Longform

The Horse Soldier

Page 5 of 5

RMHS was most successful staging several "Fur Free Friday" events in Denver, including one in 1990 with Breathed that attracted more than 400 protesters. By this time the group was gaining national prominence, and Duxbury showed up in the pages of the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. In 1991, when Hilsenroth prepared a paper on the subject of "humaniacs"--overzealous activists--she willingly posed for a photograph.

But according to former RMHS member Jeff Young, egos soon ruined everything. Young was a hunter and fisher who was attending vet school at Colorado State University when he befriended Duxbury, who helped remake him as a vegetarian and committed activist.

"You can't preach ethics to people and not have ethics, and that's where Robin fell down a lot," Young says. He claims that Duxbury once ordered followers to cut up their Neiman Marcus credit cards to protest the company's use of fur clothing, while "she went out and charged hers to the max. She charged up all her credit cards, then filed for bankruptcy."

"My husband had the credit cards," Duxbury responds. "So what if I used them? I don't even think I had a Neiman Marcus card. I had a Lord & Taylor card, but I cut it up."

RMHS fell apart in 1991, the same year Duxbury joined Animals Rights Mobilization, which had recently moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado. At about the same time, troubles in her personal life took her off the scene. She went through a divorce after ten years of marriage, and her older brother, Jonathon, a successful engineer and businessman in Simi Valley, California, was found beaten to death in his office. The murder remains unsolved.

The personal tragedy left Duxbury feeling burned out. "The last thing I wanted to focus on was animal rights," she says. "I'd done my thing for God and country with animal rights."

It wasn't until 1994 that she got back in the saddle.

Duxbury says she expects Project Equus to help spark a "major revolution in horse training" within the next five years. But the work is slow. On another recent afternoon, she sits in her car watching horses playing on a ranch in Boulder County. She's heard that the trainers here beat the horses when they take them in for the day, and it's a lonely 45 minutes waiting in the cold to see if any horses will be abused. None of them are.

A week later Duxbury comes up empty at a ranch in Golden, then decides to embark on an impromptu snooping expedition. Up the street is a ranch as empty as the first, but a mile on, she strikes paydirt at a boarding facility where some of the horses are kept in an open-air stable that's in terrible shape. Nails protrude from cracked wood that looks like it could be torn apart with little effort.

One horse has four one-inch gray scars on its nose--a clear sign, Duxbury says, that its nose band was fastened too tight. She hasn't caught anyone in the act, but she seizes the opportunity to take pictures, rushing back to the car to grab the spy camera.

"I couldn't have asked for better spacing or scarring," she says, excited. Then she shoots a half-dozen close-up pictures of the horse's snout. Before leaving, she tells the animal, "I promise I'll help you if I can in the future.

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T.R. Witcher

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