Saddles
 

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My saddles are handmade, one at a time.

My philosophy is that a saddle must first-and-foremost fit the horse (the right tree), and secondly fit the rider (a comfortable seat). After that, the "upholstery" is all icing on the cake.

I specialize in the 3B, the California vaquero old-time all-day saddle, small round skirts with a 3/4 (or 5/8) spider rig, all-leather ground seat, narrow slick fork, half-leathers for the fenders, and medium weight leather, all of which make a lighter saddle built on a very sturdy wood/rawhide tree that will last more than a lifetime.

I also make Wade saddles when requested; the difference between a Wade and a 3B is mostly in the fork and a little in the bars. Many of my 3Bs end up being "modified 3Bs", halfway between a 3B and a Wade, because the horn cap needs to be larger to accomodate a special custom horn cap concho or a special horn style. The bars in a 3B are what my treemaker calls "regular", as opposed to Wade bars which are wider. Because my trees are completely handmade to fit the individual horse and rider, all parts of the tree are customizable.

You can learn more on the Custom Saddles page.

To ask more questions about or to order a custom saddle, send a message to saddle info

 

The Dottie

This saddle was built for Dottie, a sturdy Missouri Foxtrotter in New Hampshire who does a lot of trail riding. It's got simple tooling (just a twisted wire border), and lots of extras like rifle scabbard dees, a crupper dee, buck rolls, rope strap, and a small Cheyenne roll. That's a "mule hide" horn wrap under the rope strap.

The Maggie

This saddle was built for my mare, Maggie, and it took me a long time to get around to it. She's been pregnant and having foals for the last three years, so I figured I had plenty of time, but this spring it's riding time again and she needs her own saddle.

The tooling is my favorite cut lines, and it has a wonderful ruby in the cantle back (and a matching smaller ruby on the horn cap). The horn is a fully-exposed high-polished bronze horn from the Bork Foundry; I always wanted to try making a saddle with a polished bronze horn, and I like it!

It's a classical Visalia-style 3B, with a 3-1/2" fork and a tall cantle. Ignore the heavy cast aluminum stirrups - they don't match the saddle's brass theme, but they are very functional for arena work.

And if you're wondering, her tree was fitted and built before she was pregnant; after two pregancies, the tree still fit her like a glove.

The Avalon - 3B saddle

The Avalon

Another saddle built for customer Lydee, this one for her beloved Queenie. It's a classic vaquero-style 3B with a 3/4 spider rig and all bronze/brass hardware. Reminiscent of the island of Catalina in California, it has simple tooling with cut line borders and datura blossoms, and custom conchos made from abalone shell.

"Wow! Wow! I mean WOW! It feels great, awesome! Everything feels like perfection! It amazes me that this saddle, and the Cruiser, can feel so amazingly comfortable after riding in a saddle with a padded seat for many years. Just goes to show that padding can't substitute for proper fit and top rate craftsmanship."

Custom, handmade wood/rawhide tree from Harry Mari
3-1/2" fork
4-1/2" Taylor cantle, 40 degrees and 1" dish
3/4 single "spider" ring rigging
All-leather ground seat
Bronze hardware from Herb Bork
Hermann Oak skirting, Big Horn latigo
Weight fully loaded 30 lbs

The Cruiser - 3B saddle

The Cruiser

Built for customer Lydee and her boy Cruiser - a modified vaquero-style 3B with a 5/8 spider rig and all bronze/brass hardware. Modified with a fully exposed polished hardwood horn cap and thicker fork; simple tooling with just cut line borders and hummingbirds.

Custom, handmade wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel
4-1/2" fork, 4" diam Brazilian Imbuia wood horn cap
4-1/2" Taylor cantle, 40 degrees and 1" dish
5/8 single "spider" ring rigging
All-leather ground seat
Bronze hardware from Herb Bork
Hermann Oak skirting, Big Horn latigo
Engraved brass conchos from Outwest Saddlery

Weight fully loaded 32 lbs

The Diamond - 3B saddle

The Diamond

Built for customer Steve and his Arabian boy Champagne Diamond - a modified vaquero-style 3B with a 5/8 spider rig and all bronze/brass hardware. Modified with a stouter horn and thicker fork; simple tooling with just cut line scrolls.

Custom, handmade wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel
4-1/4" fork, 4" diam horn cap
4" Taylor cantle, 37 degrees and 1" dish
5/8 single ring "spider" rigging
All-leather ground seat
Bronze hardware from Herb Bork
Hermann Oak skirting, Big Horn latigo
Engraved brass conchos, "El Paso", from Outwest Saddlery
Brass-bound stirrups from Weber, with matching conchos on outside of stirrup bolts
Weight fully loaded 30 lbs

The Sunflower - 3B saddle

The Sunflower

Built for customer Marci - a classic Visalia-style 3B with a 5/8 spider rig and all bronze/brass hardware. Lots of beautiful large sunflowers in the tooling.

Custom, handmade wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel
3-1/2" stock fork
4-1/2" Taylor cantle, 40 degrees and 1" dish
5/8 single spider rigging
All-leather ground seat
Bronze/brass hardware from Bork
Hermann Oak skirting, Big Horn latigo
Cantle and horn binding stitched with coad-waxed Irish linen
Weight fully loaded 28 lbs

The Rocket - 3B saddle

The Rocket

Built for customer Nancy whose previous saddle made her hip hurt. But not this new one: "I LOVE the saddle, my hip was not painful when I got off (really gave it a work out), and I didn't suffer with muscle spasms when I first started working. It was also so very easy to handle being lighter in weight. My trainer commented with approval the way you have the stirrups hung.  He says you just can't get your leg OUT of the right position!"

Custom, handmade wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel
3-1/2" stock fork
4-1/2" Taylor cantle, 40 degrees and 1" dish
7/8 inskirt rigging
All-leather ground seat
Stainless steel hardware
Custom engraved silver from Shawn Didyoung at cowboyengraving.com
Hermann Oak skirting, Big Horn latigo
Cantle and horn binding stitched with coad-waxed Irish linen
Weight fully loaded 28 lb

The Zoom

Built for customer Anna in Anchorage, Alaska, here's another classic 3B. A dressage rider, she was looking for a western saddle that wouldn't veer too far from her dressage roots. This saddle has a 5/8 single spider rig, simple tooling based on some flower pictures, and stirrups from Nettles that have cushioned treads and their new "levelers", which allow the stirrups to rock from side to side to accomodate the rider's ankle angle.

Custom, handmade wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel
3-1/2" stock fork
4-1/2" Taylor cantle, 40 degrees and 1" dish
5/8 single spider rigging
All-leather ground seat
Bronze/brass hardware from Bork
Rawhide-braided stainless steel hobble ring
Hermann Oak skirting, Big Horn latigo
Cantle and horn binding stitched with coad-waxed Irish linen
Nettles stirrups, 2" cushioned tread with "levelers" that allow the stirrup to rock from side to side
Weight fully loaded 30 lbs

The Cash

Built for customer Paula in Washington, this is another classic Visalia-style 3B: upright, centered, snug, and as close as one can get to a dressage seat in a western saddle. The saddle and its 4" tread Weber stirrups will be very comfortable on long trail rides.

After three years, Paula sent this update:

Just wanted you to know that the saddle you built for me is perfect. I have ridden miles and miles in it both in AZ and WA, in the desert and in the mountains. I just got back from a packing trip for 5 days in the Chelan Sawtooth wilderness with 5 women friends. They kept advising me that I need both britchen and breastcollar, but the saddle rode so well without that extra gear, and no sign of stress to my horse. Thanks for doing such excellent work.

Custom, handmade wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel
3-1/2" stock fork
4-1/4" Taylor cantle, 40 degrees and 1" dish, with a 3/4" beveled edge
3/4 in-skirt rigging
All-leather ground seat
Stainless steel hardware
Rawhide-braided stainless steel hobble ring
Hermann Oak skirting, Big Horn latigo
Cantle and horn binding stitched with coad-waxed Irish linen
Weber stirrups, 4" moran style with monel covers
Weight fully loaded 28 lbs

The Chisum-Mack

Built for customer Randy in Arizona, to fit both of his very well-bred Quarter Horses (named Chisum and Mack).

This is a simple stood-up 3B with a thicker fork to accommodate a stout horn.

Custom handmade Rod Nikkel tree
3B, stood-up
All-leather groundseat
4-1/4" fork, to accomodate a stout 3" horn
Cantle 4-1/2", 40 degrees, Taylor style, 1" dish
Hermann Oak skirting, Bighorn latigo
Stainless steel hardware
3/4 spider rigging with back rigging dees and back cinch/billets "just in case"
Crupper dee
Rawhide-braided hobble ring
Weight w/o stirrups 30 lbs

The Velvet

Built for customer Maura in Italy, the Velvet is named for both her horse and her favorite fictional character, Velvet Brown of National Velvet.

The Velvet is a classic Visalia-style 3B: upright, centered, snug, and as close as one can get to a dressage seat in a western saddle. It's got rainbow moonstones, Maura's favorite, inlaid in the cantleback and horn cap.

Classic 3B Visalia-style old timer saddle
Custom, handmade Rod Nikkel tree
3-1/2" fork
5" Taylor cantle, 40 degrees and 1" dish
3-1/2" tall horn
5/8 single ring "spider" rigging
All-leather ground seat
Bronze hardware from Herb Bork
Hermann Oak skirting, Big Horn latigo
Nettles walnut stirrups
Inlaid moonstones in cantle and horn
Weight fully loaded 28 lbs

The Kiwi

Built for customer Emma in New Zealand, I decided to name this saddle "The Kiwi" rather than naming it after her horse, because it has such a strong New Zealand character. Emma wanted tooling that celebrated the New Zealand native Iris and the Silver Fern, and wished there was a way to incorporate Paua shells.

I figured out how to make conchos using Paua shells, and the result is a unique saddle that is very proudly "Kiwi".

Warren Wright wood/rawhide tree
7/8 double flat plate rigging
All-leather ground seat
Stainless steel hardware
Hermann Oak skirting, Big Horn latigo
Conchos made from Paua shells
Custom leather-covered tooled wood stirrups
Weight fully loaded 30 lbs

3B visalia style saddle

A Simple 3B

 

 

3B California vaquero old-time all-day saddle, wood/rawhide tree made by top treemaker Rod Nikkel, 93 degrees bars, all-leather ground seat, 15-1/2" seat, 3/4 single spider rig, cast aluminum stirrups

 

The Smarty

 

Built for my husband and his horse Smarty, this is a half-breed (meaning half-roughout) wade with more than half but not quite full tooling (I guess I'd call it 3/4 tooled).

Wade half-breed
3/4 tooling
wood/rawhide tree custom made by Rod Nikkel
4" cantle, 37.5 degrees
All-leather ground seat
Hermann Oak leather, BigHorn latigo
All stainless steel hardware
3/4 single in-skirt rigging
weight 30 lbs

 

The Willow

Classic Visalia-style 3B


All-leather ground seat
3/4 single spider rigging
Wood/rawhide tree from Rod and Denise Nikkel
Seat 15-1/2"
Cantle 4-1/2", 40 degrees, Taylor style
Wood post horn, 3" tall, cap 3"
Hermann Oak leather, Big Horn latigo
Bork bronze rigging rings, solid brass buckles, dees and rings
Weight 30 lbs


wade saddle halfbreed

Half-breed Wade

"Saddle fits my horses great and is a very comfortable ride, first ride was like it had been broke in for months. The workmanship is fantastic and would recommend your saddles to anybody wanting a good western saddle. Thanks again for a saddle that everybody loves that sees it."

Half-tooled freehand floral
All-leather ground seat
7/8 double inskirt rigged
Wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel
93 degrees wade bars
Seat 15-1/2" - 16"
Cantle 5", 40 degrees
Wood post horn, 3" tall, cap 4-3/4"
Gullet height 7-1/2", handhole height 6-1/4"
Hermann Oak leather, Big Horn latigo
Bork bronze rigging rings, solid brass and stainless steel buckles and dees
Nettles stirrups, 3-1/2" tread, Elm
Weight with back cinch 34 lbs

3B saddle halfbreed

The Speedy

A modified 3B with special features - windmills and pretty blue inlaid larimar stones - for Johanna and "Excess" (AKA Speedy)

"It's all done and it's beautiful!!!! Thanks so much to Julia for making my dream saddle! I rode in it today. I LOVED the seat. I felt like I was right in the saddle and I had been riding in it forever. My friend who I was riding with even commented how relaxed I looked in it."

3B saddle, halfbreed (half roughout), half-tooled floral, wood/rawhide tree made by top treemaker Rod Nikkel, 90 degree bars, Taylor cantle 5" & 40 degrees, all-leather ground seat, 3/4 single rigging, Bork bronze hardware, Nettles Elm wood stirrups.

 

3B saddle polished wood horn

The Popper

A new 3B for me and my girl Popper - this saddle is special because it has a fully exposed, highly polished Jarrah wood horn. It also has a 5/8 single rigging, and the tooling is entirely decorative knife cuts, or "brightcuts".

wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel
all-leather ground seat
fully exposed, highly polished Jarrah wood horn
5/8 single rigging

 

 

wade saddle

The Diva

"Wow! What a great saddle!! Fits us both like a glove.
Buck rolls are beautiful. Room for them and my seat is perfect. Thank you! She is a much happier horse with this saddle.
I found myself riding a more willing and relaxed mare today.
I think the saddle fit makes a huge difference in her attitude. Trainer noticed it too."

Wade saddle for a low-withered horse, wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel
7/8 double inskirt rig
custom 3" flatbottom stirrups emblazoned with customer's brand from Nettles Stirrups.

 

58 wade saddle

The Cowboy

Working saddle for a Montana cowboy
58 Wade tree, inskirt rigging, 7/8 double rig, 15-1/2" seat, all roughout, all stainless steel hardware

 

 

The Cowboy 2


Ray Hunt Wade tree, inskirt rigging, 7/8 double rig, 15-1/2" seat, all roughout, all stainless steel hardware

 

The Buckaroo

3B - sold to Tim, a mounted patrolman in Canada

"I've ridden it on a few horses now.
I really, really like the seat.  You did a great job.  I rode it this morning on my last horse.  It fits her best of all, and the seat helps me ride her more comfortably.  I'm most excited about her since I've never had a saddle that suited her. Thanks very much, it's worth every penny."

Vaquero old-time all-day saddle, wood/rawhide tree from Rod Nikkel, all-leather ground seat, 3/4 single spider rig, cast aluminum stirrups, all two-needle hand stitching

 

Wade saddle

A single-rig Wade

Wade saddle, wood/rawhide tree made by top treemaker Rod Nikkel, 93 degree bars, all-leather ground seat, 16" seat, 3/4 single spider rig, slick seat (no padding), wood stirrups, all two-needle hand stitching

 

A Buster Welch Reiner

Buster Welch reining-style wood/rawhide tree made by top treemaker Rod Nikkel, 95 degree bars, 15-1/2", in-skirt double rig, hard seat, cast aluminum Visalia stirrups, mane hair cinch

 

The Jessie

Homestead Wade wood/kevlar tree made by Texas treemaker Travis Dittmer, 93 degree bars, 15-1/2", in-skirt double rig, hard seat, cast aluminum Visalia stirrups, mane hair cinch