By Grace Smith
||Jeff Cornelius says that by developing camaraderies with other established horse breeders, he has fashioned an operation that is respected nationally.
Winston Churchill, former prime minister of Great Britain, once said, "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." If this is true, then horse owner Jeff Cornelius hasn’t been wasting a whole lot of time.
Cornelius is a horse farmer from Blountsville, a small town in Blount County. Although horses are his passion, it wasn’t a love he acquired from his family. "My dad was in the cotton warehouse business," Cornelius said. "He didn’t like horses. In fact, if he were at my farm right now, you could pay him $500 a piece and he’d let you take every one of them."
Horse ownership may not run in the family, but Cornelius’s previous career endeavors had some family ties. He became President of the Community Bank in Blountsville after his uncle, Frank Cornelius, who served as a bank officer for over 50 years. Jeff Cornelius served as the bank’s President and Vice Chairman for several years before he retired in 1994.
Cornelius got his first horse in 1960, so horses have always been a part of Cornelius’s life; but, upon his retirement from the bank, they became his livelihood.
"The horse industry is very competitive, so you’ve really got to be consistent," Cornelius said.
|Horses are trained constantly. Cornelius has customers who purchase his horses for show prospects, calf roping, reining and team roping.
He started his breeding operation in 1985, but retirement gave him the opportunity to increase his consistency by allowing him to spend more time with his horses. His horse program is a Quarter Horse broodmare operation where his horses are bred, foaled and raised on his Blount County farm. Cornelius said he has more than 90 mares and 12 stallions.
Cornelius said although he has horses that can be hand-bred, most of the herd is turned out into the fields to be bred naturally. Stallions are removed from the brood mares in July so most foals are born 11 months later, in June.
His operation focuses on the production of performance horses which are horses that are bred for competition and not for pleasure riding or pasture riding. Cornelius said he has customers who purchase his horses for show prospects, calf roping, reining and team roping.
He said he has two men who help him with his training. Joey King of Hackelburg and John Starkey of Susan Moore teach Cornelius’s horses the techniques of reining and roping.
Cornelius has built an operation with a foundation of impressive genetics. Horses foaled by his stallions have won several competitions like National Reining Horse Futurity, Junior Cup Reining Horse Champion, Southeast Limited Futurity, 2003 American Quarter Horse Association [AQHA] Junior Horse, 2004 AQHA Senior Horse and 2005 All Around Champion Super Horse.
Other prominent Alabama horse breeders have played an important role for Cornelius in shaping his operation. Developing camaraderie with established horse breeders like Woody Bartlett of Pike Road and Pete Reynolds of Eutaw, he has been able to fashion an operation that is respected even on a national level.
Chris Hepinstal, manager of the Blount County Farmers Cooperative, said he has visited Cornelius’s operation many times and finds it quite impressive.
"Jeff has one of the top ten breed ranches in the NRHA (National Reining Horse Association)," Hepinstal said. "He has one of the better broodmare operations in the Southeast."
Hepinstal said Cornelius has been doing business at the Co-op since his dad began bringing him many years ago. He added that Cornelius frequently buys items like 14 percent horse feed, nitrogen fertilizer, other chemicals and his winter grazing grass seed.
"We’ve been doing business with the Co-op for 25 years," Cornelius said. "I like their service, attitude and willingness to help."
Grace Smith is an AFC management services trainee.