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NSBA President Kevin Dukes

Filed under: Current Articles,Featured |     

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34 – May/June, 2024

By Elizabeth Arnold

Kevin Dukes did not grow up in a horse family. But that didn’t stop him from making his way onto the back of a horse as soon as he could. “I was the weird one in our family. No one could understand me or why I was so driven to have a horse,” says Dukes. At age 13 he got his first job and used the money he earned to purchase his first horse.

Dukes grew up in Mississippi where he says timed events were ‘the hot thing’. As a youth he placed at the AQHYA World Show in Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, and the Stake Race. “All I wanted to do was be a horse trainer,” says Dukes. But adds, “My parents weren’t happy with that train of thought.” Eventually his father extended an olive branch and told his son that if he wanted to train horses, he ought to go into Cutting because that’s where the money was. With the help of legendary trainer Martha Josey, Dukes sold his barrel horse and used the money to buy a Cutting horse. He then went to work for trainers in the Cutting industry.

After several years, Dukes says that his parents helped him understand the importance of earning an education. The realization led him to Mississippi State where he earned a degree in Psychology. Horses remained an important part of his life, and he still owned his Cutting horse. “I had to do something with my Cutting horse while I was in college, and I saw a lot of people riding all-around horses. So, I taught my Cutting horse to be an all-around horse,” he says.

It was at that point, Dukes shares, that many professional doors began to open for him. “I got a job with Lynn Palm in Michigan. I was extremely fortunate to go work for her. Through Lynn, I met Carol Harris, and she became my mentor.” It wasn’t long before Harris, the legendary owner of Rugged Lark, started sending Dukes horses to train. “She believed in me more than I believed in myself,” shares Dukes. Harris and Palm’s mentorship launched Dukes into a career built upon placing the welfare of the horse above all else. It is a philosophy that has served him well and has remained at the forefront of his approach to business and leadership.

Click here to read the complete article
34 – May/June, 2024

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