"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Friday, August 10, 2012

Alta Escuela Saddle!

My saddle FINALLY arrived, the week right after my birthday. Pics! It is a Ludomar Alta Escuela, regular seat, in a flexible tree, wide width.

Side view. The gray panels are suede, the black is nubuck. The special leathers were at no extra cost, so I got creative. I also requested long billets, also at no extra cost, for additional close-contact (traditionally, Alta Escuela saddles have short billets). Ludomar billets come nylon-reinforced with double leather. Very nice detail.

This was a custom filigrana design that I requested, on the back of the cantle.

Front design on pommel. The filigrana designs are in smooth black and white leather.

This saddle is one of the most comfortable I have ever ridden in, and was well worth the 4 month wait. Ludomar saddles place you in a naturally centered position-they are very well-balanced, and are made for long hours riding. I have found myself sneaking in short rides after work, even when exhausted, because this saddle makes it so much easier to ride dressage. I can say that my body almost never hurts anymore after riding. Now if only it were legal in competition...there are plenty of dressage saddles out there with huge knee blocks and high cantles that I think hold you in the saddle far more than an elevated cantle and small pommel...

The most important part, however, was Lily's comfort. Her performance has been astounding since beginning to ride in this saddle. It seemed to fit her right out of the box, and after 3 weeks riding in it an average of 4 times a week, her back has not been even slightly sore. Her disposition under saddle in general is more relaxed-no more angry head tossing, no more outbursts.

I purchased the saddle through El Sueno Espanol. They are the only Ludomar dealer in the US, based out of Missouri. Lisa Oberman, the store owner, was a pleasure to work with. Her husband Mark travels all over the US and during a trip to South FL back in March, had brought a couple of different size and style saddles for Judy and me to try on Rose and Lily. He even let us ride in the saddles to make sure we liked them and to see how the mares would react to them.

Yes, you can probably get the saddle for less by ordering directly from Spain, but then you still have to deal with the hassle of Customs-the saddle may be held up for months! As a retailer, it only takes a few days for the saddle to go from Spain to El Sueno Espanol here in the States. Lisa also makes sure the order goes in right and there are no mistakes, as the vast majority of these saddles are custom-made. You can also rest assured that they will honor the saddle's warranty. They will even buy the saddle back from you, at a discounted price, if it should stop fitting you or your horse. You can't beat that kind of service. Lisa was extremely patient and sweet during the long 4-month wait for my saddle, always answering my bazillion questions promptly. I recommend this company 100%. Ludomar also makes proper dressage saddles, but I just loved the Alta Escuela too much.
A relaxed sitting trot

Collected canter

Extended canter

The Spanish bit turned out to be defective-the metal, instead of simply rusting like regular sweet iron, was coming off in flakes and cutting into Lily's lips. Awful! So I switched it out for a low port Pelham with 5" shanks, and that has worked very, very well. I think she likes it a lot more than the Spanish bit, as it is more contoured to the shape of her mouth and is not as heavy.

After a lot of work in shoulder-fore and bending on the circle, with short serpentines, I've slowly re-introduced shoulder-ins & counter shoulder-ins at walk and trot, leg yields at the walk (still working on them at the trot) and now shoulder-in at the canter, and she is finally working almost equally in both directions. The shoulder-ins have made an incredible difference in the quality of her canter, her ability to collect at the canter, and to maintain a correct bend, especially when cantering on the right lead. She doesn't complain anymore when I ask for lateral work to the left, but this might also be because I've been extra careful to reward every little effort, which she has responded well to and helped mitigate confusion on her part. I have also started riding her with the dressage whip occassionally, and am VERY pleased to report that, after 3 months of her seeing me with the whip in my hand for ground work, she did NOT freak out when I rode her with it for the first time since the clinic in Stuart. This has allowed me to use it for small corrections for the lateral work (when she pops out her shoulder when leg-yielding to the left, for instance, I'll give her a single light tap on the shoulder and she immediately corrects herself) or to ask for more impulsion when she sucks back during sitting trot. Note in the photos above that we are CANTERING with the dressage whip in my hand! An impossible feat 3 months ago.

I have also started her out barefoot again. Firstly because I was just not happy with her feet and the way she had been moving, and secondly because it does allow me to save some money for the move coming up, especially now during the summer when her feet need to be trimmed more often. Her movement at liberty now is amazing-her trot floaty and uphill, and when she extends, she snaps her feet forward like a true dressage horse! Her canter at liberty had always concerned me because it was very up-and-down, with short bouncy strides, and after removing the front shoes, she is more forward, with longer strides. I have to get video to post.

As time goes on, Lily seeks me out more. Just today I was picking up manure in her turnout next door to her run, and she actually chose to come and hang out next to me while I was working instead of staying next to Bali on the other side. She even followed me quietly up and down the fence line as I moved. She always saw me as her master, which has not always been a good thing, since she associated that with punishment due to her past experiences...but I think we have finally, FINALLY reached the point where she sees me as her partner. The alpha partner, yes, but her partner nonetheless. This, I prefer.

We had a short ground work session last night when I got out of work, in which she did try to get a little challenging with me. I love that she is 100% willing to express herself now, while still being respectful 99% of the time. If she oversteps a boundary, all she needs is a quick calm correction, and she backs off, equally calmly. She has remained level-headed without major freakouts through 2 heat cycles now, also a big change! Last night she was bucking and kicking and a couple of times she tried to distract herself with Bob in the paddock next door, but after correcting her and getting her in working mode, she did fantastic. My favorite part, however, was at the end. I had been walking a smaller circle in the center of the paddock while Lily trotted and cantered around me, and I stopped. Lily was doing an extended trot around the paddock, and when I stopped, she turned towards me without missing a beat and trotted right up to me, coming to a halt in front of me, close enough to allow me to touch her, but still respecting my space. This made my day-she had never done this before.

 I love my mare!


  1. Way cute saddle - I love my Isabelle but zebra stripes were not an option. check out my blog at yayariders.blogspot.com

  2. That's funny-it's the second time this week someone comments on the zebra stripes on my saddle. :) I hadn't interpreted the filigrana that way, but I can see the resemblance. lol Cool blog! I will add it to my list!

  3. Is it legal in dressage competition?


  4. Sadly, it is not-I really wish it was! I've seen dressage saddles with such deep seats and giant knee blocks, that the Alta Escuela should certainly be legal. Ludomar does make a couple of dressage saddle models, and Lisa at El Sueno Espanol said that the tree fit is similar as that of the Alta Escuela-Ludomars were originally modeled for Spanish horses, with shorter backs and rounder barrels. Their dressage saddles come with the Flex Balance tree like the Alta Escuela. El Sueno Espanol only has the Neptuno model. There is also an Atenea model (smaller blocks) and a Lord model (longer flaps)-you can see those on the Viva Iberica website:http://www.webshop.viva-iberica.com/dressage-saddles-nproducts35curpage-2-35-c.asp Viva Iberica only has them in the normal tree, but ESE sells them in W and XW, so they can be made to order in the wider trees.

    I saw the posts on COTH (thank you for linking to my blog!) and regarding Petstorejunkie's post, the Alta Escuela, like all of the Ludomar saddles, DOES come in a standard tree (33cm gullet-about 12". This is a MW per most saddle measurements, but it's narrower than their Wide). If a website isn't posting the standard tree as an option, they can still be special ordered in that width-usually, all you have to do is contact the store to request it.

    Zaldi's Alta Escuela regular tree width is 32cm-a little narrower than Ludomar- so it is an option for narrower horses. Zaldis are more expensive, however, and I've heard that the leather is not as nice nor do they fit as well as the Ludomars. I haven't had a chance to see a Zaldi Alta Escuela in person or sit in one (they are beautiful saddles regardless), so I can't testify as to the truth of their quality or fit myself.

    The leather on all Ludomar tack is absolutely stunning-buttery soft and silky to the touch-other saddles I've seen with leather this nice have been 2-3 times more expensive.

  5. Is the filigrana a pattern from Puerto Rico? Does it have special significance to you? The saddle is beautiful. I would assume it is riding as comfortably as it was several years ago.

    1. Good question on the significance of the filigrana pattern, but sadly the answer is no. It's a Spanish customization detail that the company, Ludomar, offers if you want to make your saddle even more unique. :)
      I thought it was beautiful! They now offer a different pattern with tiny little punched holes in the leather over a colored background of your choice that I think is even prettier. Check it out here:
      The saddle is simply amazing. I've been riding for 24 years. I've ridden in Paso Fino saddles, Western saddles, close contact saddles, dressage saddles, all purpose saddles, and this saddle is, hands-down, THE most comfortable I have ever ridden in. I can ride in it for 3 hours and nothing hurts or is rubbed raw when I get off, which was always a problem in other saddles. My bad hip will get aggravated to the point of torquing my back if a saddle doesn't place me in a specific position (shoulder-hip-heel alignment). I have never had that problem with this saddle. Lily has been super happy in it from day one and developed a solid topline after I started riding her in it. She lost a lot of muscle during her rehab earlier this summer, so the saddle was a titch too wide, but after the recent adjustment (it was nice to see it can be adjusted like a regular English saddle!), she's developing a topline again: the shallow hollows behind her shoulder blades are almost completely filled in again. I've only had it for a year and a half, but it is definitely riding as comfortably as it was when I first got it. :)

  6. Hi, I want to purchase a Ludomar Alta Escuela or a Ronda but I don't know what tree width will fit better to my horse. How can I tell? This is my main concern. Also, I'm 166 cm tall and 54 kilos. Do you think the Ronda will be ok for me? Do you have wool filled panels por the látex ones? Thank you.

    1. Hi Maria. Based on your height and measurements, it sounds like you would do fine in a Ronda. I have the wool-flocked panels so that they can be adjusted by the saddle fitter. Latex panels are not an option in the US. As for measuring your horse to figure out which tree width would be best, this is the best explanation out there and one of the guides I used: http://www.viva-iberica.com/en/mains/saddle_fitting_guide.htm

  7. Thank you for your kind, fast and complete response. It is of help. 😉

    1. You're welcome! Good luck! I love my saddle-it is one of the most comfortable I have ever ridden in. I hope you enjoy yours just as much!