Top rider explains turnout opinion after social media ‘wolf pack’ storm

  • A top rider whose opinion on turnout sparked a social media storm says her horses have hours out of their stables every day — and she was shocked by many of the comments made.

    Dani G Waldman, who has represented Israel at World and European championships, came under fire on Instagram at the weekend.

    In a comment under a video of Dani explaining how she cares for her horses’ legs after exercise, a fan asked whether Dani turns her competition horses out, and if she would wrap their legs afterwards.

    Dani replied to say she does not turn her horses out, as she does not trust them not to injure themselves — and a social media storm broke.

    “It started with one woman who was particularly upset,” Dani told H&H. “She started attacking my care and saying I should be ashamed of myself. Then it got really mean. They were attacking my character, and had nothing to do with the subject in hand.

    “It turned into just spreading hate, and if there’s anything I stand for, it’s not spreading hate, but trying to be accepting, and understand why people do different things.

    “If someone had said ‘That’s interesting, why do you do it that way?’ and been willing to listen to the answer, that would have been different but I think people often want to prove ‘I know more about horses than you do’.”

    Dani turned off commenting on the post, to bring a stop to the discussion, but she stands by her management.

    She said her horses spend hours out of their stables every day.

    “They probably get out more than an average horse who spends a couple of hours in a paddock,” she said.

    “They go on the walker or the treadmill, back in the box for a bit, then I’ll ride — and I’m not just riding in tiny circles all the time; they go in the arena, in the fields, the woods, the racetrack, along the canal; their exercise varies tremendously, and they do tons of different things. Then they go back and have lunch, then maybe the treadmill, then get hand-grazed for an hour at a time.

    “They have so much time out of their stables. Of course horses shouldn’t be locked up 23 hours a day; everyone agrees they should get out of their boxes as much as possible but there’s always a grey area in how the world functions. I’ve got the resources and facilities to give my horses as much outside time as possible.”

    Dani said her horses’ wellbeing is her top priority, and she ensures they have as much stimulation as possible.

    “What about someone who turns a horse out in a mud pit and it stands there 24/7 with no grass?” she asked. “That’s questionable; I don’t think that horse would be stimulated enough, just because it’s out.

    “Literally, all I do all day is try to tend to my horses; for me it’s all about care and as an owner and rider, that’s what I focus on, all the time.”

    Dani said she was shocked by the way one comment from a fan sparked such an uproar.

    “It morphed into something venomous; I never expected it to be so polarising,” she said.

    “I’m tough but I understand why kids these days are so afraid of putting themselves out there, it’s a horrible feeling. People were calling me trash and disgraceful, and really bullying words, nothing about trying to understand or learn.

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    “It’s like a pack of wolves; maybe one person starts it, then someone else thinks that’s a licence, and people get angrier and angrier; it’s so easy, behind a screen, to type away and forget there’s a person behind it.”

    Dani plans to release a “day in the life” video on her social media, to show how much time her horses spend out of their stables, and what their days involve.

    “I want to show there’s more than one way of doing things,” she said. “People operate in their little bubbles of realness but there’s no one right way of doing things.

    “I’m excited about this video, and curious as to what the response will be.”

    World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers has previously said challenging the status quo of how horses are kept “goes right to the heart” of equestrianism’s social licence to operate.

    “The stabling – or rather over-stabling – of our horses is a highly relevant aspect,” he told H&H. “Just because we have looked after our horses in a certain way, even if it’s for decades, does not make this right, not least because our understanding of the needs of horses is constantly evolving.

    “A key consideration for overall welfare is horses’ mental wellbeing, which is as important as physical welfare. In considering this we should keep the concept of the 3Fs – freedom, forage and friends – very close. Changes are being made in the sport world, with plenty of examples of racehorses and grand prix dressage horses being allowed time in fields with equine company. But there are still far too many sport horses that only come out of their stables for exercise.

    “There is plenty of room for improvement and everyone, in competition or leisure riding, should challenge themselves on whether they are truly giving their horses what they need to have good quality of life.”

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