Michael Bethel grew up on Mount Turner, a cattle Station in North Queensland's gulf country about 20 miles downstream from Georgetown, the historical gold mining town on the Etheridge River. The property was originally bought by his grandfather and is now owned and still being run by his parents. It was in this environment that he developed a love for leatherwork and could always be found tinkering with leather and making gear.
At the end of his schooling he returned to help on the family cattle property and continued making and selling leatherwork in his spare time. Following the marriage to his wife Lynda and the fact that there was now a growing demand for his saddlery and gear he thought he should take it one step further and build a saddle.
In 1988 after buying a book on the subject, this self-taught saddler finally built a saddle. It was not to his liking so he thought he should build another, then another..., and to borrow an old cliché the rest is history. BETHEL SADDLERY was now in existence.
In 1991 he loaded up his family which now included the first of two children, bought a small farm adjacent to the Atherton Tablelands and continued building saddles and with the help and support of Lynda, started breeding Texas Longhorn cattle which later evolved into the Horseshoe B Longhorn herd and then later Texas Longhorn Wagon Tours & Safaris.
The biggest turning point in this saddle maker’s life was meeting Dale Harwood, regarded by many as the most accomplished western saddle maker there is, who was in Australia conducting a saddle tree building school. Dale offered to help Michael with his saddles if he ever had a chance to visit the USA. So in 1994 he headed to the United States for a couple of months where he had the good fortune of being shown some of the finer techniques of Western saddle making.
In 1998, the family sold out and bought an 1100 acre property, Leahton Park just North of Charters Towers right in the heart of North Queensland's cattle country. It is here that they are now based, operating BETHEL SADDLERY where fine Custom Saddles and saddlery is being made. During the winter months, as well as the saddle shop, the Bethels also run their tourist attraction - Texas Longhorn Wagon Tours & Safaris on the property.
Michael Bethel has built nearly 700 saddles including saddles for Big Bend Saddlery, Texas and Harwood Saddlery, Idaho and has exhibited his saddles at the Trappings of Texas, Alpine, Texas and also the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko Nevada.