A Baroque saddle is a style of equestrian saddle with a unique design and features, primarily associated with the Baroque period in art and history, which spanned from the late 16th century to the early 18th century in Europe.
Baroque saddles were specifically designed for riding horses in a manner that allowed riders to sit in a more upright and regal position, reflecting the aesthetics and riding styles of the Baroque era.
What is Alta Escuela?
The term “Alta Escuela” refers to a specific style of classical dressage riding, which is often associated with the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art (Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre) in Spain.
Alta Escuela is characterised by highly advanced and specialised movements performed by both the horse and rider, showcasing the highest level of equestrian skill and precision.
Key features of Alta Escuela include:
- Advanced movements: Alta Escuela involves a repertoire of advanced dressage movements that go beyond the basics of classical dressage. These movements include airs above the ground, such as levade, courbette, capriole, and ballotade, where the horse performs impressive jumps and highly collected movements.
- Collection and balance: Horses trained in Alta Escuela are exceptionally collected, displaying an elevated and balanced carriage. They move with great grace and control, responding to subtle cues from the rider.
- Precision and elegance: Alta Escuela riders and horses perform with a high degree of precision and elegance. The rider’s aids are nearly imperceptible, and the horse responds with fluidity and grace.
- Traditional attire: Riders in Alta Escuela often wear traditional equestrian attire, including distinctive costumes that are part of the Spanish and Viennese equestrian traditions. These costumes add to the overall visual appeal of the performance.
- Historical significance: Alta Escuela has deep historical roots in the equestrian traditions of Spain and Austria. These schools of riding have preserved and passed down these classical movements for centuries, contributing to the rich heritage of equestrian art.
Alta Escuela performances are typically done in exhibitions, demonstrations, and cultural events rather than in competitive dressage arenas. They are a testament to the long-standing tradition of classical horsemanship and the harmonious partnership between horse and rider. These performances are admired for their beauty, precision, and the extraordinary level of skill and training they require from both horse and rider.
The evolution of the riding saddle in the Iberian Peninsula.
The saddle began as just a simple cloth or piece of leather that was tied to the horses back, mostly for comfort but it also has the added benefit of spreading out the weight of the rider over a larger surface area.
In Spain, a certain aesthetic and durability were sought initially, and the saddles were huge and heavy with saddle trees that were crafted from wood.
These saddles were not very functional.
In this type of saddle, the rider would sit with a very slight contact with the horse.
This type of saddle was found in both Spain and Portugal, and their main purpose was more like a parade saddle, such as in the painting of Lady Godiva by Collier, or a similar design was used for medieval war saddles.
The challenges with a high saddle are that, while they hold you firmly in place on the horse’s back, they’re not quick or easy to get in or out of.
For more practical work, such as farm work, where you work with livestock and constantly need to get in and out of the saddle, a lower version was developed alongside the higher saddles.
Key features of a Baroque saddle may include:
- High pommel: Baroque saddles often have a high, curved pommel at the front. This design helps secure the rider’s thigh and provides stability while allowing the rider to sit deep in the saddle.
- Deep seat: The saddle typically has a deep and well-padded seat, which allows the rider to sit comfortably and securely. This deep seat helps maintain an upright posture.
- Wide, padded panels: Baroque saddles have wide, well-padded panels that distribute the rider’s weight more evenly on the horse’s back, reducing pressure points and ensuring the horse’s comfort.
- Decorative elements: Baroque saddles are often adorned with decorative elements, such as ornate stitching, embossing, and sometimes even metal accents. These decorations are in line with the ornate style of the Baroque period.
- Stirrup placement: The stirrups on a Baroque saddle are typically hung lower than on modern saddles, allowing the rider’s leg to hang more naturally and encouraging a deep, relaxed seat.
Baroque saddles are often used in classical dressage and other equestrian disciplines that emphasise the historical riding styles and traditions of the Baroque era.
These saddles are designed to provide both the rider and the horse with comfort and balance while maintaining a classical and elegant appearance.
They are less common in modern competitive riding, but are still favoured by those who appreciate the historical and artistic aspects of equestrianism.