American-Israeli equestrian becomes fashion icon on her way to the Olympics
Danielle Goldstein is more than just a show jumper with a unique sense of style. She's a serious contender for a gold medal.
Ten days ago, Danielle Goldstein had the kind of picture-perfect wedding you'd find in bridal magazines. It took place on a private yacht off the coast of Italy. She was dressed in a haute couture wedding gown by designer Roberto Cavalli and surrounded by dozens of friends and family.
So when we caught up with her today, less than two weeks later, you'd think she'd be recovering from her honeymoon, opening presents or looking through her wedding album. Instead, she has spent just about every moment since the nuptials training eight hours per day for what she hopes will be a career-defining moment. In two weeks, Goldstein will be competing to qualify for the Olympics.
The native New Yorker is a professional horse rider and competes in show jumping, a passion she's had for ages. The sport is considered the track and field of equestrian events, as competitors race through a course with hurdles that test the horse's high jumping skills. "I grew up riding since I was 8," she told From The Grapevine. "Once I started riding, all I ever wanted to do was ride in the Olympics. That's still what I want to do. My goal has never changed."
Along the way, other sports sparked some interest. Both her parents were professional squash players. She played competitive tennis as a teenager. One summer – in perhaps her constant need for forward motion – she learned how to fly an airplane. "Who doesn't want a pilot's license?" Goldstein said with a laugh. "You never know when it might come in handy."
In college at Duke University, she designed her own major – exploring the relationships of cities to the global economy. "I studied that because I always had a love of cities and architecture. But I basically knew the minute I graduated, I was going straight back to horses. I never intended to have a career in urban planning or economics."
In 2010, she received dual citizenship with Israel and now represents the Mediterranean country at sporting events across the globe. At the end of June, she will be heading to Moscow for a qualifying event to see which countries will be represented at the show jumping competitions at the Olympics next summer in Tokyo.
The momentum seems to be heading in her direction. Last month, she took first place at the Shanghai LCGT Grand Prix, where the broadcaster dubbed Lizziemary, the 13-year-old chestnut mare that Goldstein rides, "one of the best horses on the planet right now."
Goldstein is quick to point out that she doesn't deserve all the credit. "You have to think of the horses as professional athletes," she told us. For more than two years, her partner has been Lizziemary. "She's like a rocket ship underneath you. She tries her heart out for me. I couldn't ask for anything more."
With show jumping, so much relies on the connection between the horse and rider. "With her and I, it just sort of became something magical right from the start actually. We just clicked. It turned into this amazing partnership," Goldstein said. "She made me a better rider, and it made her a better horse."
Lizziemary lives with Goldstein and her new husband – a horse breeder and trainer – on a farm in the Netherlands. When it's time for an event, Lizziemary usually travels on flights that are half human, half cargo. "If you're ever on the 5 p.m. flight from Amsterdam to New York, 99% of the time the chances are there are horses in the back and you don't even know it," she joked.
If you happen to be on such a flight, Goldstein will be easily noticeable. Her hair is full of feathers – 76 to be exact. They're special hair extensions that she makes herself to match her hair color – which she changes every few months. It's incredibly labor intensive and takes more than six hours to put them all in. They've become her signature style, and people have stopped her in airports and on the street. On a train to Paris, a woman came up to her and said, "Are you Danielle Goldstein? Oh my God, I follow you on Instagram!"
She takes this rebellious attitude to the course as well, wearing midriff-bearing sports bras and yoga pants instead of the traditional jodhpurs. "It's just who I am," she admitted. "I've always been quirky and weird. I've always experimented with fashion, ever since I was a little kid. I always had a very bold personality. For me, how I dress and how I did my hair is an expression of myself."
That fashion choice has now evolved beyond Goldstein herself. "Recently, it's become much more about inspiring younger generations to be who they feel they are. When kids message me and say I inspired them to be more themselves, that's great."
Like Goldstein herself, equestrian events at the Olympics stand out from the pack. It's the only Olympic sport where both men and women compete together. "And they don't discriminate against the horse's sex either," Goldstein said.
Asked where she sees herself in five years, Goldstein is quick with an answer. "I hope to be able to call myself an Olympian, preferably a medal-winning Olympian," she told us. "That would be awesome."
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