Friday, September 1, 2017

Riding with Purpose: An interview with horseman Justin Dunn

Justin Dunn 

Riding with Purpose: An interview with horseman Justin Dunn

by Gina McKnight

Archived article from the August 2017 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission.

Justin Dunn has been an avid rider since he was a child. He competes in Mustang Makeovers and adopts the Mustangs he trains for use in camps for children with or recovering from Cancer. He owns and operates an outfitting business which includes trail rides and pack trips. As a professional horse trainer/clinician, Justin holds three-day private clinics and has the only three-day Mustang Horsemanship School of its kind at his ranch in Colorado. Justin travels all over the U.S. for public/private clinics and is the trainer/clinician for the popular television show Best of America by Horseback on RFD-TV.

Justin’s specialty is in helping people and horses build their relationship. He helps people improve themselves so that their horse can be better, too. Life improvement for both the individual and the horse. Justin wants to help people understand horses, and horses understand people.

Welcome Justin!

GM: Justin, I like that you ride bit-less, find spurs to be intrusive, and you ride your horses barefoot. Your mission to help people to embrace a relationship with horses is inspiring. You must have an impressive horse history! When was your first encounter with a horse?
JD: Before I was born, my Dad gave me his Shetland pony named Chico. My horse Chico knew me before I knew him. I grew up with him, until he passed away when I was 14 years old. He was 29 years old.

GM: What horses do you stable now? Where is your favorite place to ride?
JD: I have fifteen horses; seven BLM Mustangs, two ponies, one Appaloosa, five Quarter horses. Some are rescue horses. My favorite place to ride is my ranch here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. My horse and I go to the highest point at 10,750 feet to get "restorative silence"

GM: As a seasoned rider, horse trainer, rider advocate, and all-around horseman, describe the perfect horse…
JD: The perfect horse for me is the Mustang! The Mustangs are "wild" meaning they are uninterrupted by man. The mustang has taught me the most about myself. Asking the mustang to come into the "human element" is very rewarding. I have a calling to serve a higher purpose. That higher purpose is to help people and horses understand themselves, each other and their calling to serve a higher purpose. My passion/mission is helping horses and people. I have programs (Self Discovery through Horses) for children and adults. The perfect horse is a willing partner to help me accomplish our mission!

GM: Your horsemanship program “Adventures of The Enlightened Horseman” is intriguing. Who inspired your horsemanship and helped you along the way?
JD: I try to be the person I needed when I was young. Horses were always in my life and helped me when I needed them. The horse inspired my Horsemanship and the horse helped me along the way. They say experience is the best teacher, I agree. The horse taught me how to evaluate the experiences and learn from them. I focus on self-growth, simply to be better for my horses and to help guide others to be better for their horses.

GM: You train Mustangs, rescue horses, and horses of every discipline. What are your training techniques and how can I bring them to my stable?
JD: I have beliefs, never use pain or fear to force a horse to submit. No bits, whips or spurs. Philosophies, trade places with your horse, treat them as you would want to be treated. Priorities for success, attitude, mindfulness, compassion, kindness. I use a strength based training strategy to create a willing partner in my horses. The best way to bring them to your stable, is to join my training group for members only. Here is the link:  

GM: Riding horses is spiritual. Relationships with horses can create a sense of well-being and fulfillment. In a nutshell, what is your deep philosophies, beliefs, and priorities for horsemanship success?
JD: Present what you expect. Ask a horse to be a partner in the relationship. Create an environment the horse can learn in. Seek to learn from the horse as you teach. The best gift we can give our horse, is self-growth toward positive change.

GM: Do you have advice for those looking to purchase their first horse?
JD: At this point in my life, if choosing a horse for myself, I want one that would be considered a challenge; a horse most would say was untrainable, a project or label as bad. I just found such horse, a mustang, and he is currently being trained in my training group. Recently my mustang and best friend named Moonshine passed away. It really devastated me, and I needed a horse to help me continue reaching my full potential. The new mustang named Sunshine is truly a challenge, not so much the training, but the things I'm learning about myself.

My advice to anyone looking to purchase a horse. Have an honest awareness of yourself. Trust in your talents and abilities. If you are new to horses, get an experienced/older horse that can help you learn and grow. If you are experienced, get a horse that needs your guidance, and can help you learn and grow. Be willing to change for the horse. Too many people expect the horse to change for them. Try to have a beginner’s mindset, eager to learn more.

GM: My sincere condolences for the loss of Moonshine. Losing a horse is like losing a family member, sometimes even greater. With the changing horse-related laws and never-ending attempt to keep horses from slaughter, what are your views on the BLM’s Wild Mustang current program?
JD: The BLM is government, lots of rules, protocol, opinions, ideas, dependent on votes and money. I think we as individuals have a responsibility to do what we can within the laws. In saying that, BLM has provided ways for us to help the wild horses. As an example, I have adopted mustangs and they help me in my programs for children and adults. It's a small way to help the Mustangs, but does help if compounded by many people and other programs. I'm not sure the BLM’s current program is the answer to the problems the Mustangs face. We need to change the minds and hearts of the people, educate and spread awareness. In my opinion that seems a better way to find a solution to the problems.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
JD: Horsemanship to me is, discovering myself, finding the inner Horseman/person I want to be, with the relationship of a horse. Being a part of something bigger than myself, doing something I'm only able to do because of the horse.

Connect with Justin and view his upcoming event schedule…

Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from Ohio USA.

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