He may be the “Captain of the Team” but Don Diego Ymas is a big, clumsy lug with some social skills issues.
Don Diego, aka DonDi, is young Spanish dressage rider Juan Matute Guimon’s go-to horse. He’s the one who started it all for the 19-year-old rider. And, although they share a palpable bond, the horse he has dubbed the team captain and head honcho of the squad at Yeguada de Ymas is a klutzy loner.
“He is the clumsiest horse I have ever had the honor to meet and ride,” Matute Guimon said. “Not necessarily spooky but just always causing trouble.”
“Who, me?” Don Diego says as Juan Matute Guimon described his clumsiness. Photo by Meg McGuire Photography
The young rider’s father, Juan Matute, bought the Hanoverian gelding (Don Frederico—Wie Platine, Wolkenstein II) as a 4-year-old and he became one of the Spanish three-time Olympic athlete’s competition horses. Eventually, the younger rider, who was almost 14 at the time, began competing the then-8-year-old gelding and Matute Guimon rode Don Diego in his first CDI as a junior in 2012.
On Feb. 13, the pair were in the ribbons the opening weekend of the 2017 Adequan Global Dressage Festival in the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle. They have hit lots of the prestigious shows in the past several years—Devon (Pa.), Aachen (Germany), Hagen (Germany)—with some impressive results.
Matute Guimon trains with this father at their home base, Yeguada Ymas in Wellington, Fla.
“Part of what makes my dad’s program special is we that like to bubble-wrap them mind-wise,” Matute Guimon said. “We want to make sure that they are always having fun and they always feel that it’s going to be a fun training day. It’s not just hard work. It’s motivation.
“We don’t suddenly have weird expectations. We make sure that they know there are going to be consistent training methods. We always make sure our relationship comes first—before expression, before moving up in the levels. We make sure that they are ready to make the step. We don’t have a deadline. That open-minded flexibility helps our training with the horses because I think that they feel that.”
Here’s what you need to know about Don Diego:
- He’s got two left feet. “He’s always tripping,” he said. “He finds a way to hit himself. He actually had an accident when he was a young horse. He hit a mirror on the side of the covered arena. Could you explain to me how that is even possible? He wasn’t having any problems, but he found a way to hit the corner of the mirror coming out of the corner. The eye he hit is the right one and he constantly cries. He had surgery and they had to raise a bit of skin from his lower eye lid and his eye is a bit different. He’s always been the clumsiest horse. I think that’s what makes him special.”
Don Diego at home at Yeguada Ymas. Photo by Meg McGuire Photography
- The rider believes that the two have formed a deep bond because DonDi trusts him to help with his less-than-graceful habits.
“It makes it special because I can really feel that he trusts me,” Matute Guimon said. “He says, ‘OK Juan. You know I am clumsy? You’ll take care of me.’ He knows that I’ve got him. I’ve always got his back. He’s a big clumsy horse that’s all over the place but he’s the horse it all started with and we have a special, special bond.”
Juan Matute Guimon and Don Diego. Photo by Meg McGuire Photography
- DonDi is a sweet horse and loves being the center of attention, but he’s got some jealousy issues. He also has a specific timetable when it comes to his “me” time.
“If I am standing with another horse, he starts going from side-to-side, not nickering, but almost,” Guimon said. “I can tell he’s really looking at me like, ‘Really?!? Really?!?’”
- The rider likened the horse to a specific breed of dog.
“You know those dogs that are very pretty and brown and they used to use them for hunting lions—Rhodesian Ridgebacks?” he asked. “They are very sweet. Very noble. But, they like to make sure everything is OK. From time to time they will walk over to your side and let you pet them and then they decide that’s enough for now and they go off in the distance. He’s just like that. He likes to determine when it’s time to be together and then decide when it’s time to say goodbye.”
- On cue, DonDi, who had been effectively dodging the camera for photos, extended the olive branch and came over to engage—on his terms. He walked around a bit and avoided his rider’s touch. Finally, he acquiesced and allowed the interaction as if to say, “Now you can pet me.”
Don Diego submitting to some attention from Juan Matute Guimon. Photo by Meg McGuire Photography
- The horse avoids kisses but likes hugs and puts his ears back when he has had enough. There is a ball in his stall and he plays with it—on his own schedule.
“You might go in there and try to move it around a little bit for him and he says, ‘Can’t you just leave and let me be by myself?’” Matute Guimon said.
The barn aisle at Yeguada Ymas. Photo by Meg McGuire Photography
Juan Matute Guimon showing the tack room, which is full of photographs and memories as well as equipment. Photo by Meg McGuire Photography