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Jim Dudley is a horseman. He owns and manages Jim Dudley Quarter Horses, a horse barn and training facility in Columbia, Missouri. There, Dudley does nearly everything equine, including training and breeding. At the facility, Dudley also teaches riders how to train their own horses.
While Dudley hires some employees to help maintain the facility, most of the people seen at Jim Dudley Quarter Horses are other horse lovers, volunteers who just want to be apart of Dudley’s operation. A self-proclaimed “horse-aholic,” Dudley believes that horse riding is in his genes. He has been riding since he was three years old, and has loved every moment of it.
“Now, I’ve been really fortunate enough to make my living with my passion,” Dudley said. “So every day, even though I get tired at the end of the day, I’ve never worked a day in my life. I can’t remember a morning I didn’t jump up and say ‘I wanna ride a horse.”
“Horses to me are a lot like people, I treat them a lot the same,” Dudley said. “I cannot demand respect. I can’t punish a horse into respect. I’ve got to earn it. And don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty firm, but I give a lot, too. Give and take. Just like people.”
Dudley stands with a mare outside of a barn at an equine veterinary clinic. This mare was checked to see what point she was at in her ovulation cycle, necessary information to determine when she will need to be artificially inseminated.
“I’ve tried lots of things, and not all of it has worked,” he said. Small adjustments made to the horses slowly improve their riding ability. “You’re looking for really, really small steps. Repetition, repetition,” Dudley said.
There is no typical day at the office when working with horses. “All I do is solve problems when I get up in the morning,” said Dudley. “It’s basically all I do, is put fires out, all day long. Then you go to bed, get back up in the morning, and do the same.”
“I pretty much try to keep myself organized,” he said, sitting in his office. “Not overly organized. Every horse I have in the barn that I ride, I’ve written its name down and then I put a … symbol next to it every day that I ride it: “good,” “bad,” “different.”
Dudley puts a new shoe on a horse. The shoeing process is intense and strenuous; it requires cooperation from the horse, an element not present on this early May morning. Dudley was able to shoe two of the horses hooves before the horse grew too uncooperative.
Horseshoes line the walls of the shoeing room on the Dudley property. In the shoeing room, Dudley cleans hooves, polishes shoes, and shoes his horses. The walls were filled with old horseshoes and tools to be used in the shoeing process.