How was the HUSK idea born?
I was a dressage rider, not now, I still train but I don’t compete. I had no connection to polo at all! My previous career was in medical industry for 13 years so I had a scientific background and am really interested in physics and biology in particular.
My horse Tia had a reaction to some simple neoprene brushing boots when I put her in the field one day because she was new to the herd and was only a baby, so I was worried that she was going to get hurt. Her legs got hot and she ended up having a reaction to the sweat and the neoprene. She then got an infection, she got lymphangitis and now she has scars on her back legs because of the heating of tendons. At the time I was on maternity leave, and I had time so I decided to look into making some boots for Tia and I found the fabric and the idea of HUSK was born!
And how was the first steps for the production?
Well actually I tried to have it made in England and I couldn’t to start with, so I was force to send my patterns to China to be made. The first batch came back and they were terrible, I cried! I’d wasted all my savings! But I managed to find some horses that they fitted and their owners bought them, so I made my money back and carried on designing.
Once they were ready I started advertising them on Facebook and within a year I got a message from George Meyrick who is a British player who was interested in them and started using them in polo, and within six months the Argentines had seen the boots. In fact it was Pablo Mac Donough’s cousin,Jacinto Crotto, who is now a very close friend, who saw the boots. He had sent a message to his uncle Dr Jorge Mac Donough, Pablo and Matias’s father, with a photo and said“look at these boots”. Jorge had been writing articles on heating of tendons, and boots versus bandaging for years and even though he was a really successful polo vet, and breeder, he found it really hard to educate people and convince people of the importance of using a breathable boot. He also hadn’t found a boot that was breathable enough and suitable for polo. I remember him telling me he was looking for a boot that looked like a “honeycomb cage”. When he discovered the HUSK boots he flew over from Argentina to meet me. At the time I had no idea who he was or who Pablo was! I think because I didn’t know who they were and I wasn’t star struck,I was simply passionate about horse welfare with some designs of boots in my hand, they felt comfortable with me straight away. Jorge and me talked for a long time about horse welfare, he showed me his beloved mare who broke her leg and told me the story of how he defied all science and healed her, we connected straight away. Jorge and his family, in particular Pablo, then supported me in refining the designsfor polo. We worked together for a couple of years and it was an incredible learning process, they taught me about polo, the horses, the game, the people, I learned from the best and was very blessed! We were just about to launch the final designs and we heard tragic news of Jorge’s passing.
Jacinto told me that a week before Jorge passed away he told him “we must finish these boots”. He was so excited as we all were to launch this project, it hit us all hard. I met with Pablo that year in Sotogrande, and we talked about what we should do, and it was clear we had to carry on and launch the boots. We finished the designed together launched them in Palermo at the open with all of Jorge’s horses parading the pitch with the boots on. It was amazing and very emotional! So that’s how HUSK ended up in polo! The La Irenita logo sits on the boots because I wanted to carry something in memory of Jorge, so I asked the family if I could carry something of his on our boots and they gave us the opportunity to use Jorge’s stud logo.
How you feel with the competition coming out?
At first I was curious, and of course worried, as HUSK has had a clear road for quite while, although a lot of that time was spent designing the boots. I guess a little frustrated as anyone would be when you spend years designing an innovation and someone takes weeks to copy it! Our products have been tested for temperature management, impact, and durability, so we are confident that they remain the aspirational product. And I look at the situation as flattery that the products are worth copying for one!
And that it gives more horses access to products that do not heat their tendons, which I remind myself, was the main reason for starting HUSK. The products are not as well designed as HUSK, with less quality fabrics and shaping, but that makes them cheaper and gives a good entry level boot for people to start with.
HUSK Polo has presence in the most important tournaments in the world with the best players. How does that make you feel?
Funnily enough, I was just talking about it to Morgan Van Overbroek, who is the President of the Swiss Polo Association, and who has now become a lovely friend about this the other day. I feel really blessed, I mean what an wonderful part of life to be involved in! I feel proud because it’s our design and it’s being appreciated by very educated, established professional people, which is really lovely for me. I also feel honoured, humbled, and overwhelmed sometimes! But then it’s funny because when I meet the players, it’s like they’re my friends. They are like all of us, normal everyday people with the same stresses and strains of life that we all have in many respects. I think sometimes people forget that. I feel very on a level with them, and very respected by them and appreciated.
So it’s a funny one, because when I see the pictures, videos and the matches, I think “oh, my gosh, this is wild!” and when you see the crowds and the number of people that follow Polo and the passion that people have for it, the players and the horses, then it hits me in terms of what I’ve achieved. The best horses in the world being protected by HUSK. These teams trust our products that much that their most precious horses are protected with the boots that I’ve designed, that’s mega! So at those times I do feel a bit overwhelmed. But at the same time, I’m honoured, humbled and also blessed to have such a lovely group of people supporting the products and believing in them and believing in me, which is really nice and certainly motivates me to keep pushing forward.
To Shop at thehusk.co.uk