Duke and Remington changed everything!
It all started in 2007, sitting on Cottesloe beach in Australia. Butt in sand, staring at the amazing view, wind gusting and sunshine bright, I decided it was time to settle down and bring a pet into my work-a-holic globe-trotting life. Blame it on the beautiful wedding I was there to celebrate, or a recent jilting, but I wanted a balancing force in my life. Someone of my own to be devoted to. The requirements were clear: smart, adaptable, reasonably quiet, and portable since my work travel and wanderlust were unlikely to wane. A week later I was home, web-surfing at 2 a.m. in a jet-lagged haze, browsing a stream of puppy cuteness online, knowing full well that's not how responsible people shop for pets. I was just researching, I told myself. In the middle of a stream of cute furballs, I spied a very serious little puppy with gigantic ears posed next to a revolver. Remington. I met his plane at the airport a week later, and we've been inseparable ever since.
Happily, Remington had the same thirst for adventure I did, and would gladly jump into any bag if it meant he could go. As a result, he's covertly been many places a dog has no business being, including bars, film festivals, the Louvre. An accomplished traveler, he's no stranger to planes, trains, and automobiles. He once held it for 22 hours on the way to Buenos Aries, despite frequent piddle pad offerings in the ladies room, only to unleash on the first unfortunate plant outside the airport. And then there was Paris. We'll always have Paris, and memories of Remington guiding me determinedly to the bakery at the crack of dawn. Among all of the grand life lessons, we learned a lot about how to travel comfortably together, and discovered that there's a severe shortage of stylish travel bags that serve the needs of both dog and its person. Schlepping wearily through the JFK airport terminal with Remington on one shoulder and my satchel on the other, I vowed to change that someday.
In 2010, enter Duke, stage left. I had begun jumping lessons a couple months earlier after a 15-year hiatus from horses. Horse fever had hit hard, and I found myself wide-awake in the wee hours of the morning, horizontal on unfamiliar pillows in my Paris rental, browsing the Dreamhorse site. I know-- very dangerous territory. A 16-hand Bay American Quarter Horse with breeding similar to my first mare, Duke had grown up on a ranch, and had done some barrel racing and English flat work. Interesting combination. A handsome fella, it was his kind eye that caught my attention, and I replayed his videos until dawn. E-mails were exchanged, and I zipped down to meet him as soon as I was back in the country. It was love at first sight. Despite a truly bewildering trial ride where it was apparent that neither of us understood what the other had in mind, Duke's willingness under saddle and friendly curious personality convinced me that he was the one. As I had recently been accused of being "horse crazy" by a trusted friend (and rightfully so) I had my trainer come down for a sanity-check. Duke arrived at his new home a week later.
We've explored a few disciplines together-- hunter/jumpers, dressage, vaquero, chased a few cows, and enjoyed it all. He's taught me more about communication and courage than any other being in my life. He also cemented a belief that I now hold dear:
If you trust your instincts instead of following common conventions, the world has a way of taking you down beautiful unexpected paths.
Re-entering the horse world after such a long break, I had the good fortune to be surrounded by top talent and accomplished equestrians from a variety of disciplines who really care about their animals. I began studying equine bio-mechanics, first quietly on my own, then attending seminars and clinics, eventually earning my equine massage therapy license. Understanding how horses work from a biological and behavioral standpoint led me to question: What we can do to make our animals more comfortable?
While there's a lot of lovely leather in the horse world, the fit of the goods and consideration for the horse hasn't always been the focus. Modern mass-production means that for any horse outside the average norm, bridles pinch the ears, horse blankets rub shoulders or withers, and ill-fitting saddles constrict the shoulders and back muscles. The focus on profits over quality mean that cheap synthetic materials trap heat and moisture on the horses back, and cinches and girths pull and drag on the sensitive pectoral and abdominal muscles. After stumbling over some antique horse furnishing catalogs, I realized that this hadn't always been the case, and decided to create a modern alternative to mass-produced cheap goods.
It took me a few years to transition from the career I had to the one I wanted. Thankfully my boss had read the signs long before I had the courage to leap: the vacations scheduled around horse events, the denim jods on riding days, the odd-hour international conference calls taken in the barn. When the day came that I was finally brave enough to speak, he simply smiled knowingly and nodded as I explained that I wanted to dedicate myself full-time to improving the comfort and well-being of animals. And so I have.
Duke & Remington isn't a brand, they are the two animals who have transformed my life completely.