Jon Rafel at a young age started fixing saddles he broke growing up. This turned into a skill that later flourished into the business that is there today.  

Rafel is the owner and founder of Emmet Saddlery in Hustisford. He leads four other team members in crafting custom leatherwork. These beautiful saddles aren’t created overnight. The talented team takes Mid-West Farm Report behind the scenes to look at the craftsmanship and skill required to produce Western works of art.

“When I became on my own, I came to learn that people would actually pay me to do this,” Rafel tells Aubrey Schlimgen. “To cut the story short here we are at Emmet Saddlery, and we are builders to the champions of the world.”  

While they may specialize in building, cleaning, and repairing saddles. They also do other custom leatherwork besides the saddle. This includes purse straps, guitar straps, gun holsters, you name it. It’s all based on the value of a long-lasting product that stems from the tradition of Western leatherwork.

There is one project that stands proud amongst the team. That was crafting the halter and saddle for the 2024 Miles City Bucking Horse Sale Champion.  

Another project brought to the team’s attention was building a special saddle to accommodate Sydni Mell. Mell was left paralyzed due to a farm accident in 2022. She has not been able to ride her horse since then.  

“We were kind of excited and it was a challenge for us because we had never done anything like this before,” says Chuck Star, one of the team members.

After multiple trips of fittings and crafting, they had a saddle — one that they believed was perfect for Mell. 

“It was probably the proudest moment I can remember because we were like we did a good job!” Star says.  

Chuck also mentions that the team would be willing and able to do similar work. The team was shocked that they were the first to say yes to this challenge.

“We would be looking forward to doing it again because it brought up so much pleasure to create this saddle for her,” Star says. “And if we could do that for more people, we’re more than willing to take on anyone that would want a saddle for a specific need.”