with half halts and make a piaffe, coming back to little steps to go under. Inspired by a recent training session with Hubertus Schmidt, Matute tried this exercise with several horses during the clinic. “If you lose power” added Juan, “push use lengthening then collect the trot again.”



Excersises for Working with a Young Horse

Each year Kathy Priest has a number of talented horses in the show ring. Priest’s Hanoverian stallion Bordeaux now retired from the show ring is one of the leading sires in this country, and the leading producer of approved Hanoverian mares. Bordeaux’s presence was felt during the clinic with three quality horses by the well know sire.

“This is the perfect amateur horse observed Matute as he watched Priest put the young 5-year-old Bangor, by Bordeaux and owned by Brenda Katz, through his paces. The warm up exercises began with a trot warm up into canter, with leg yields down the long sides, with an exaggerated but not too deep bend to help him loosen the spine and make the connection in his back. They then did trot to shoulder in - collect a few steps - then trot - then collect again. Use of the whip on his side behind the boot develops more collection. After a walk break, they then worked haunches in on circle both directions then walk break then 5 minutes of canter work, but not too forward. Clearly impressed with the quality of all of the young Bordeaux horses he worked with during the clinic Matute remarked, “At an auction in Germany, this horse would get a very good price, and he is a very popular type.”




Juan Matuteisms Entertain and Educate

For the students and friends who ride and train with Kathy Priest, the special privilege of having the opportunity to work with Matute is one they get on the occasion he can break away from his busy schedule. And he’s fun an entertaining, whether capturing the room’s attention at a dinner party with a dramatic story of finding a garden snake in the guest house, or by sharing his “Spanglish Juanisms” as he watches and trains his students.

Here are a just few Juanisms heard over the weekend

  • Don’t fight with your horse - you can spend 5 extra minutes or you can fight - you get to the same point but you have a happy horse.
  • Less reins, trust in your horse, trust in your seat
  • You want the horse to go forward - don’t take him back with the reins - go UP with reins - a quick UP - half halt with reins and then give.
  • Half Pass - if he’s too strong and doesn’t want to bend, go into leg yield then go back to half pass.
  • Don’t block the top line by holding too much with your hands
  • In the pirouette, make a big circle with haunches in, then when you spiral the circle in, go to the pirouette as long as the horse is not too tight. Do not try to do this exercise if the horse is too tight.
  • With a horse that is excitable and wants to look around at things he needs five minutes to look around then you can get his focus on work
  • If the curb is too tight you will have control over the poll but you will block his mouth and he will tighten his jaw and brace against the bit.
  • To develop power with your legs, collect - then forward - collect then forward, then receive that power in your hands through the reins
  • Use all the lateral work to develop better balance
  • Keep moving the arms forward with the horse, use shorter reins but go WITH him
  • With a young horse if they make a mistake you need to explain and try again - mistake - explain - try again.
  • If you want control use both hands, if he’s too hot in the beginning - no whip
  • Slow your horse down to fix things, then forward again.
  • In the canter - don’t use too much leg - believe in your seat.
  • To help you horse go forward, follow and go up with your reins Don’t take them back w/reins - a quick UP with reins, and then down to encourage forward.
  • To help the canter become better connected and more supple try the leg-yeild exercise along the wall at the canter.
  • As for bending - don’t pull back like a rough man, pull gently to the outside like an artist or a painter, painting in smooth gentle strokes.

Mary Phelps with Jackie Denning for DressageDaily

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