Heart of Phoenix Mustang at Funderburg Farm in Yellow Springs, Ohio

Dante is a 7 year old Spanish mustang from Nevada, and he is one of the most photogenic horses I’ve ever seen. He’s in training with Laura Funderburg for 100 days as part of the Appalachian Trainer Face Off, in which regional trainers compete to train rescue horses and help them find new homes. I saw that Laura needed a photography sponsor for him, and I was thrilled when she said yes to my offer to provide photos of his progress. I admit I was a little starry-eyed to get to meet him–I still have the Breyer model of Shy Boy the mustang that was a present for my 11th birthday.

Laura had been working with Dante with the overarching goal of building his trust and confidence. She uses what I think is a fascinating combination of cowboy horsemanship, and classical French dressage techniques, to develop his mental and physical capabilities. These photos were from a short groundwork session out in one of the farm’s idyllic pastures.

Those who’ve worked with horses for any length of time will tell you that horses don’t operate according to human timelines… what could take one horse a few minutes or hours could take another days. And what distinguishes the best equestrians from the rest are the ones who recognize that fact and let a horse develop at its own pace, not theirs. Dante passed the 30 day training mark with Laura, but after working with him every single one of those days, she decided that he needs more than the 100 leading up to the ATFO competition to become a suitable equine partner. Dante has since been taken back by the Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue , and Laura was able to take on a new horse in his place. You can follow along with news from her farm by following Funderburg Farm on Facebook.