Welcome to Rod & Denise Nikkel's Saddle Tree Web Site
We build a traditional Western saddle tree: a wood frame covered in rawhide. Over the last 17 years, we have built over 2250 trees - one at a time. They are strong, hand made trees, built to fit horses, supplied to custom saddle makers. We have put this site together as an easy-to-access source of information for our customers and potential customers – saddle makers who build on our trees. Beyond just showing pictures of our trees, we want to explain more about how our trees work and how we make them with the goal that we can communicate better and therefore build the tree you envision when you order it.
The Pictures of Trees section is designed partly as a catalogue to show you some of the variations we can make, but also to give you explanations regarding the options available, how they work together and the factors to consider to get the look you want when ordering a tree from us. Because each tree is hand crafted individually, if we can have pictures and specs of a tree you would like, we can probably build it for you.
The Construction Materials page explains the woods we use as well as where we use what kinds, how we laminate, and why we do it the way we do. It also discusses the horns, rawhide and finishing products we use.
The pages in the Understanding Tree Measurements section were written to help you understand more about how saddle trees work. They explain different methods of measuring a saddle tree along with reasons why we measure the way we do and why we use the extra or alternative measurements that we use. We explain why the numbers given to bar angles don't mean the fit will be the same between makers. We also try to explain the factors that go into the final look of the cantle and the choices you make when determining horn specs.
The Tree and Saddle Fitting section breaks down tree fit into its components so you can better understand how trees work to fit horses well. We also look at horses and discuss ways to measure them to figure out what you want to order for fit, including how to do back drawings if you choose. Since not all saddle fit problems are a result of the tree or even the saddle, we have a page, including a printable chart, to help you understand all the factors involved and evaluate which ones may need to be changed to resolve a problem.
The Building A Saddle Tree series is for your interest, but also with the hope that by understanding more of how we build the trees, you will better know how to communicate what you want so we can build it for you. Please note that this is not the way production companies build trees, and even among hand makers “Every tree maker does things differently.”
The Tour Of The Shop is just for fun, to let you see where we spend our days.
The Most Important Part really is the most important part of this website and our lives and we want to share that with you.
The Time, Money and other FAQs page answers “How much do you charge for your trees?”, “How long is your wait time?” and a whole lot more.
The Order Form is here for your convenience so you know what options we give you and you can think about the specs you want to order or the questions you have before you call.
We have Linked with some of our customers’ sites in case any saddle customers stumble in here. Take a look at some of the incredible work done by the craftsmen and women who have built saddles on our trees. There are links to other sites we like as well.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to Contact Us.
There is a Search function on our site to help you find a specific word or phrase.
We have our Saddle Tree Blog - From Shop and Desk, in which we share with you what we are up to in the shop, but also some of what we learn about horses, their backs, saddles and how they all work together through reading and research at the desk.
We also occasionally teach seminars for saddle makers, helping them understand more about saddle trees. An outline of what we teach is on our Seminars page, along with information about any upcoming seminars there may be.
Please note that all these pages apply to the way we build our trees. “Every tree maker does things differently”, even other custom saddle tree makers , and production trees are built quite a bit different from ours. So while some concepts may be able to be transferred to other tree makers, the specifics cannot. If you work with other tree makers, please talk to them about their terminology, their ways of measuring, the options they offer, etc.