PHOTOS BY George Kamper
Turning heads is part of the fun for show jumper Danielle Goldstein. Success in the ring is the goal, but to Dani, there’s no reason we all need to look identical or be uncomfortable doing it.
“I had pink hair, and then I had blue hair, and I was trying to think of what I wanted to do next. I wanted to do something fun,” Dani told the EQLiving team as the camera shutter clicked. At the World Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, Florida, her vibrant hairstyles have become a brilliant point in a sea of helmets and blazers.
“We were looking at pictures of extensions and things and I saw a feather,” she continued. “And I thought, What if I put feathers in?”
She started buying feathers online and in stores in New York and Europe. She crafts pieces from the loose feathers, spending hours to combine over 500 individual feathers into her stunning and unique look. “It’s been almost five months so far,” Dani explained. “I get it refurbished about once a month. We reset it and add some new feathers. But it’s really easy to take care of; I wash it normally and it dries faster than my own hair.”
Her feathers have become a talking point at this year’s WEF, especially after her breathtaking win in the second five-star grand prix of the season. In front of a packed crowd, Dani’s feathers flowed from under her helmet as she and her 12-year-old chestnut mare, Lizziemary, took the win in a tight race with big names in the class, including Jessica Springsteen, McLain Ward, and Eric Lamaze.
“My horse had a big summer and jumped the European championships, so I was a little easy on her in the fall, because I was building her up for the five-stars here,” Dani told Noelle Floyd after the class. “I thought she came out here tonight and jumped beautifully. I was thrilled with her.”
Raised in New York City, Goldstein began her love affair with horses as a child when a friend invited her to ride a pony. She was instantly hooked. She competed in her first grand prix at the age of 16 and won both individual and team gold medals in the North American Young Rider Championships that same year. After graduating from Duke University, she took over management of Starwyn Farms in Wellington. She competes under the Israeli flag, having acquired citizenship while living there with family and friends in 2010.
“I always wanted to represent Israel internationally,” Dani told Nanna Nieminen of World of Showjumping. “It means a lot for me. I think it’s important to try and do something good for a country that does not get so much positive attention, and I feel a deep connection to the place.”
Goldstein intends to take an Israeli team to the World Equestrian Games in Tryon this September and has been working to develop a string of Israeli show jumpers, with her sights set on representing Israel at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. She is moving quickly toward her goal of becoming the first female Israeli show jumper to compete at the Olympics.
In addition to her mounting successes in the ring, she’s become known around the horse world for her playful style. “I always had an interest in fashion, and I’ve had my own style in everything in my life. I’ve always been off-center, you could say,” she laughed, as she turned her head toward the camera and the photo shoot continued. “But the last year or so, I got really fed up with riding clothes being uncomfortable and unflattering, especially because we’re forced to wear white all day long when white is not so forgiving for women. I got frustrated with it. I want to feel good when I walk around the show, so I thought, How can I feel sexy? How can I feel empowered and comfortable and still be within the rules? I started to become more playful. It sort of evolved.”
Last summer, a friend of Dani’s came to her with the same frustrations with equestrian fashion. Together they decided they would create their own line to address the lack of comfortable, functional, flattering show-clothes available. Danielle handled the designing, while her friend arranged for manufacturing and production. The company is called Vermogen, a Dutch word used in the jumping world to describe scope and power.
“We started developing things. I bought an iPad and just started drawing,” said Goldstein. “We thought, How do we include modern fashion ideas in sporty clothing, the trend of leisurewear, and functionality for horse wear?
“We’re going to start with a 10-item collection of competition wear.” Danielle continued. “That’s really where we feel the hole is. There are a lot of leggings and exercise wear you could put on just to ride around. I ride in my yoga pants every day. But to have flattering show wear that’s functional is really difficult.”
The collection is set to include riding pants, shirts, and three competition jackets. “We’re really trying to go outside the box when it comes to the design,” Dani added. “We’re including phone pockets. We’re going to have built in sports bras in the shirts. We want them to have functionality. One piece: no hardware, no zippers.”
One of the jackets is designed to be pulled over your head, like a sweatshirt. Another is made of stretch lace. “It’s going to be see-through, super comfortable, easy, just throw it in the wash and roll it up in a ball, it takes up no space,” Dani explained. “The collection’s leggings will have seams and lines designed to be flattering on women of all sizes, shapes, and ages.”
Also, the pair have decided to set their price point much lower than the average show clothing line. “We want it to be accessible to everyone,” Goldstein continued. “Not an astronomical cost for something that you don’t even wear that often. We also have a lot of different mesh fabrics, lace and things, and we’re going to make the pants and the shirts so that you can buy sets, so you can match a bit if you want.