By Irene Elise Powlick
As the world of show jumping watched Steve Guerdat win his second World Cup Final, the team behind the Omaha Equestrian Foundation kicked into full gear to prepare for this year’s International Omaha, held May 5-7 in the CenturyLink Center in the heart of Omaha, Neb., while keeping their sites also set to next year, when they will host the 2017 World Cup Final!
The International Omaha was the brainchild of Lisa Roskens, an amateur jumper rider who wanted to bring elite equestrian competition to the center of the United States—to Omaha. The first International was held in 2011, and has run every year since then, drawing as many as 3,000 spectators to watch the world class competition. The International brings world class competition to the Midwest, and currently offers $260,500 in prize money in premier jumper events. In addition, they are now offering $30,000 in the newly added dressage Grand Prixs.
The International hosts local riders on the first day of competition, where they can school in the large, international setting, while avoiding the high class fees that they would normally be charged at other shows. Local riders can also qualify to compete at the show free of charge.
The International Omaha looks to not only draw in world class riders, but to attract the local public to see the sporting event, and to visit the educational booths, called Mane Street. Mane Street hosts a gallery of breeds, farrier displays, a tack room, and more, where visitors learn about the tack on the horses, and veterinarians are on site to do mock surgeries and talk about the care of the horse.
In order to keep our sport alive, many believe in the missions of grassroots efforts to promote learning about the horse, which helps to engage the outside public that may not have the wealth or desire to support high class equestrian competition. Grassroots programs like these are widely viewed as necessary to continue to develop and expand the equestrian community as a whole.
As seen with many destination horse shows, people are willing to travel hundreds of miles to watch the top riders compete.
“Our goal is to not only get the casual sport fan more involved, but we are really working hard to create a regional destination,” explained CEO West. Trying to pull more people in has been no easy task, but the International is working hard, and are currently preparing to mail information on their shows to known equestrians as far as 500 miles away, which would go all the way to the Canadian border; Denver, Col.; Chicago, Ill.; Kansas City, Neb.; and Minneapolis, Minn.
West hopes to expand this much not only to help the International Omaha, but because Omaha is hosting the 2017 FEI World Cup Finals. The finals were hosted by Gothenburg, Sweden in 2016, and in 2015, they were in Las Vegas. With the World Cup Finals coming to Omaha in less than a year, everyone at the Omaha Foundation is getting to work to make it a great experience.
One way that West is working to make the Finals a success is to improve the overall experience for not only the rider, but the spectators that flock to these events. West has found that at many shows which appeal to the spectator, there is more than just competition and shopping to be enjoyed. He has found that the entire experience, from the ability to watch the warm up ring, to the food options, leave a big impression on spectators.
West travelled to several shows, including the Los Angeles Masters, and Equitia Lyon. At these top competitions, West noted that there was a distinct difference in a few key points. Often, food, vendors, or other booths surrounded the warm up ring, and this made it not only inviting to come and watch, but necessary, if you wanted to see all of the shops or find the best food. In addition to that, the food options were of much higher quality, especially in Europe. Instead of a greasy, expensive lunch, the options were not only healthier, but of higher quality, and offered more options.
“Instead of a concession stand, it would be a defined area, where you went up to the grab & go window, and then sat down at a table with tablecloths that overlooked the schooling ring,” explained West of his travels to European shows. With these improvements, the International looks to make their show a public friendly, high quality sporting event that is attractive people of every background.
For more information on the International Omaha, you can visit their website at internationalomaha.com, and for more information on the Omaha Equestrian Foundation, visit omahaequestrian.com.