For The Love of Horses
iSpyHorses -- Mon, 09-Dec-2019
Top showjumper, coach and horse trainer, Dani Maurer (28) is well known within the equestrian community, not only for her huge successes but also for her kind and gentle way with horses. She is based in Kaukapakapa, Auckland, on her parent’s lifestyle property and regularly travels around NZ to one show jumping event after the other.
Competing with a team of 9, her signature, other than that she is rarely out of the placings, is perhaps that she wears different beautiful riding jackets to match the horse’s colors and consequently is always professionally turned out and looking very classy.
It was not many months ago at NZ’s annual Horse of the Year Show that Dani and her horse suffered a major accident. While competing in the Lady Rider of the Year on a relatively green horse that had qualified at the show, the pair had a rotational fall. The horse did have bruising of her neck and shoulders, and she was mildly concussed, but she has since completely recovered. Dani suffered a broken acromioclavicular joint in her shoulder, and this still has not healed.
“Two days after the accident, I got back on a horse. It was as much as anything for my confidence. But also, I had to keep working. I didn’t want to leave it too long and overthink it. It is always in the back of my mind though.”
Dani is wait-listed to see a surgeon and have an MRI, with surgery a possibility. Dani states categorically that this is not an option as it would mean no riding for a year, something she is not able to accept, not with the team of horses and owners she has, all of whom are dependent on her.
While Dani’s shoulder injury causes her a lot of pain daily, once she is on a horse, she is fine.
“I am hoping the specialist will help me figure out how to manage the pain better while I heal. Once I’m on the horse I’m okay. But it’s the simple things on the ground such as lifting the saddle onto a horse. Plaiting is quite hard work for me. I find it very frustrating as it slows me down a lot. I’m not used to going slowly.”
Since the accident, Dani has continued to ride and compete, but it’s taken a lot longer for her to get back to the level she was at. “And I’m still not even back there yet.”
Even though neither of her parents have ridden, Dani is fortunate in that they have always been and still are extremely supportive of her and her riding.
Dani began riding maybe a little later than usual at the age of 9. Her dad took her to a horse hire place for her first ride where she promptly fell off. Undeterred though, and shortly after this, her dad bought her first pony which she kept at Albany PC.
Dani’s dad continues to be actively involved. His day begins at 5.30am each morning and working alongside Dani, he is mucking out stables and helping tack up the horses for Dani to ride, until he leaves for work at 8am.
“I do have to double check the setup of gear. Sometimes we end up with martingale attachments and reins going in all kinds of places. Dad is great with the horses on the ground.”
At shows, Dani’s dad always helps in the warmup and her mum is also hands on. “When I come back from a round and have three horses that need untacking and washing down, she is comfortable doing this.”
Two other highly valued and extremely important members of Dani’s family are her two German Shepherds, a 3 y/o male and an 8-month-old female, both heavily involved in all that goes on at the stables. When Dani is teaching, the dogs are always present in the arena. “If you get a lesson or have weekly lessons or you’re a visiting client, the dogs are always there ready to assist.
Dani is extremely grateful to her owners of horses, and she values the trust they put in her.
“People trusting me with their good horses has allowed me to have the results. The Yalambi horses coming through that I ride are special. They’re not the sort of horses I could go out and buy myself, so I am extremely grateful to their owners, KLD Sporthorses. I’ve also developed a special bond with the stallion I used to ride, Dicavalli Don Quattro owned by Carolyn Jolley. He did so much for me.”
Dani posted a heartfelt tribute to the stallion on her Facebook page when he retired last season.
“I nearly fell over with excitement when I received a message nearly 4 years ago asking if I would like the ride on this special little stallion. We’ve ended up best mates. He gives me such a thrill when show jumping and so much confidence. The biggest thing this horse has done for me, is that he’s given me 3 years of fun. That’s something as a professional rider you probably wouldn’t be saying very often. But he really has given me some of my most memorable jump offs, fastest speed classes and he’s truly given me a great time.”
Dani’s current team of horses include Madam Coco, owned by Cerys Tarr. This mare is currently listed on iSpyHorses https://www.ispyhorses.com/ispy_new/horses/20971
“Madam Coco is really brave and super confident in the ring which I really like.”
Dani and Madam Coco - Photo Credit and Copyright Cornege Photography
Dani also rides, Henton Exchequer and Yalambi’s Gucci Girl, both owned by KLD Sporthorses. “They are both currently competing at Mini Prix level and will be looking at stepping up later in the season.”
Another horse owned by KLD Sporthorses is, Yalambi’s Joie De Vivre a stunning 6 y/o coming up through the grades with Dani. She rides, Cassanova AF, owned by Adlou Farm Sporthorses, Maurer Equestrian and Dani’s father. He is a good 1.40m horse and is just coming back from an injury last season. Dani competes, Frankie NZPH, co-owned by Jacqui Coombes. Carino NZPH, is another member of the team, owned by Shelley Bridgeman. On the Point Sandy, is owned by Nicki Dwyer and Jamie Main, and last but by no means least is, Remarkable, owned by Victoria Yang.
Dani perceives her valued owners as extended family and she feels no need to have ownership in the horses to be closer to them or more invested in their future. She considers her business very much a family business, and the owners all attend the shows.
“We celebrate victories together and I’m very lucky to have such a big support team. It’s always all hands-on deck at shows and the owners often pitch in and help.”
Dani’s decision to become a professional rider was relatively easy given that she could never picture being in an office job. Her show jumping was not simply a hobby to her. It was way more important, and she wanted to be running a team of show jumpers. “It was never going to work as a hobby after work and at weekends.”
Dani’s horses get a variety of flatwork and gridwork training at home during the week. During the show jumping season, Dani tries to keep the work at home, easy for the horses and light. They are not required to do a great deal of jumping between shows. “We try to get their fitness up during winter, so in the summer and during the season we are just maintaining them.”
Dani also has a strict routine for herself. “I’m out with the horses at 5:30am every day. Establishing a routine helps keep me motivated when I’ve had a bad day or if I’m tired, I’m still out of bed early the next morning.”
Dani finds her horses also thrive on routine and she believes in the value of having one on one time and forming a bond.
“I’ll never allow the stable to get too big and to the point where daily I’m not the one dealing with them on the ground or riding them. I just don’t see that working for me.”
The highlights in Dani’s career so far are taking horses through to Grand Prix and World Cup level.
“I enjoyed a lot of top-level success with Don Quattro, Madam Coco and a very special horse called Double Dutch, a couple of years ago who passed away. She showed a lot of promise at Horse of the Year before she died, and losing her was the lowest point ever of my career."
She was close to hitting top level and to lose her was an almighty blow for Dani.
The mare had maybe made a bad landing at some stage and a hole was punched through the cartilage which bruised the bone and made it go soft. The injury was in the fetlock of her hind leg. Then a cyst developed. Dani believes she was such a tough mare that by the time it showed up as a cyst, it was probably done months earlier and picked up by chance when she was at the vets for an unrelated matter. After the surgery to remove the cyst, the mare started tying up from the stress and eventually couldn’t get up anymore. The tragic decision was made to put her to sleep.
“Not having Double Dutch insured was a mistake. The financial recovery and the vet bills were huge. It took a long time to rebuild. This is when I invited owners and rides on other people’s horses. Without having that group of people stepping up for me, I would probably have been very lost for a lot of years.”
Dani still thinks of Double Dutch nearly every day and the ‘what could have been’. “She could have been my big break. I purchased her first World Cup passport. It arrived a week before she died.”
Knowing all too well that horses can be difficult and also heartbreaking, Dani encourages other riders to not give up during the tough times.
“At the end of the day there’s nearly always a light at the end of the tunnel and something to look forward to. It’s worth pushing through the tough times for the highs and the steps forward. People often measure progress on heights and it’s not about the heights. It’s about personal goals and where the horses are at, at that time.”
On the show jumping circuit, Dani loves meeting up with friends and talking to others doing the same job as her and being on a level playing ground with them. However, she’s found the bullying side of things seems to have gotten worse during the past few years and she believes social media has greatly influenced this. Dani would love it if people would be gentle and kind to each other, and if they would remember that nobody truly knows what others are going through.
“In the scheme of things, it’s thankfully a very small minority of people that cause any trouble.”
Dani intentionally keeps what she posts on social media very positive and she often shares videos and photos of her rounds at shows.
“It’s really nice for sponsors, owners and clients to have that involvement and to be kept updated.”
Coaching riders at varying levels and ages, from learners to Grand Prix jumpers, Dani travels weekly for clinics nationwide, as well as coaching at home and locally. She focuses a lot on flatwork because she believes that if things aren’t going well there then it will not be possible to progress well to jumping. What Dani truly loves about working with horses and riders is seeing their improvement, no matter how small, because improvement is improvement and it matters and makes a difference to the particular horse and rider.
When Dani is seeking another horse for herself or an owner or for a pupil, she pays attention to the personality and temperament.
“I like a people horse. I’ve always found that you can have the most talented horse in the world but if it has the wrong attitude, you don’t get very far with it. All our horses have great personalities. They are great on the ground and to ride. For example, Cassanova AF is really outgoing. He makes us laugh at the faces he pulls. All our young horses gallop to the gate to come in. They all want to be involved which is wonderful.”
Pictured Dani Maurer and Dicavalli Don Quattro - Photo Credit and Copyright Cornege Photography
WORDS The Team at iSpyHorses