Sometimes it is the accidents in life that can create a livelihood that may not have been discovered otherwise. This was such a case for Ed Galemba, owner of Ed Galemba Saddle Shop, located at 622 CR 474 just outside of Stephenville.
Galemba began competing in rodeos in 1961 at the age of 21. He competed in steer wrestling, which is an event where a cowboy must wrestle a steer to the ground.
In this event, a cowboy sits on his horse behind a rope barrier. The steer is barred in a chute until the cowboy gives the signal. The steer, which usually weighs three times the amount of the cowboy, gets a head start run until the rope in front of the cowboy is released.
As the steer runs, another cowboy, who is called a “hazer,” keeps the steer going in a straight line in order to help protect the mounted cowboy. The other cowboy must be able to catch up and jump off his horse onto the steer, wrestling him down to the ground. The event usually takes place between three to 10 seconds.
Galemba qualified for the National Finals Rodeo for Steer Wrestling event in 1968 and 1970. He competed in the Calgary Stampede in 1970, which is one of the most prestigious rodeos. Later that year, Galemba suffered a knee injury that forced him to quit steer wrestling. However, this incident only marked a new chapter in Galemba’s life.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Galemba said.
While recuperating from knee surgery, Galemba began hanging around a saddle shop in Fort Worth. He eventually bought all of the owner’s equipment and opened his own saddle shop in 1972 in Fort Worth. He moved to Oklahoma and opened his business there. In 1978, Galemba developed specially modified splint boots for horses that competed.
“I was married to a woman who competed in the finals,” said Galemba. “The leg protection for horses wasn’t much.”
Galemba modified the boots to fit the horse and give protection to its legs. The splint boots are made with high quality leather and lined with rubber to absorb shock. Galemba started marketing his boots while still making saddles. Eventually, he focused his business on just splint boots, skid boots and cinches.
“Word of mouth basically made it what it is today,” Galemba said of his successful business.
In 1978, Galemba moved to Stephenville and opened shop just outside the city. All of his products are handmade. Up until three years ago, Galemba employed three to five people to help the production, giving the employees on-the-job training in making the boots.
Today, Galemba employs Amish in Oklahoma to create his products, which are still handmade with great detail. He sold the rights to the skid boots to another businessman, but the boots still bear his name. Galemba just specializes in the splint boots.
Galemba receives a shipment between 35 to 50 pairs of boots every week at his saddle shop from Oklahoma. He personally makes the final inspection on all the boots, checking for any mistakes and making any repairs necessary.
“My shop is the shipping point,” Galemba said. “I have customers in Canada, the United States, Europe, and South America.”
While not often, Galemba will sometimes work on custom orders. His products are featured in many magazines, including Smith Brothers Catalog and National Ropers Supply.
For the last 10 years, Galemba has made a comeback into the rodeo life. Still a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) since 1961, Galemba has been competing in team roping as a heeler, winning events. For Galemba, team roping is just something on the side for the successful crafter to do.
“Back then, it was a livelihood,” Galemba said. “Now, it’s just a hobby.”