Do you suppose this looks like a fine saddle? We were amazed when we saw it: sumptuous leather, meticulous stitching and riveting, precision craftsmanship all the way around. But this one is only about 10 inches high.
It’s actually a miniature saddle made by Monturas Artesanas de Talavera, or “Artisan Saddles of Talavera”, a shop known for making some of the finest handmade equestrian equipment in Spain.
Talavera usually comes to mind when you think of traditional ceramic plates and jugs that typically decorate Spanish dining rooms. However, being one of the more industrial cities in the province of Toledo, Talavera also includes many trades related to agriculture and farming. Specifically, Talavera is also home to some of the finest artisans that cater to the Spanish horse.
From El Cid to Don Quixote, the Spaniards revere their horses. Whether on the ranch or inside the bull-fighting ring, the horse has always played a central role in traditional Spain.
But after the recent economic downturn most of the local artisans that catered to equestrian products had to close their doors while larger companies grabbed a bigger share of the shrinking market.
Monturas Artesanas de Talavera is one of the few survivors.
For decades a thriving business known as Monturas Lucas, in which dozens of craftsmen cut and sowed leather by hand to make custom saddles, Monturas de Talavera was resurrected by five craftsmen who refused to give up. “We are sure that there are enough equestrian lovers out there who still want the perfect saddle,” exclaimed Paco, one of the craftsmen who now helps run the business. “We are only five now, but we actually have more work than we can handle.”
So what’s in an “artisan-class” saddle?
Leather, iron, string, wool and ryegrass. In fact all the filling, padding, and texture underneath the leather is ryegrass. That’s what makes the saddles comfortable, flexible yet firm. Artisans use hand tools like scissors, knives, needles and heavy-duty Singer sewing machines. The rest is art.
Paco explains that nearly every saddle they make is unique. This is because each customer requests exactly the kind of saddle they want, for what purpose, and with their own specifications, including the type of leather. They also engrave each customer’s desired insignia on the back of their saddle.
“These saddles last a lifetime and there is no better way to ride in comfort and elegance no matter what type of rider you are. If you spend the whole day riding at the ranch, this is the saddle you want.” Paco then points to a large, A-shaped saddle with a soft lamb’s wool cover. “If you’re going to compete and you need a performance saddle, or want to ride with class, this is the one for you.”
Finally, Paco points out the miniature saddle:
For those who like the world of the horse, but aren’t regular riders, we also have collector’s items. These take about the same time and effort to make as the original ones. They’re made of the same materials and require the same work. They just use less leather. These make a perfect gift for the horse lover who sits at a desk all day at the office or who wants a mini replica of his own custom saddle in his living room.
Whether you’re a rancher, cowboy or bull-fighter, ride English-style, or simply enjoy leisurely rides on your favorite horse, Monturas de Talavera will create a saddle that’s as special to you as your own favorite horse.
Don’t “saddle for less.” 🙂