Strong, Handmade Trees


Why this site is still here:

In 2016 we shut down our tree shop, but for over 20 years, we hand made traditional Western saddle trees, and we learned a lot during that time. We started to share our knowledge on this website geared towards our saddle maker customers, but regular riders started to find us and read too. When we stopped building trees, a whole lot of people asked us to keep this website up because it has information about trees and fitting western saddles that is not available anywhere else on the internet. And so we have. You can't get trees from us anymore, but we do have videos about how western saddles fit horses - the 67 minute "Basics" video (which we should have called "More than Just Basics", because it is) and the 6 hour "Well Beyond the Basics" series. More information about these videos, including how to buy a Basics DVD, is on our website. The rest of this website is pretty much as it was when we were building, so while the present tense is now past tense, the information is the same. Saddles, traditional trees and horses haven't changed in hundreds of years, and this information is still relevant...

Welcome to Rod & Denise Nikkel's Saddle Tree Web Site

We build a traditional Western saddle tree: a wood frame covered in rawhide.  In just over 20 years, we built 2670 trees, give or take a couple - 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. 

We tell you a little bit About Us.

Rod Nikkel Saddle Tree Home_1.jpgThe 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.



Home_4.jpgThe 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 troubleshooting section to help you understand all the factors involved and evaluate which ones may need to be changed to resolve a problem.



Home_5.jpgThe 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. 

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to Contact Us

We have our Saddle Tree Blog - From Shop and Desk, over 300 pages 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.

There is a Search page that tells you how to search our site.

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.