For the past 47 years, rancher Jesse Smith has handcrafted intricate, ornamental leather saddles for fellow cowboys, most recently on his 14,000-acre cattle ranch in the southeast corner of Colorado. Each custom-ordered saddle can take anywhere from 45 to 300 hours to complete, and Smith, 72, finishes about 15 every year. If you’re a hands-on type, sign up for Smith’s renowned five-week saddle-making course. Each student (he only takes one at a time) leaves with a saddle—or rather, a work of art—built with his or her own hands.
5280.com Exclusive: Watch Smith work in his studio here.