Spanish/Classical Saddles with a flexible leather tree 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.
The Hidalgo saddles come in several qualities and cost from $1420 upwards, depending on the model and type of leather. The top of the range ‘Special’ saddles are fabulous! in a price range of $2000 – $3000. I personally also like the more affordable ‘II also called 2’ range and have had wonderful feedback on the Valencia II and Caracas II saddles. The Cordoba II (second pic) was recently added to the more affordable range. The models below are: the Valencia II brown retail $1420, the Cordoba II brown retail $1500, Valencia II black $1420, and the 4th picture shows a Caracas II saddle retail $1500. All the II/2 generation of 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.
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
The Hidalgo saddles have velcro panels that can be ordered in different thicknesses, densities and length. Unless you know a lot about these saddles best go with the recommendation of the dealer (Nina or me) re which style 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. When the foam in the panels compresses eventually (lifespan for velcro panels is about 2 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, cost $245 for foam panels or $295 for a mix of foam and felt panels.
Due to the leather-tree 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. 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 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 pommel/gullet is also flexible and this makes this saddle very popular for horses with wide shoulders, the horses can move freely. 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 via the panels can be made to generate more or less wither clearance.
Another detail I really like about Hidalgo saddles is the lateral stability, they just don’t move and roll around as treeless saddles too commonly do. Hidalgo offers a twist (narrow seat-feel) close to a treed saddle in the Special range while still offering freedom of motion to the horses moving back and shoulders. The more affordable II/2 range offers a medium Twist which is still better 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.
In the more expensive ‘Special’ range there are many leather colours, several types of leather to choose from and you can choose your preferred hardware. You can get the same models that are avaialble in the II range in the Special quality, plus there are several other spanish and portuguese models to choose from in the Special range. Check out the Hidalgo homepage for more info.a few pictures of spanish saddles in the Special range. Here are a few examples, the first saddle is the Jerez, the second the Barrocco and the third is the Hidalgo Teneriffa. Please inquire about prices via email or message.
In Europe the Hidalgo saddles are used for anything from Pleasure to Haute’ Ecole via Trail, Natural Horsemanship and Working Equitation.
My path lead me back to Hidalgo after a 9 months break from selling saddles. When I bought my lovely Morgan x STB mare ‘Moon’. 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 could not be happier with my choice… 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 Hidalgo homepage has a good english language page in case you got curious and want to find out more please see: www.hidalgo-sattel.com/en. You can order and inquire about any Hidalgo product via emailing or messaging me.
The Spanish Hidalgo’s go well with our Christ Iberica saddlepads.