Spanish/Classical Saddles with a flexible leather tree, a flexible pommel/gullet and easy adjustability
Spanish and Portuguese saddle designs have been around for hundreds of years. These saddles were originally developed for all day cattle mustering, bull fighting and the fine art of classical riding including Haute Ecole (highest level of Dressage) The Austrian company Hidalgo owned by advanced classical dressage rider Dr Nina Holzer, has been around for 10 years meanwhile. The design of the Hidalgo saddles has been refined over the years resulting in excellent saddles for horses and riders. They are short, light weight, offer excellent contact and rider support plus excellent weight distribution for the horse while allowing for a free moving back and unhindered scapular rotation.
Riders use their Hidalgo Spanish saddles for: Trail, Dressage, Working Equitation, Archery, Natural Horsemanship, Straightness Training and other styles of Academic/Classical schooling and riding.
The Hidalgo saddles come in several qualities and cost from $1420 to $3500, the difference you find in the leather quality while the construction and fit/feel for horse and rider is the same for Hidalgo saddles in all price ranges. The Valencia saddle is Hidalgo’s worldwide best-seller.
The economical ‘Hidalgo II also called Hidalgo 2 series’ represent great value for money and I have had wonderful feedback on these saddles and I currently use one of these myself. All the II/2 generation saddles are available in brown or black leather with beige contrast stitching and they usually have a suede seat and stainless steel hardware as seen in the pictures here. They are delivered with velcro panels that attach under the saddle.base and removable kneeblocks that velcro between the top and bottom saddleflap. The workmanship is neat and tidy and the leather quality is good for the price. These saddles were redesigned in 2017 and now provide more wither clearance than the Hidalgo II series saddles I sold 2012-2014. They are available in two adult sizes:
– small/med is called ‘Shorty’ (size 1)with a seat of 30/31cm and a flap-length of 47cm
– ‘standard size’ (size 2) seat of 33cm and flap-length of 54cm
– other sizes can be ordered, waiting time and a small additional fee applies
The next class up from the ‘2 Series’ is the Valencia Light. This saddle is made in american leather or top quality german Kilger leather and is available with or without tooling. Priced from $1950 – $2500 Colours are black and brown leather with a variety of stitching colours available. The Kilger leather is the nicest leather I have ever seen or felt on a saddle and I will be upgrading to a Valencia Light Kilger saddle with tooling this year… so that I no longer have to feel jealous when one of these arrives here for a customer lol.
The Valencia Light saddles are delivered with Velcro panels and removable kneeblocks.
They are avaialble in two standard adult sizes (other sizes made to order):
– small/med is called ‘Shorty ‘with a seat of 30/31cm and a flap-length of 47cm
– ‘standard size’ seat of 33cm and flap-length of 54cm
– other sizes can be ordered, waiting time and an additional fee applies
– there is a Shire option available for tabletop horses with a pre-widened pommel/gullet, fees apply
The ‘Special Range’ is made in beautiful italian leather and with these saddles it is possible to create unique designer saddles or you may prefer a timeless elegant design. Many colours of leather and various types of hardware, any seat size, any flap length, different heights for pommel and cantle and of course different panel sizes can be chosen. The Shire option (for super wide horses) is also available with the Special saddles in any seat size. These saddles start from $2700. Like all Hidalgo saddles they are delivered with velcro panels and removable kneeblocks. Please apply for prices via email or pm.
Fitting and construction of the Hidalgo leather-tree saddles:
The Hidalgo saddles have no rigid tree and no rigid gullet and weigh around 6kg depending on model and size. The seat is shaped with carefully sandwiched layers of leather and the gullet / pommel is flexible enough to adjust itself to most shapes of horses. The feel is firm and supportive yet flexible for both horse and rider. The velcro panels attach firmly to the bottom of the saddle base and can be ordered in different thicknesses, densities and lengths, they provide reliable spinal clearance and very good weight distribution. All Hidalgo panels are now (2018) all made of a mix of foam and felt and a set of panels is always included with the purchase. The Hidalgo saddles should not be used without panels! Unless you already know a lot about these saddles best trust my recommendation regarding which style (length and thickness) of panels to go for. There are several advantages to velcro panels: you can learn to adjust them to different horses very easily yourself and adjustments take less than 5 min and no sweat, no screws. Yes I will coach you! When the foam in the panels compresses eventually (lifespan for velcro panels is about 3 years for frequently used saddles), you can order replacement panels, no need to have the saddle reflocked ever. The standard panels included with the saddles are usually 4cm thick and a bit thinned out under the pommel in order to relieve the Trapezius muscle of undue pressure. If you should need different panels to achieve the best fit for your horse either at time of purchase or later at some stage those can be ordered in different length and thickness (ie thicker front or back), cost $245 for foam panels or $295 for a mix of foam and felt panels.
The saddles need to be positioned on the horses with the panel at the front 2cm behind the top of the scapular and the back of the panel in front of the last rib (T18)
Tip: if your horse has a very forwarded girthgrove chose the panels a tad shorter and set the panels back under the saddle. This way the girthing will be aligned with the girthgrove without the panels affecting the scapular cartillage in a negative way.
Due to the leather-tree construction the saddles have a break-in phase and they will get deeper in the seat and smoothe right into the horse’s topline as they break in. They commonly sit a tad uphill when they are brandnew but this changes/improves fast during the first few rides. The seat is supportive, cushy yet firm and supports an effortless shoulder/hip/heel aligned riding position. Spanish saddles generally have a habit of making even the average rider look good on a horse. The saddles are very secure to ride in with a pommel and cantle to hold you in plus kneepads and all saddles can be ordered with a grippy suede seat. The leather-tree combined with the panels transfers the riders weight very well, better than treeless saddles and over a larger weight bearing area due to the large footprint of the spanish velcro panels. The seat and leg contact is closer and superior to treeless saddles while giving more protection to the horse. The standard Hidalgo pommel/gullet is also flexible and adjusts to horses with refined withers but also to well muscled wide shouldered horses. Hidalgo saddles grow and adjust with the horse as the horse’s topline changes through the seasons and with age, the only thing that needs to be watched is wither clearance for horses with refined withers. Adjustments are made via the spacing of the panels to generate more or less wither clearance and in some cases via a saddlepad with inserts.
Another detail I really like about Hidalgo saddles is the lateral stability, they just don’t move and roll around as soft structured treeless saddles too commonly do. Hidalgo Saddles also offer a twist (narrow seat-feel) close to a treed Spanish saddle, they offer a better twist than all ‘treeless’ saddles I had in my shop over the years. The combination of details makes the Hidalgo a true hybrid type saddle between a bareback style treeless saddle and a traditional saddle with the best qualities of both types combined in one
The Hidalgo Spanish saddles can be fitted with Velcro panels up to 6cm shorter than the saddlebase for use on short backed horses. This is a unique feature of Hidalgo saddles! most Spanish saddles have a weight bearing area of at least 52cm which is too long for many short backed horses and pony’s. The Panels to go for the Shorty (size 1) saddles are 42-46cm long, panels for the standard size (size 2) saddles are 44-48cm.
Full Sheepskin covers called ‘Zalea’s’ are available for all spanish Hidalgo models. Here are a few samples, standard merino colours are: beige/natural, black and dark brown. The zaleas cost $445
My path lead me back to Hidalgo in September 2017 after a 9 months break from selling saddles. When I bought my lovely Morgan x STB mare ‘Moon’ in August I sat down and seriously assessed which saddle brand I had the least customer complaints about where it comes to pressure distribution, fit and rider comfort over my 14 years of selling treeless and flexible saddles. The winner is the Hidalgo which comes with all the numerous other advantages listed above. I have been riding Moon in my Hidalgo Valencia II Shorty (size 1) saddle now for a while and love the perfect sweatpattern, love how relaxed my mare stands during saddling and the saddle could not support me any better if I had personally designed it for my body… love it!!
The Spanish Hidalgo’s go very well with our Christ Iberica saddlepads ($260 with foam inserts). If your horse has a good topline you can use normal saddle cloths or the Iberica pad without foam inserts. If you are a heavier rider, your horse is missing topline or you go for long trailrides, the Iberica pad with foam inserts would be the best choice. I also recommend the Iberica pad with foam inserts to people who ride an A framed horse and a wide shouldered horse in the same saddle. You would use a simple saddlecloth under the saddle for your wide horse and the Iberica pad with foam inserts on your A framed horse. This would allow you to use the saddle on both horses without adjusting the panels every time you swap the saddle between your horses.