Skip to content

Trading Places

June 26, 2012

There comes a time in everyone’s life when wishing for a different sunrise becomes a waking dream. It’s the time when the same old path, the same old doorways, and the same old routine just aren’t enough anymore. Some people take to the highways, some people spend their life wishing, and some people stand up and make their dreams come true. Justin Dunn is one of those people who took his dreams and made them real. He gives credit to his persevering faith, a few mustangs, and a willingness to trade the comfort of the known for the possibilities of the unknown.

Justin Dunn, at home

Raised in south Texas, Justin and his family built a business along the waterfront, restoring water-damaged dwellings from the ravages that can be Mother Nature when her fury wreaks havoc from sea to land.  It was here that he met Duke, an 18-month-old mustang colt born in captivity to a branded mustang mare.  Justin fell in love with this wild mustang colt, and with the first gentle touch of his calloused hands on the colt’s twitching shoulder, he knew that his heart had found a home. No other horse, young, old, trained or untrained, had ever offered the connection that Justin felt that day.

A chance visit with a friend would convince Justin that some things are just meant to happen. He had been having a recurring dream about a dun-colored mystery horse. The dream had no connection to any happenings in his daily life, but it was clear and detailed, a beautiful dun horse appearing several times in the moments between sleep and the first cup of coffee. While visiting a friend one day, the phone rang. His friend listened for a few minutes, then turned to Justin. “Do you want another horse?” he asked. The 4-year-old horse had been traded several times — once for a tank of propane and once for a small sum of money to a Wyoming cowboy. No one could handle him, and his future was bleak. Without hesitation, Justin nodded. On the way to see the horse, Justin thought he would name him “Whiskey.” When they arrived, he was stunned to see a dun mustang standing in a pen. His name, said the man, was Whiskey.

Justin and Whiskey lead a pack trip into the Colorado high country

A family vacation to Colorado in 2007 convinced Justin to put his Texas business and home on the market, and within three months both were sold. With proceeds from the sale, a modest parcel of land near Guffey, Colorado, was purchased and Justin began operating a trail ride and outfitting business, which immediately became a huge success.  Duke and Whiskey, once called “rogues” by those who saw them, had become true partners, their relationship of trust was a lesson that Justin wanted to share with other people and their own horses. His training business skyrocketed as he shared his unique philosophy of “trading places with the horse.”

Through his journey with mustangs, he has learned that time with them is measured in experiences rather than hours. A lowered head, the soft licking of lips, a step into trust, or even the subtle flick of an ear, all are examples of the kind of “moments” which have come together to build relationships between this man and his mustangs.  Justin understands the miracle of revelations, as his interactions with mustangs continues to strengthen his faith.  “A person can’t get any closer to their creator than being with a mustang on top of a mountain”, says Justin.

On the weathered mesas and trails of their Rocky Mountain home, Justin’s mustangs have taught him to understand the unique perspective of a wild horse. The difference between “what’s going to eat me” and “when am I going to eat” seems to be a consistent perspective between the mustangs and the domestic horses he trains.  As he works to connect to each horse in their own way, Justin has found similarities between communicating with his mustangs and the challenges that life presents daily. Because of the mustang, he has found that consistency builds confidence, and with confidence comes success.

No bits, no shoes, no spurs. Justin’s relationships with his mustangs are as strong as the home in which he and his family live. When he swings up into the saddle, he knows he is stepping into the horse’s world and trading places, yet again with one of God’s most magnificent creatures.

Justin Dunn and Harley, 2012 EMM Top Ten (7th)
Photo credit: Park County Republican & Fairplay Flume, 2012

Justin and Harley compete in Fort Collins 2012 Extreme Mustang Makeover as “Zorro”
















Justin Dunn lives in Guffey, Colorado with his wife Kristina and their children Austin, Lauren, and baby Emma. They manage the adventures of a successful outfitter company, which offers family vacation packages and mountain trail rides to visitors. Their mustangs are the primary horses for the business, including Duke and Whiskey. Justin competed in the 2012 Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Collins, Colorado, securing a spot in the Top 10 and finishing seventh with a black gelding named Harley. In addition to adopting Harley, he and his wife also adopted Moonshine, another EMM 2012 Fort Collins competing mustang, who placed fourth with his trainer, Margaret Blaha.

For more information on how to adopt a mustang of your own, please visit

From → Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. Sharlet permalink

    Wonderful story, Sandy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: