We were sent a Hidalgo Valencia II by Natalie from Horse Connections. We used it for several weeks on a variety of horses which included Part Andalusians, Paso Finos, Peruvian Pasos and American Saddlebred horses.
Overall, we were very impressed with the saddle. Here is why....
The saddle came well wrapped and with all the attachments separately. Aside from the saddle, there were: the panels, a gullet cover and some knee blocks. All attach via velcro to the saddle. The picture below shows the saddle straight out of the box, with only the main panels attached (not visible). The leather piece o the right is the lining for the gullet, which was attached underneath the saddled and between the panels just after this picture was taken. The things on the back of the saddle are straps with clips and dees which hold up the stirrups when not in use.
The stirrup leathers re attached under the flaps. I much prefer this to leathers above the flaps, like with most conventional saddles, as there is much less likelihood of pinched legs, and it looks very neat. Unlike most saddles with flexible trees, the Hidalgo VII has safety bars.
The picture shows the long straps, which are made from decent, doubled up leather. The seat and the front and back of pommel and cantle are suede, but the knee pads are plain leather. The optional kneed blocks can be attached under the knee pads in a variety of positions. We didn't end up using them very much, but had a play around with them and found them to be very functional and easy to adjust.
The picture also shows the dees at the front for attachment of a breastplate.
Not visible are the U-shaped panels, which are attached by velcro to the bottom side of the saddle. They can be adjusted to suit different back shapes. They are well padded, soft, but firm enough. When fitting them to the saddle, it is of course necessary to first look at the width of channel which is desirable, and then ensure that the panels are placed parallel. Uneven panel placement could mean that the saddle and rider end up sitting crooked, and ultimately lead to back issues. However, it is very easy to line the panels up, and if need be, check with a ruler.
The seat is very comfortable. I understand it has latex under the cover. What I also liked about the seat is that it has a relatively narrow twist. Unlike some other flexible tree designs, I found that it allowed me to hang my legs straight down, which I find so important for a correct seat. The stirrup bar placement is also such that it encourages a good, balanced seat. The suede seat, combined with the deep seat encouraged by the shape gave a feeling of security. This was even greater when adding the knee blocks. We tried the saddle out on some fairly fast rides over uneven terrain, and on some very green horses, who put in the odd spook. We always felt quite secure in the Hidalgo.
On a horse, it looks like this:
The horse is a mare I bred, called Narrawin Morena. She is by a Peruvian Paso stallion and out of an American Saddlebred mare. She has a fairly normal (if a slightly long) back with a good wither. This picture illustrates well how, without any effort or tensions, I can sit in the saddle with a nice deep seat and long legs.
... to be continued....