If equestrian style is classic, timeless and traditional, Dani Waldman is its resident wild child.

Between her hair feathers, yoga pants, and lace show coat, the Israeli team member is bucking every trend with her fashion forward take on equestrian style—and starting a few in the process. Love it or hate it, Waldman’s fearless approach belies an empowering message that’s long been missing in a sport bound by conformity. Let your freak flag—and feathers—fly.

We caught up with Waldman to pick her brain on style, individuality and “owning it”—in and out of the ring.

Dani, you have such a distinctive style. When did you first start to express yourself with fashion?

My mother tells me that when I was about four or five the only thing I would wear was a Tinkerbell costume. She said it was the only thing I would wear for weeks on end and she washed it every night so that I could wear it fresh every morning. I guess perhaps it began then. 

I remember a ribbed blue summer dress that I was obsessed with when I was about 10. I think that’s what made me fall in love with dresses—being able to twirl around and feel the lightness and freedom that comes with wearing a flowy dress. 

Then of course there is the floor length red cardigan that I wore nonstop in high school. Or the burgundy converse sneakers I wore every single day in college. And I remember this black and pewter bubble dress I would wear with flats during the day and throw heels on at night in my early twenties. Over the years there have been some very distinct items of clothing that have defined my style at the time. 

How would you describe your style and how has it evolved over the years?

For me, it is impossible to describe my style because some days I feel goth, some days I feel romantic, some days I feel quirky. It always comes down to the idea of expressing the unexpected. A unique mixture of feminine and masculine, soft and hard, streamlined and volume…I always go for the one-off pieces that make a statement! And I believe over time my style has evolved into a hodgepodge of genres but I’m always trying to feel confident when I look in the mirror.  

That ties into our next question, how does fashion make you feel?

Fashion, for me, has been like capturing snapshots of my mood at different times in my life. It was and is a way for me to express what I feel on the inside by using clothing as a visual representation on the outside. As usual, fashion brings me so much joy…I love the experimental nature of trying out a new outfit or that feeling when you add one last accessory and you look in the mirror and go, “Yup, now I’m ready.” Fashion is such an amazing tool to evoke emotion for the wearer and those around you. 

In the equestrian space, particularly in North America, equestrian style tends to be very traditional/staid. How do your peers respond to your daring looks? Have there been looks that were a big hit and others that were met with more resistance?

Absolutely! I get a myriad of comments from my fellow competitors and colleagues as well as some unwanted comments from the internet trolls sitting at home. Some of the sexier looks always tend to get comments from the guys (in a friendly, positive way!) While many of the more traditional women scoff at me or make some underhanded remark. I’m a tough chick though, if I feel great in my own skin I could care less what anyone else thinks!

I think the all white ensemble from a few years back or my lace show coat have brought the most controversy. People either love it or hate it. And sometimes people just don’t understand it and for those people I’m always happy to explain that I dress for myself and to help push the boundaries of what is possible. Someone has to be the first to try out a look and I’m always happy to be that person!

I’d love to believe that the popular trend of riding leggings became more widespread because of the exposure my yoga pants got but who knows…maybe that’s just wishful thinking ;-)! 

It’s hard to imagine you in khakis and a pastel polo shirt with pearls. Is there something you absolutely won’t wear?

I WILL NOT wear any type of pants with hardware while riding. No belts, no buckles—nothing that gets in the way of me bending over while jumping. 

As far as street clothes, I will not wear a sleeveless top (spaghetti straps or thin straps are fine) but never something that cuts off my arm—to be perfectly honest, I’m self conscious about my upper arms so it’s just an internal rule I have for myself!  

You’re best known for your famous feathers. How did the feathers come about? What is the best/worst part about wearing them? Do the horses ever chew on them? What do feathers symbolize for you?

So many questions…the feathers were technically my husband’s idea. I have always (since I was a kid) loved changing my hairstyle. Every so often I’d get bored of my reflection and figured it was time for a change—I’d always ask myself, what could I do where people wouldn’t recognize me? So, I guess it was that notion of transformation that started the process. Then Alan suggested the feathers and my imagination exploded with ideas.  

Today, there are more than 3,000 individual feathers in my hair and yes, they are extremely annoying—Alan is allergic to them, they are hot and are hard to sleep with! But I love them and wouldn’t change them for the world. The horses definitely chew on them and I’ve had a few dogs yank out some extensions but in general they have come to symbolize individualism in our conservative world. 

Will there be a day when Dani is feather-free?

I think I’d be doing the industry a disservice by removing them. Plus, I think they are just stunning and gorgeous! I’m sure one day I’ll be feather free but not anytime soon! 

Okay, so what’s your go-to look for the barn?

My go to look at the barn is some type of legging, either an athletic company or my own Euro-star x Dani G collection leggings. Then if the weather is nice, I love a colorful and strappy sports bra with an overshirt made from technical fabric with an open back to expose the sports bra. Obviously, everything will match or work together as an outfit and I top it all off with my new vegan leather Alberto Fasciani boots.  

‘Look good, feel good’ is a common refrain in the fashion industry. Do you think your style choices help you perform in the ring, if not physically, then mentally?

100% my fashion reflects in my performance. If I feel confident in my own body, it translates into how I carry myself. That confidence then transforms my body language on the horse as well! 

Confidence is something you talk a lot about on social media with the #ownyouRIDEntity movement. Talk about that and why it’s important to you.

#ownyouRIDEntity has morphed into the most wonderful thing. It started as a hashtag that someone said about me and when I looked at it I saw the word RIDE and it just made perfect sense to me. It captured that idea of ‘owning it’ and obviously had the connection to riding. 

The movement has become vital to me because I believe we are all constantly trying to define our identity—and our identity is ever changing and evolving. There are so many things that people are embarrassed by and feel shame about and I think that this idea of owning up to our mistakes and our shortcomings is a powerful thing. Hiding in fear of other people’s opinions is crippling and does nothing for personal growth. No one should ever apologize for being themself!

Why is it that important message for the equestrian industry in particular?

I hope the movement helps spread the idea in the equestrian industry (and beyond) that different is good, different is powerful and different is what makes us all unique individuals and we should embrace that instead of shy away from it.  

Well said, Dani. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next!