We have a brand new Spotlight On… today! Some of you may know Dani from Twitter as @perfEqtionn (and her Twitter handle isn’t far from the truth!) She is also a My Barn Child ambassador, an EcoLicious Equestrian ambassador, and runs her own blog!
Dani & her horse, Celebrity.
To start, we asked Dani to tell us a little about herself, and here is what she had to say:
“I’m not really good about telling people about myself, so bare with me! I ride horses (no duh) and I live in Southern California! I’ve lived in California my whole life (17 years). I am an avid concertgoer, I’ve seen over 100 people live! I am also an adrenaline junkie; I love cliff-jumping, roller coaster, anything crazy. I want to go skydiving when I turn 18. I love going to the beach in my free time, it’s my favorite place in the world (besides the barn). I hope one day to travel the world! I really want to go to Greece, Italy, and Antigua! I am a junior in high school (cries). I also drive a Jetta! I’m a very sarcastic person, but I can be very serious when I want to be. My favorite color is purple, my favorite flower is a tiger lily, and I have too many favorite songs to narrow it down to one.”
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, how did Dani get into riding?
“My mom works at the wedding venue that is located on the property of the barn I ride at,” she said. “She always brought me to work with her. I would run away and go watch lessons. My trainer, Michelle, talked to my mom about getting me started, but my mom said I had to wait until I turned 5.”
Like any horse girl, Dani was itching to get riding, so she managed to get herself on a pony name Patches when she was 4. She’s been riding ever since.
While Dani does a lot of jumper competition right now on her horse Celebrity, she is versatile and can go in all three rings. However, she does love the jumpers more than equitation and hunters.
“I love that you get to go fast and take tight turns, but you can’t go too crazy! I think each discipline is tough in their own way but jumpers challenges me more. I have to think about each track very carefully, looking for places to save time, but also keeping my horse in mind. I have to know both Celebrity’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as my own. For instance, Celebrity has a sticky right turn so if there’s one in my course, I have to find a track that will help me execute my turn. I can make up for lost time with his humongous step though. But jumpers is by far my favorite,” she said.
Celebrity, who was bred for the jumpers, is a 9 year old bay warmblood. Celebrity’s sire is Sandstone Conway, and his dam was the youngest horse to ever be in the Olympics (at age 7)! Her name is Sandstone Dorina.
According to Dani, Celebrity is a bit quirky, and he is a complete difference from the horse Dani was riding when she first began riding Celebrity.
“When I first started riding him in 2013 I was riding my mare, Summer, as well. Summer was a project horse of mine that I trained to be a push button horse for someone looking to do hunters, jumpers, and eq up to 3’3,” Dani said. “Towards the end of riding Summer I was told to just sit there and let her do the work, making her think for her self, easy for me.. until I had to lesson Celebrity in the next lesson.”
Dani describes Summer and Celebrity as polar opposites. The challenge helped her mature as a rider, and she is super in tune with Celebrity’s needs when they are working as a team. For example, Celebrity is scared of other horses in the ring, so Dani has to be hyperaware of her surroundings when she is in a lesson.
“I’m always on the lookout for him. I am his protector,” she said. “He has a huge heart and loves to jump.”
Dani has only been with Celebrity for about 13 months, but she says they have taught each other a lot, including trust, patience, teamwork, focus, grace, and unconditional love – to name a few.
“I couldn’t ask for a better horse to ride,” she said.
Dani & Celebrity.
This year, Dani hopes to continue showing in the 1.10m Children’s jumpers. She especially hopes to qualify for the USHJA Children’s Jumper Finals (which we have NO doubt she will).
Nowadays, a lot of riders are working with equestrian or horse-related companies whether as brand or social media ambassadors or as sponsored riders. Dani is lucky enough to be an ambassador for both My Barn Child and EcoLicious Equestrian (two companies everyone should check out if you haven’t already!)
Being a brand ambassador is a huge thing on every serious rider’s list. Dani gave some advice to those who are itching to become the next EcoLicious or Ogilvy ambassador:
“Research the company before you apply to be an ambassador, just know what you’re agreeing to,” she said. “Also, be yourself! Don’t lie just so you get the ambassadorship. Be genuine and truly love the products you are supporting.”
So what are Dani’s must have equestrian items? Lucky for you, we got a list!
When asked if she looks up to any other riders, Dani has a few, including one she used to ride with when she was younger, Kilian McGrath.
Kilian McGrath. Photo Courtesy of ProEquest.com.
“She is an amazing rider and proves to everyone that hard work pays off! She works her butt off everyday to get to where she is today. She proved to everyone that talent and hard work surpasses how far money can get you. Kilian won gold at Young Riders in 2012!”
Dani also looks up to her trainer’s daughter, Beezie Madden, and Ashley Bond.
Dani experiences anxiety about showing just like many of us, but to combat it, she says affirmations and thinks positively. She also has a lot of trust in her trainer, who she believes would not have moved her up if she wasn’t able to be successful in that particular class.
Manny – er Dani – says her biggest weakness is her shoulders.
“My trainer calls me “Manny” instead of “Dani” my shoulders are so bad! It’s been an on going problem of mine! My trainer always says I have man shoulders! Sometimes I just forget to work on them and put them back because I’m so busy focusing on Celebrity!”
Like many other riders who have a presence on social media, Dani has experienced social media hate. It’s unfortunately a HUGE part of being a big social media presence on the internet nowadays. To deal with negativity, Dani did a few things:
“I responded to it at first, but soon realized that resounding was pointless. I let them send me hate and I just wouldn’t respond, why add fuel to the fire? I changed my ask settings so people can’t ask me questions anonymously, the hate stopped immediately!” She said. “People like to make themselves feel better by bashing others. I see a lot of people, Georgie, Kendra, and other big name riders, getting hate, it’s horrible and a lot is untrue! I just keep in mind that if I wasn’t able to ride successfully in the classes I am in, my trainer wouldn’t put me in them! So forget the haters!”
With all of the riding and showing, how does Dani have time to do anything else?
“It’s a hard task balancing horses and school but I have learned to manage my time. I have a study hall in my schedule at school that I use to work on homework. I also use all the free time in class to finish my work. My teachers know how dedicated I am to horses, so when I do show, I talk to them and we work out a schedule for the work I am going to miss,” she said. “I do bring my schoolwork to shows and I will work on it when there is time available. But between study hall, free time in class, and an hour at home before the barn, I am able to manage riding and school.”
Dani & her team in a Flintridge costume class. They won first place!
And, when she isn’t riding, studying, or at school, she LOVES going to the beach, which isn’t too far from her home in California.
As a junior, Dani is starting to prepare for college. Some riders we’ve spoken to don’t want to pursue riding as a profession after they age out, and others hope to become professional big names in this sport. So what does Dani have in mind?
“I really want to ride in college! I am currently working with Michelle Morris, who rode on University of Georgia’s equestrian team, putting together my video to send to schools! I am hoping to ride on a NCAA team but some of the schools I really want to go to are IHSA!” She said. “I would love to ride professionally but we will see where I end up! As for now, I am just focusing on my current show year and getting into college!”
Ultimately, Dani hopes to be a successful rider that takes the typical riding stereotype (a ton of money with the nicest of everything) and turns it upside down.
“You could say I’m the underdog in this sport. My family isn’t rich, I don’t have the nicest clothes, cars, houses, horses, etc. I don’t get to show that often either,” she said. “I make do with what I have, and I work hard everyday so I can one day prove that I belong in this sport. My goal is to be the rider that little girls and boys look up to. I want them to know that you CAN be SUCCESSFUL and GREAT without having a ton of money.”
Overall, Dani wants riding to be about working hard, having fun, and being herself.
“I work hard everyday and without hard work I wouldn’t be where I am today. I remember to have fun because riding horses shouldn’t be a grueling job, just have fun and do your thing!”
Want to see more of Dani & Celebrity?
Dani & Celebrity showing off their blue ribbon.
Find her on her social media accounts!
She also will be updating her blog more frequently once school is out for the summer. Her blog is on our favorite links to the right of this post and linked above!
Know an up & coming rider that you think should be featured on our blog? Let me know in the comments below, find me on Twitter, or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)!