By Britney Grover
It’s impossible to tell whether Danny Robertshaw is more acclaimed for his career in the saddle, which earned him a place in the Show Hunter Hall of Fame and still influences top riders today, or as the co-founder of Danny & Ron’s Rescue, which has placed over 12,000 dogs so far. Danny was born in Rhode Island but moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, when he was very young. From the time he got his first pony—for $150 complete with Western saddle and bridle—Danny learned and worked his own way up into the hunter-jumper world, from reading books and eavesdropping on lessons all the way to winning 19 Regular Working Hunter championships with Protocol, “back when the jumps were a good 4’.”
Now, Danny lives in Camden, South Carolina, where he and his partner, Ron Danta, run Danny & Ron’s Rescue out of their house, as seen in the documentary “Life in the Doghouse.” In the show ring, not only can Danny’s influence still be felt on top hunter riders like Scott Stewart as well as people Danny has trained, but he continues to contribute to the sport as a USEF ‘R’ judge.
How did your horse career start?
My youngest sister was into them and was taking some lessons, and that’s what gave me the bug—I didn’t know I liked horses so much; up until then it was all “moo cows.” I liked cows; my grandfather was a dairy farmer, but as I looked into it there wasn’t much I could do with cows.
Best early memories of riding or with horses?
I was pretty much self-taught the first several years, and I was in love with all the things I could do. I did whatever came to mind—I won my first class ever in a Pony Jumper class with all the hunter ponies at a local lesson barn, my pony I’d had for two months and I went in with a little Western saddle and bridle and we won. It didn’t seem like there was anything you weren’t supposed to do, so I just did everything: My first horse was 2 years old when I got her, I was 12, and we swam across the Intracoastal Waterway and chased goats on Goat Island. I trail rode. The park had a sort of ring but it was very heavy 2x6s. I would jump in and out so I could go do what I called my “flatwork,” that I’d read about. How I was never hurt or killed is still an amazing thing!
What is your favorite thing about being part of the horse world?
The fact that every day there’s something else to learn, something new to add to your vocabulary and to add to your life system. The minute you think that you’ve got it, there’s something that inspires you every day. I think it’s just the inspiration of the whole aspect of loving horses; it’s the animals themselves that keep me going.
If you could tell every rider one thing, what would it be?
One, try your hardest not to get on your horse with all your anxieties and all your hang-ups. Try to find a way to release those before you take your lesson or before your show, to eliminate any frustrations. The only way to do it is if you can relax and enjoy what you’re doing. The other thing is you have to be a part of your mount: To be the best you can be, you have to be a team with your horse, working together.
Do you have a personal motto or catch phrase?
For everyone in the world: Please know that you’re enough, just as you are.
Something people don’t know about you?
I’m a lot more sensitive than I come across.
What would be the best gift in the world?
To see our country united again
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
To wave a magic wand and eliminate harsh judgement of others—that everyone would love and allow life to live on its own terms.
What’s something everyone should try at least once?
I’m going to say underwater basket weaving. I haven’t done that, of course, but I do think I should try it if it ever comes to pass!
If you weren’t involved with the horse world, what career do you think you would have picked?
I went to college and majored in English, and I taught it for just a year because I knew I was going to do horses but that it would make my father happy if I had something to fall back on in case I wasn’t good enough to make it with horses, or if I broke my back or anything. But I think I would have used my education to go further probably into journalism and writing.
Who inspires you?
Small children. The things they say when they’re so pure, before they’re affected by society and groups. There’s nothing more fun than what they come out with, and the pure joy they’re not afraid to show.
What talents do you feel you have?
The ability to remind myself to be patient. Having the ability doesn’t mean I do it, but I have the knowledge that it’s something I need to work on.
What’s your favorite item of clothing to wear?
What’s your favorite meal?
Breakfast—eggs and bacon
Photo courtesy of Danny & Ron’s Rescue
Danny Robertshaw, left, and Ron Danta joined by a golfcart full of rescue dogs.