Lighting Up London-Fuego’s on Fire!
Before I begin the article, want to know how Juan and Fuego actually began training with Juan Bemelmans? Aparently when the two first started, it was like watching a weekend bike rider on one of those olympic racing bikes!
Countless people had been sharing their “ADVICE” with Mr Cardenas, telling him to change the rider and give this talented PRE a chance!
BUT…determined to stick by his friend and his word he stayed with Juan and expecting the same “ADVICE” from top judge Mariette Withages, Mr Cardenas shut her down before she actually got out what she was trying to say….
Her advice was not to change the rider, but to send him to Jan Bemelmans, where he and the FIREY horse could train FULL time! And so it was, that Fuego and Juan packed up and left Spain, and after two years with the top trainer, were the world’s number one PRE dressage pair!
So there you go, and now we have a dream partnership, continuing their journey to London…..
Representing the P.R.E at this year’s London Olympics, Juan Manuel Muñoz Díaz has been with the famous white stallion, “Fuego XII”, since the very beginning.
“Mr. M.A. Cardenas showed me the horse at one of the biggest PRE horse breeding shows ,SICAB, in Spain,” says 42 year old Juan.
“Even then, at just 3 years of age, the horse immediately attracted my attention in the morphological contest.
When I later went to see the horse Mr Cardenas asked me if I would take the horse to high level competition…
I answered YES!, and Fuego XII was immediately purchased and we began our training.”
Bred and owned by Yeguada Cardenas, Fuego XII is on track for London, and Juan says that although the road to the Olympics is challenging, if you have the right partner you can make it!
“Everything is difficult, but if your horse gets good international results, anything is possible.”
Taking up the reins for the first time at just four years of age, it was Mr Cardenas who introduced Juan to riding, and riding one of Mr Cardenas PRE stallions kick-started a life-long partnership between the two horse lovers.
Certainly making his mark on the international stage, Fuego XII is a PRE with remarkable talent for dressage, and together with Juan has achieved great success!
“Fire Cardenas is a horse with good basic airs and very good natural movements, he is a stallion with much class, who along with his extreme talent was willing to take the time to learn.
He is a magnificent horse… exceptional….wonderful …”
Clearly in love with his dream ride, Juan says that it isn’t always easy, and the road to success requires determination and patience.
“My greatest challenge with him thus far was the preparation for, and subsequent participation in the Olympics in Hong Kong including its 3 qualifying units in the European Championships (Torino, Windsor and Rotterdam).
But the highlight of my career with Fuego is no doubt the GPS 4th place in Kentucky and our 5th in the final kur.”
Qualifying a team spot for London based on the results of the European championships in Rotterdam, Juan says the Spanish Team is comprised of 3 pairs.
“The pairs are chosen by the Federation and the Spanish coaches.”
Trained by Jan Bemelmens, the coach of the Spanish Federation, Juan is working hard to ensure Fuego arrives in London in peak condition.
“My major focus is of course to get a good result at the upcoming Olympics,” says Juan.
Working 6 days a week, I start with walks in the countryside 20 minutes, then a dressage training session about 40 minutes, and finish with a field trip of 20 minutes.
In training I work long and stretched, looking for the elasticity, flexibility and expression.”
When he isn’t in the saddle Juan spends his time tutoring in the evenings and at training clinics in different places and countries on weekends.
“My equestrian goal, outside my training with Feugo, is to prepare horses for competition and publicize my knowledge and experience through the clinics I teach.”
So is there another Feugo waiting in the wings, and how can you recognize a horse of this potential?
“A rider can have a good vision for the future when they see a young horse, that when you ride, and depending on your feelings, you can imagine what they might do after 4 or 5 years of work.
The main requirement in buying a horse… is that the rider must feel fully prepared to comment to the quality of the horse.
Currently I’m preparing some children of Fuego, and some other PRE horses out of my own 4-year RIO XIII, which I think has a great future.”
And clearly Juan can pick a top youngster, as Fuego continues to excel at Grand Prix competition.
“He is a horse with a good balance, with good basic airs, and he is very talented.”
However even the most talented horses have their weaknesses, and Juan says there are still areas that the expressive white stallion must work on.
“His weakness is the concentration, which is normal to see in a stallion.”
Admiring many of todays top riders, Carl Hester and Hubertus Schmidt are amongst his favorites, but of course he is grateful to the trainer who has helped him bring Fuego onto the international dressage scene.
“Jan Bemelmens has taught me to be cool in the competition and bring your horse as much on track as possible.”
And on track he will be, entering the arena in less than ? month, a world away from his childhood in the Ecijan region of Spain.