DAVID CATTANEO, Correction Manager at Global News International. Editor and Interviewer for LivingPolo.com. This Argentinian journalist was born in Maria Juana, Santa Fe, Argentina. He graduated at the Sport Journalist Society at Universidad Del Salvador in Buenos Aires.
Present competitiveness in polo is compelling players to be on top in all aspects and saddles are an important accessory to take into consideration. Thus, when looking for excellence player’s first choice are Miguel Acuña saddles made in Argentina and sold worldwide.
As in many aspects of life there are certain elements that do not receive the credit they deserve. This is simply because they are always there and we do not need to make an effort to have them.
A polo player can compete because somebody has previously fed and looked after his/her horse, cleaned the stable, prepared the animal for competition and made a saddle. The saddle is becoming an integral part of this sport, at all levels. A good saddle can make the difference between enjoying a match or suffering throughout.
When considering excellence, there is a common decision to leave the making of a saddle in the hands of Miguel Acuña. Five decades of experience in Argentina and a global expansion that seems to be never ending, each Acuña saddle guarantees quality. The best polo players worldwide trust this long-established Company in polo.
In its first issue, Polo Lady contacted Gerardo García Hurtado, Sales Manager at Acuña, to discover the process that makes something out of a piece of leather for a horse.
Polo Lady: Tell us the story of the Miguel Acuña’s factory.
Gerardo García Hurtado, “The story of Miguel Acuña as a brand started about 50 years ago. In those times, Mr. Ramón Acuña began taking the first steps towards what is today a family tradition, making products for equestrian sports. He was of Paraguayan origin, the precursor of this trade and a recognized pioneer. Many who are working today in the same trade, learnt from him.
For the past twenty years his son Miguel has been responsible for continuing this family tradition. He has expanded the business and adapted it to the needs required by this demanding market. The Company is a well known for making classic equipment for horse jumping, dressage and polo. In less than ten years to the present day, production has geared towards the polo market and this sport has absorbed 90 % of its production.
Today the brand leads a privileged position, especially amongst professional players, large organizations and in the area of Polo Schools as well as with the growing interest towards women polo.”
PL: What are the main products you make?
Gerardo García Hurtado, “The know-how of the company, the prestige and the history are in the making of saddles. We offer a wide variety of types for different people and combinations of different materials (Argentinian leather). Each saddle requires five handmade processes; they are all carried out manually.
Currently there are very few factories that deal with this product in Argentina and 95% only make saddles for horse jumping in an industrial manner. As a complement to saddles, we also make all the accessories, made of leather and those form the needed kit to ‘dress’ a horse. We only deal with outside manufacturers when we commercialise bits and stirrups as well as other required items like balls and helmets.”
PL: What players or clubs were the first customers?
Gerardo García Hurtado, “The launch of the brand into the world of polo started between 2005 and 2006. Since then it has been introduced and has grown continuously into other market niches worldwide.
In high handicap, I remember the first seasons with teams like La Dolfina with Adolfito Cambiaso who has been a fan of our products for almost ten years. Even today we make special saddles for his children. One could say we have a loyal relationship with all professionals and go with them on world tours where they request each of our new products and try them out. Some of these players order their children’s first equipment. Therefore we have already seen a new generation grow. We could say that the future of polo is assured.”
PL: What do famous customers ask for?
Gerardo García Hurtado, “In the case of the highest level players, the equipment they use is not very different to that used by everyone else, although we have to redesign and adapt to their tastes and sometimes to certain fashion and trends.
All the members of the Pieres family are a good example. Their high professionalism level requires special constant attention all year round. They are our best ambassadors.”
PL. I suppose the women’s market does also cover an important percentage?
Gerardo García Hurtado, “Women’s polo has grown tremendously in Argentina and in Europe and I think is a good idea to evaluate women players with exclusive handicaps for them. Girls are demanding when using different elements for ‘work’. For a decade we have covered their likes and almost anticipated their preferences and needs. We have especial frames for women and obviously, we make saddles with pink leather!”
PL: What do you need to know when creating a saddle?
Gerardo García Hurtado, “Following a simple rule that includes height and playing level. We can then establish the basics, suggest format and types, before starting with manufacturing details and selection of material type. 19-20 inch saddles are the standard for the general public. Most people use 19-inch ones and children and women can vary between 17 and 18.5.
There are 17-inch saddles, mostly used for 10-13-year-old polo kids. Ladies use 17 or 18-inch saddles, no bigger than that.”
PL: What new products are coming out?
Gerardo García Hurtado, “There is a new saddle frame this year. It substitutes wooden frames reinforced with iron. The new one is made with carbon fibre. This is the future and long awaited news for the season. The first products passed different resistance tests; professionals have been testing them for months and the results are good.
The idea is to offer a light saddle, comfortable and extremely resistant with a lifetime guarantee. There are already two types for customers to choose from.”
PL: How do you manage with sales outside Argentina?
Gerardo García Hurtado, “The reality is that references are a great help with customers worldwide. Accepting this fact, we have grown tremendously thanks to social networks, but direct contact and conventional phone calls are still our priority. We are not a company that does blanket marketing.
The world of polo is smaller than it appears. Our reference is always Argentina with England in second place. Further to this, each new market tries to acquire Argentinian trends, the format of its tournaments and of course, the quality of our horses. Our products are included in this complete package of quality. They have the standard of quality and comfort for players.
We have been sending them our products for years and although we never get to know the people who receive them we have a strong relationship based on trust. Besides, there are many customers who come to the country on key dates like the Argentina Open. They play their matches, come to visit us and buy all they need.
In my case, I travel to different countries in South America and recently to Central America where the market is growing fast. We have a commercial partner in places like London and Beijing and we are making contacts with a new partner in Eastern Europe.”
PL: Is it satisfactory to do something that it inspires you, knowing you are Number 1 doing it?
Gerardo García Hurtado, “Absolutely! Our biggest satisfaction is seeing that most customers become friends…polo is like this!
Customers have to be treated well. They are demanding and there is great competition. For example, England has excellent leather products and so do Germany and Italy. However Argentina is outstanding for its labour; that gives us a big plus.
All this needs to be completed with a good after-sales service. This is not easy since distances are long. You should not promise things you cannot do because when deliveries are delayed there are many problems. Everybody wants to have their deadlines met.
You can contact the factory on:
The factory is located at Shopping Centre Ruta 6-Open door-Buenos Aires (a few metres from La Aguada club)