Billy Albin, a champion competitor and horse trainer, can take an untanned cowhide and create not just tools for the cowboy, but beautiful braided art. Billy braids bosals, quirts, hackamores, hobbles and more. He processes the hides, removes the hair, and strips the rawhide until he can work the braids. In 2016, he was recognized as Braider of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists.
Billy can create cowboy gear because he is a cowboy. He lives south of Comanche, Texas, on a small ranch with his wife, Glenda. He started competing in the American Junior Rodeo Association while he was in high school and won championships in roping and steer wrestling. At Tarleton State University, he and a few friends formed a college rodeo team and captured the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association title in 1967. Billy and other team members were inducted into the Tarleton State University Rodeo Hall of Fame. He is also included on the Rodeo Walk of Fame in downtown Stephenville.
Billy’s father always had two or three vaqueros who would work as cowboys on the ranch. One of the vaqueros was an accomplished rawhide braider. As a young boy, Billy watched the braider at his craft. Although he never learned the vaqueros’ techniques, he developed an interest in braiding and began at age 16 as a self-taught braider.
Braiding is not only his passion but it’s also his job. He works 10 to 12 hours a day seven days a week in his shop on the ranch. He makes over 75 different items, including knife handles and sheaths and a few jewelry pieces. “I’ve worked at a lot of ranches, with a lot of good cowboys,” he said. “They saw my tack and wanted some like it. Glenda told me to make them full-time, but I didn’t think it would work.” Then he went to the Western Heritage Classics Trade Show, sold everything he had and gained respect from braiders all over the world.