With the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo on her resume, Dani Goldstein-Waldman is a champion in more ways than one. A campaigner for gender equality in sports, this feathered-hair beauty believes that you should never apologize for being yourself.
Dani, tell us a bit about yourself.
That could be a long story! I grew up in New York City to a very Zionistic family. I started horseback riding at the age of 8 and in 2010, I acquired my Israeli citizenship and started representing Israel in international competitions. I moved to the Netherlands in 2013 and have lived there ever since!
Your love for horses started when you were eight years old.
Yes, it did! I fell in love immediately—I was always an animal lover, but I was hooked from day one.
Do you have a specific horse you favor above the others and why?
No, I appreciate them all equally. They are all professional athletes in their own right, so I don’t favor one over another.
Equestrian sport doesn’t come without mishaps – have you ever broken something and if yes, what?
Luckily, I haven’t broken anything (knocking on wood as I say that;-). But I did get stepped on with a metal cleat during the warmup of the competition when I was about 17 years old, and I have a huge scar on my leg from it.
Congratulations! You were chosen as a team member to represent Israel in the Tokyo 2021 summer Olympics. Is that a dream come true?
I was part of the team that helped secure Israel’s Olympic ticket and then I was chosen to be on the Olympic squad. Even just qualifying was an incredible dream come true for myself and for the state of Israel.
What is the routine to prepare for an event?
Preparation begins many many years in advance and involves a whole team, but the most important part is making sure the horse is healthy and fit for competition. Usually one week out, we start preparing by jumping some exercises at home and making sure the horse will peak at the right moment. Then the day of the event, I have my specific routine, which is tailored to each horse differently, and finally, I prepare myself mentally by going over my course 3 times; I take 3 deep breaths and try to always remember to look where I’m going, not where I don’t want to go!
How do you manage to stay calm under pressure before a big event?
This is always such a difficult question … part genetics, part preparation, and basically always trying to remember it’s just another day at the office. I try to focus on the things I can control like if the horse is listening if I’ve practiced enough, how I execute my plan and I try to ignore the things I can’t control like unforeseen problems.
I suppose patience is a virtue, even in the horse racing world?
Well technically we aren’t racing … we are show-jumpers! But yes, patience is a virtue in all things in life … especially when you are dealing with live animals.
Should there be more gender equality in sport?
Absolutely yes, 100%. Men, women, and everyone in-between deserve equal opportunity in sports.
Tell us about the feathers.
There is so much to tell! First and foremost, they are fashion and a way for me to express my individuality. I’ve always been one to change up my look and after having rose gold and blue hair, I wanted to do something different, and my husband suggested I do feathers. I then had this vision in my head of what it could become – it started with 200 feathers and now I have more than 3,000 individual feathers in my hair. It takes me about 50 hours to make a full-color set (which I change out about every 3 months) and about 5 hours for the stylist to put in at the salon like regular hair extensions. I wash them like normal and sleep (uncomfortably) but just fine!
A pilot’s license! We want to know more!
I love to collect skills and what a perfect skill to have, just in case ;-)!
Apart from horses, what is your passion in life?
Fashion and cooking. And lately, educating people about the horse world as much as possible – especially trying to make our world more accessible and inclusive.
You have traveled for business and pleasure. Which places have left a lasting impression and why?
Wow, there have been so many places! I love Shanghai, especially the canal towns about 45 minutes outside of the city which are these pristine towns frozen in time in the most beautiful way! Cape Town, Sydney, Desolation Sound in Canada to name a few…
Where is home?
Wherever my horses and husband are.
What effect has the pandemic had on your life?
Like everyone, it touched all facets of my life. On a positive note, I had more time for family and to go back to the basics of riding, which often gets overlooked when you’re on the road competing all the time. It was great to get back to why I started riding … the daily joy of small progress.
How have you incorporated body positivity, authenticity, and self-acceptance in your life?
In every way possible. I always walked my own path in life but in the past few years, I have really come to love the person I have become – my body, my personality, lots of things we all struggle with within the youth and early adulthood. I read a quote the other day that I just loved – “I don’t like myself, I’m CRAZY about myself” (by Mae West). That really sums up how I view my identity; it takes a little bit of blind crazy to accept yourself, but radical acceptance is part of how I incorporate my authentic self into my everyday life. And in the end, when I feel better about myself, everything in my life is better – my relationships, my career, and most importantly my confidence in the competition ring which translates into success.
You practice yoga. What have been the benefits?
I’m the world’s stiffest person. I can barely touch my knees, so it definitely helps with flexibility.
You also love cooking and have your own cooking show on Instagram.
Yes, I love cooking. I love to come home and take a look in the pantry and create something delicious. I also love to cook for large groups of people; for example, I always cook for everyone on my birthday because I enjoy it so much.
Never apologize for being yourself. Own it and embrace your mistakes – vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness!