Plaidcast 312: Sharn Wordley, Craig Martin & Julie Boilesen by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

Plaidcast Episode 312 Sharn Wordley, Craig Martin, Julie Boilesen


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Piper speaks with Sharn Wordley and Craig Martin about their company, Wordley Martin, which provides equestrian arena architecture, construction, installation, and footing products. We also talk with Julie Boilesen, the CEO of Omaha Equestrian Foundation, about the upcoming 2023 FEI World Cup™ Finals. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!


  • Host: Piper Klemm, Publisher of The Plaid Horse
  • Guest: International Grand Prix riders Sharn Wordley and Craig Martin founded Wordley Martin, a company that provides equestrian arena architecture, construction, installation, and footing products to create a personalized, ideal riding environment. Wordley Martin has installed more than 450 arenas throughout the United States and has become the choice of Olympians, top athletes, and owners from show jumping, eventing, and dressage who value Wordley Martin’s exceptionally high standard of execution. Sharn Wordley was the Young Rider Champion in New Zealand early in his career before being ranked among the top 50 riders in the world. He has gone on to represent New Zealand at the highest level of the sport, including in numerous Nation’s Cups, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, North Carolina. He has competed in 22 countries and has successfully competed in some of the world’s most prestigious shows. In 2004, Sharn moved to the United States and has continued to compete at the international level. Sharn has also coached riders who have represented their countries in the Olympic Games, World Cup Finals, World Championships, and the Pan American Games. Craig Martin has competed on four continents at some of the world’s best shows and was on the long list to represent New Zealand at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. He worked and trained in Europe for more than a decade with some of the best in the business, and has brought horses up through the levels from youngsters to the grand prix ring. In 2004, Craig moved to the United States and competed and coached at major North American competitions, including the Winter Equestrian Festival and Spruce Meadows. Craig continues to show at the grand prix level today and is also qualified as an FEI Approved Footing Specialist. 
  • Guest: Julie Boilesen is the CEO of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation. Julie joined the nonprofit three years ago to organize equestrian events that create educational and economic development opportunities for the community. Julie’s passion for horses and equine sport has been evident since childhood — Julie grew up in Nebraska showing quarter horses and earned distinction as an Amateur World Champion Rider and National High Point Rider. Julie spent much of her professional career working as a marketing executive with AT&T and TD Ameritrade. Now she’s coordinating the world’s biggest individual equestrian competition of the year in 2023, the FEI World Cup™ Finals.
  • Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
  • Photo Credit: Sharn Wordley competing at HITS Ocala, ESI Photography
  • Subscribe To: The Plaid Horse Magazine
  • Sponsors: Purina Animal Nutrition, Pacific Coast Horse Shows AssociationAmerica CryoAmerican StallsLAURACEA, BoneKare, Show Strides Book Series, Online Equestrian College CoursesWith Purpose: The Balmoral Standard, and American Equestrian School

This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.

Piper Klemm [00:00:34] This is the Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine, and coming up on today’s show, episode 312, we’re going to talk about some exciting advancements of horse shows. We’re going to be talking about the 2023 World Cup finals in Omaha with Julie Boilesen. And we are going to be talking with Sharn Wordley and Craig Martin about their company, Wordley Martin, which provides equestrian arena architecture, construction, installation and footing products, and are recently refurbishing HITS Ocala. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services. 

Piper Klemm [00:03:19] International Grand Prix rider Sharn Wordley and Craig Martin founded Wordley Martin, a company that provides equestrian arena architecture, construction, installation and footing products to create a personalized ideal riding environment. Wordley Martin has installed more than 450 arenas throughout the United States and has become the choice of Olympians, top athletes and owners from showjumping, eventing and dressage who value Wordley Martin’s exceptionally high standard of execution. Sharn Wordley was a young rider champion in New Zealand early in his career before being ranked among the top 50 riders in the world. He has gone on to represent New Zealand at the highest level of the sport, including numerous Nations Cups, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina. He has competed in 22 countries and has successfully competed in some of the world’s most prestigious shows. In 2004, Sharn moved to the United States and has continued to compete at the international level. He has coached riders who have represented their countries in the Olympic Games, World Cup Finals, World Championships and the Pan Am Games. Craig Martin has competed on four continents at some of the world’s best shows and was on the long list to represent New Zealand in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. He worked and trained in Europe for more than a decade with some of the best in the business and has brought horses up through the levels from youngsters to the Grand Prix ring. In 2004, Craig moved to the United States and competed and coached at major North American competitions, including the Winter Equestrian Festival and Spruce Meadows. Craig continues to show at the Grand Prix level today and is also qualified as FEI approved funding specialist. Welcome to the plaidcast, Craig and Sharn. 

Craig Martin & Sharn Wordley [00:04:53] Thanks for having us. Hi. 

Piper Klemm [00:04:56] So we just all got really exciting news that HITS Ocala is going to be getting all new Wordley Martin Footing. Craig, can you tell us a little bit about what you envision there and what the big changes are going to be for this winter? 

Craig Martin [00:05:11] Sure. Yeah. So we’re very proud and happy to be part of the project for HITS that are definitely giving the property a really pretty amazing makeover. We have jointly together with HITS, we’ve redesigned the Grand Prix warmup arena. So that’s going to be pretty exciting for all of the riders. And then we have re-engineered and added a lot of drainage to the Grand Prix arena, put in all new footing in the Grand Prix Arena. All new fencing and the hunter arenas have been sort of reshaped and reworked again, all new drainage, all new footing. So the whole riding experience at HITS is going to be pretty amazing for this season. 

Piper Klemm [00:06:03] So I always say that people who work on footing and judges are kind of gluttons for punishment because I feel like they’re the uh, they’re the most blamed excuses for anyone’s performance in the show ring. Sharn, can you talk to us-. 

Sharn Wordley [00:06:18] We’d have to agree with that yeah. 

Piper Klemm [00:06:20] Sharn can you-. 

Sharn Wordley [00:06:21] Our goal is to try and have 80% of the people happy. If we can get 80% of the people happy. Then we’ve succeeded in our book. 

Piper Klemm [00:06:29] That’s pretty high because 99% of them are not going to win that day haha on your footing. 

Sharn Wordley [00:06:34] Yeah that’s true. 

Piper Klemm [00:06:36] So Sharn, tell us a little bit about being a rider and the importance of footing from that side and then how much kind of location and weather… One of the things I’ve definitely noticed is that traveling to shows all over the country is is the footing is just so radically different in every area of the country. It requires such a unique mixture so that the expertize is very specific to these unique mixtures and and also the local weather and where the rings are located, and as you said, drainage, all these factors. Can you tell us a little bit, as a rider, what footing means to you and your horse and how that kind of developed into your your ethos behind Wordley Martin? 

Sharn Wordley [00:07:22] Yeah, well, but you’re right. The location in this country, it’s such a big country. And to have consistency wherever you go in this in this country is is tough because the sand quality is the most important part. And if you’re building in New York or Florida, you’re using different sands. If you’re building Virginia, you’re using different sand. So to get sort of uniformity of the product over the whole country is quite difficult. And here in Florida in the winter, it’s quite tough, too, because you have it’s the dry season. So you have periods where you don’t have much rain at all and then within 5 minutes you’re getting five inches. So you’ve got to be able to deal with lack of water over a period of time and then also mass amounts of water in a short period of time. And both are difficult to manage with. So you’ve got to try and balance the the amount of the drainage so that you can get rid of those mass amounts of water in short periods of time, but not have it drain too good that you’re having to water it all day long to keep footing good enough to show jump on. So it’s it’s a fine balance. And then to answer your question about how it affects me as a rider. Well, that it’s really important. And that was sort of why Craig and I created this company was because first and foremost, we’re riders. And when we came in 2004, we’d been in Europe for ten years and we were jumping on good footing a lot. And then when we came to America, we were still jumping on decomposed granite arenas and and dirt, and it was very inconsistent. And we had all the horses that weren’t coping so well with the type of footing that was here in this country. So we saw a need we saw that with the country was going to go as far as footing in the next ten, 20 years. So we wanted to get involved in that, but we also wanted to have a solution because if we, if we complain about something, we generally want to have a solution for it. There’s no point complaining if there’s no solution. And at that period of time, back in the early 2000’s, there wasn’t really a a solution. No one was building these types of arenas. So that’s sort of why we started the company to give a solution for our complaining. 

Piper Klemm [00:09:50] Craig When I think of Europe, though, I do think of a lot of like indoor arenas. How does the fact that I mean, much of the U.S. is outdoors obviously there. The consistency is like, as we kind of said, you know, exponentially more difficult to achieve with so many different climates and and being outdoors in much of the country. 

Craig Martin [00:10:09] The indoor season in Europe and then indoor season here in this country is similar. It’s probably a little bit sometimes actually colder in this country. So the way that you prepare an indoor footing in the way that we build indoor arenas is obviously different to outdoors. With that being said, you know, there’s different methods. There’s underneath watering systems that we do in the indoors, we sort of lean and sort of out trained as to to do that a little bit more in the indoors versus the outdoors. But it is a it’s one of the things which is obviously, as people have become more educated on flooding, as everybody has a different sense of what their ideal is. So I think what Sharn and I necessarily as personally as riders may like, is not necessarily what, you know, one of the other riders may like. So it’s it’s it’s it’s about and as with the footing business has grown with definitely learn to be versatile and and adapt so that we can try and cater to a wide audience because you know at the end of the day we’re building arenas for dressage riders for high level event riders and obviously, you know, really good showjumping riders. 

Piper Klemm [00:11:40] One of the things I know, Sharn, that you’re very proud of is you have a lot of older horses competing successfully at the top levels of the sport still. Can you talk a little bit about how footing and your footing preferences are guided towards longevity in the sport? I think we all know if we switch our horses on different footings and different things where we’re looking at injecting things that we’ve never injected, I think the vet work has changed very much as the footing in this country have changed over the last ten, 15 years. Can you talk a little bit about keeping your older horses going and how the footing is so instrumental in that? 

Sharn Wordley [00:12:23] Yeah, sure. I mean, the there definitely has been some impact over the last ten, 15 years as these arenas have become faster because the footing is more consistent. So if you’re not going to slip on the corner, you can go around it faster. That’s definitely one aspect, but there are a bunch of aspects when it comes to the horse’s health. Also, 15 years ago, the circuits weren’t going for 13 weeks in a row. They weren’t going, you know, 11 and a half months, a year either. So the horses are showing probably 2 to 3 times more than they were before and going faster. So I think it’s not necessarily the footing’s fault. I think the whole industry has changed and people’s way of managing their horses has changed. But there are. On all footing, doesn’t matter what it is. There’s a few key factors that create injury, which is too hard, too soft, too inconsistent. Those are the things that mainly cause injury. So. Even if it’s grass or if it’s any type of, you know, sand footing, if you can get that right balance of concussion, consistency and making it firm enough that the horse can compete and jump on without slipping where. Obviously injuries happen when there’s a misstep and a slip or the horse sinks into into something more than it did the step beforehand. If you can avoid those and have consistency, not having it too hard and not too soft, then you’re going to reduce injuries. And so with as far as my older horses have gone, I’ve been very particular in picking the shows who have footing that meet those requirements. And it’s becoming easier and easier nowadays as more and more shows are putting the right footing in, and also which is, I’d say, equally as important as managing the footing better. You know, there’s some very good ring crew guys now that work at all the big horse shows that really know their stuff and they’re able to keep that footing in an optimal condition than they did ten years ago: A. they weren’t familiar with it, so they didn’t know how to manage it correctly. But everyone’s just a lot more educated in what and what they’re doing, and it’s improving. You know, even today, it’s going to be even better next year. 

Piper Klemm [00:14:52] So what does managing that footing look like to you, Craig? I know we’ve all been at horse shows where they might have great footing, but if they’re not dragging enough, they’re not watering, they’re not doing whatever, whatever it might need during the day, it can get into rough shape quickly. And again, I don’t believe that horse shows had quite the number of trips on them 15 years ago that we’re seeing today. I mean, we’ve just seen expanses in all dimensions of the horse show, and so the rings are getting a lot more wear and tear on them, I think than than they used to a consistent daily wear and tear. 

Craig Martin [00:15:31] Yeah, sure. To your point, I think and also just touching on what Sharn said, you know, knowledge is power. And so these good ring crew guys and the guys that really know it very, very well, what they’re able to do is they’re able to prepare the different arenas. For example, the Grand Prix arena is prepared differently to the Hunter arena. So as they have learned their craft, they have gotten better. And so at the end of the day, that’s a better footing for the horse and a better experience for that. Obviously, the horse and rider, the hardest thing. And for horse show managers, what the demand in the sport is getting everybody through the ring in the daylight hours, you know, when you’re trying to run a lot of horses through the arena. So then that impacts obviously from a drag point of view how many trips they get to push through the arena before there’s a drag break. So, you know, you see it. You see it at WEF you see it at Kentucky, you see it at the WEC. You see it. Everybody sort of has different management styles. And that’s it’s it’s a hard thing to really perfect because of the demands of of the industry is as it’s sort of growing and it changed so much. 

Piper Klemm [00:17:00] How do we make rings then that are that are multi-purpose? Or is that just kind of a thing of the past? You know, there used to be horse shows where, you know, everything happened in the same ring. Is that possible anymore? Are things becoming so specialized and so customized that that the Grand Prix footing and the hunter footing and then that crossrail short stirrup fitting are different enough that they can’t even really be in the same ring anymore. 

Sharn Wordley [00:17:25] You know, they’re they’re all you can use the same ring as Craig said, if you if you’re in a jump ring where where speed and turning is involved, you may need the footing a little tighter than, let’s say, the hunter where they’re going at a certain pace and not really torquing on the footing as much. You may have it a little softer, but they’re subtle differences. They’re not really big differences. I’d say you probably can’t do reigning in any of our arenas, but all the other disciplines, you’re you’re fine it it’s not much difference. 

Piper Klemm [00:18:02] So what are some of the what are some of the horse shows that you’ve done in the past? And tell us a little bit about how how the footing has changed and improve those shows. 

Sharn Wordley [00:18:11] Yeah, well, just as a a a business decision that Craig and I made early on in our careers doing this is that we didn’t want to do horse shows because, as we just said, it’s so hard to manage. And you’re not in we then are not necessarily in control of the horse show management, so we’re not therefore in control of how they manage the footing. So we made decisions to stay away from doing horse shows. So we’ve been in business for 16 years and we’ve only just started now feeling like we’d like to do horse shows. So we started with Terra Nova, which is a big facility there in Sarasota, an amazing place there. And HITS is only the second horse show that we’ve decided that we’d like to take on. So and we’re actually really enjoying it. And along with what we said before, everyone understands how to manage these things now. So that management aspect ten years ago that we wanted to stay away from is something now that isn’t such a worry that everyone knows what they’re doing. Plus, with HITS, we have a three year management contract as well. So we do have a role in the management. But again, as I said earlier on, if you can have 80% of the people happy, then you’re doing really well at all. If it’s a private arena, you can manage that much more. If the client isn’t happy for whatever reason, it’s a lot easier to address that one person versus a thousand people at a horse show. So yeah, it’s sort of a new thing for us is doing these horse shows and we’re, we’re enjoying it actually. 

Piper Klemm [00:19:52] So let’s talk a little bit more about your private barn setups. Craig I know besides arenas, you do a whole number of other installations too, to make horses lives better. 

Craig Martin [00:20:07] Yeah. So with the with the private arenas, we’ve been fortunate enough to work for some of the best people in the industry. We offer a pretty wide variety of products. The indoor arenas are getting very, very popular even here in Florida, especially with the dressage getting stronger and stronger. Down in Wellington, where I’m based, there’s literally half of the arenas nearly that are getting built at the moment are all indoors. So we have different ways that we do the covered arenas, whether you want to call it an indoor or a covered, a covered is obviously, you know, an open sided building. We mentioned before the underneath watering systems are something that is definitely trending a little bit at the moment. And we have designed a very good method to to be able to offer that option that we’re very, very happy with its work and extremely well the outdoor arenas. We do a lot of not only outdoor arenas, but we do a lot of tracks you know canter tracks around the properties are becoming much much more popular so that people are incorporating, you know, the horses not just riding inside a rectangle the whole time and then grand prix fields, grass, grand prix fields becoming more advanced. A lot of people, if they have the real estate, they would like to, you know, offer a grass option as well as, you know, a normal sand arena. So we definitely are a one stop shop. You know, we can offer to the private arena client whatever they wish. 

Piper Klemm [00:22:08] So Sharn, tell us a little bit more about your competition goals that are coming up and what what that aspect of the riding aspect of your life is looking like for the next few years? 

Sharn Wordley [00:22:19] Yeah. Competition. Goals. I’d like to. You know, I might. I’ve got a few younger horses on my team, as my older horses are getting pretty old now. Gatsby’s coming 19. My other horse is 18, Casper. So they’re they’re getting up there. But I’ve got a very interesting seven and eight year old, so I’m just sort of producing the younger ones a bit. We’ve got so many shows here in Ocala now, obviously with the World Equestrian Center, which does an amazing job, and then now with HITS offering really good money and having new updated facilities. And we’re going to be, you know, managing footing there. So I’ll be there a lot. So my winter is going to be consisted of those two, two venues. We’ve got the Olympic trials in July in Europe. Where New Zealand has to qualify for their spot in Olympic Games. My fiancee rides for Australia so she is sort of the enemy. So we’re both probably going to go and try and represent our teams there in July next year to try and get ourselves a spot for the Olympic Games. We’re pretty busy with work, so I’m just enjoying riding at the at the local shows here. Don’t have too many aspirations at the moment riding-wise I’m just sort of enjoying it. 

Piper Klemm [00:23:44] Just qualifying for the Olympics. No big aspirations haha. 

Sharn Wordley [00:23:47] Yeah I don’t really have an Olympic horse. It’s more just for our to qualify our country for the spot. I don’t I don’t really have anything eligible for me to go the Olympics. But if if Lauren is going there, then I’ll I’ll probably go as well and try and help our team try and qualify. But I’m not planning on going to the Olympics. I don’t have a horse really suitable. 

Piper Klemm [00:24:11] Well, Craig and Sharn, thank you so much for joining us on the Plaidcast and feel free to reach out when you ride on the brand new footing at HITS Ocala. 

Craig Martin & Sharn Wordley [00:24:20] Thank you very much. Thanks for your time. Thank you. 

Piper Klemm [00:26:41] Julie Boilsen is the CEO of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation. Julie joined the nonprofit three years ago to organize equestrian events that create educational and economic development opportunities for the community. Julie’s passion for horses and equine sport has been evident since childhood. Julie grew up in Nebraska showing quarter horses and earned distinction as an amateur world champion rider and national high point rider. Julie spent much of her professional career working as a marketing executive with AT&T and TD Ameritrade. Now she’s coordinating the biggest individual equestrian competition of the year in 2023, the FEI World Cup finals. Welcome to the plaidcast, Julie. 

Julie Boilsen [00:27:22] Well, so nice of you to have us, Piper. 

Piper Klemm [00:27:25] So I went to the World Cup finals in Omaha and I think a couple of years ago, and I think most people agreed it was probably the greatest or at least one of the greatest horse shows they had ever been to. Can you tell us a little bit about kind of what we saw last time and what what parts of that we might see again? And then we’ll talk about what what bigger and better things we’re going to see for this coming year. 

Piper Klemm [00:27:52] Sure. I’m glad you had a great time in 2017. You will, you know, Omaha likes to surprise people, so I’m sure you were shocked as a lot of people were on how wonderful the facility is. You’ll be back in the CHI health center. It has a new name since the last time you were here, but same great facility. The the hotels are even bigger and better. I know a lot of people love the way that the Hilton just attaches right to the venue. There’s a great Marriott across the street. There’s a beautiful new hotel that’s a marriott autograph, the Farnham, lots of new restaurants. Omaha, actually, you know, our restaurants were opening during COVID, which I know sounds really strange, but we had a couple of new ones come on board. So you’ll you’ll expect even greater hospitality. The event itself, we are working on a theme with the Bluebird Cultural Initiative on 1723. We’re kind of riffing on the Yellowstone stuff. So we took the two years that we’ve hosted the World Cup and looked at 1723 and what was happening on this piece of land 300 years ago. So that really means, you know, horses were just making their way up the plains at that time. And we’re going to tell that story as part of the World Cup. So one of the things that you’ll be seeing is a lot of Native American storytellers, dancers, people talking about their relationship with horses and how the horse really changed the tribe’s culture. Everything about it, the way they hunted, the way they lived, the way they traveled was completely different. When the sacred dog became a part of the culture, there was no word for horse. So in Lakota, they they use the word that means sacred dog. 

Piper Klemm [00:29:44] So tell us a little bit about what competition we see at the World Cup, I think. You know, Grand Prix is kind of a little bit of an overused term in the U.S.. Technically, the lowercase Grand Prix just means the largest class at the horse show, basically. So most horse shows have some some sort of Grand Prix at them. Then we have kind of our national standard Grand Prix and that’s, you know, Capital Grand Prix. And then we have the FEI World Cup qualifying Grand Prix, which are just a completely different. 

Piper Klemm [00:30:22] Beast- level of competition. 

Piper Klemm [00:30:24] Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve walked many of those courses and the jumps are staggering even at the World Cup qualifiers. And so we see these qualifiers all over North America. Can you tell us a little bit about the qualifying standard? And I also think that because there’s so few qualifying shows, it’s one of the most fascinating qualifying procedures and then finals that we do have in showjumping sport. 

Julie Boilsen [00:30:51] I would completely agree. And one of the things I think that’s been nice to hear this year is because 2017 was such a successful event that there, from what I understand, a lot of American, North American riders that are pursuing coming this time around that maybe, you know, kind of sat back a little bit last time. So, yeah, I mean, it is the when you go up to a jump that’s, you know, meter 60 meter, 65. So many people just don’t really have a context of how tall that really is. And one of the things we’re actually going to do at the competition is make sure that we’re putting jumps sort of out in the entry ways that the people that are more local are more casual observers of the sport, have to really walk up and understand, you know, the hype that’s really being jumped because when you’re looking down on it, you don’t have that perspective. Yeah. Bernardo [Costa Cabral], we’re really excited, you know, he just does a great course for us. He was here for the International in May 2022 and kind of, you know, get a feel for the space in the building again. And he will be back as our course designer for the World Cup. And I think he has lots of great things planned. We, you know, just couldn’t be happier to be hosting a true Grand Prix again, because you’re right, you know, we host a Grand Prix every year, but it’s nothing like this. So we keep explaining to people. You know, the jumping at the World Cup is more exclusive than the Olympics. One of the ways that we sort of got the lay people to sort of understand this and, you know, you’re really looking at the cream of the crop for indoor jumping like you see nowhere else. We just can’t wait to host everyone again. And it’s such an exclusive when you’re talking about 58, 59 jumpers, 18 dressage riders, and then we’re introducing vaulting. For the first time in North America, you’re going to see a vaulting World Cup final. 

Piper Klemm [00:32:59] That’s incredible. You know, I know that many U.S. vaulters have have competed in Europe, but I haven’t really seen that top level of competition ever in North America. 

Julie Boilsen [00:33:12] Certainly not since WEG. And it was a huge hit in Tryon. So we’re really excited to be bringing it to the U.S. and and, you know, take a lot of cooperation with the American Vaulting Association and the FEI to figure out how to make this happen. I think vaulting is such an interesting sport to share with the general public, too. It’s just so visual. It’s really exciting. It’s a club sport. People don’t necessarily have to own a horse to to do it. They can participate to club horse in a club sport. And I think it’s a great way to get young people really excited about equestrian sport. 

Piper Klemm [00:33:52] So I actually spent, we had a few reporters on site and I had the luxury I actually spent the World Cup watching the schooling ring. And I watched I watched the class later online on the livestream. I watched the schooling for the whole class, and I watched how every single one of those riders prepared and got their horse ready to watch walk in that ring. And so many of them I’ve gotten to watch compete many times. But I, I rarely take take the time to really watching them prepare and watching them prepare for a class like that and then walk in the ring. And then I watch how their horses go in the ring later, watching that all the way through, which obviously unconventional. But let’s talk abo ut kind of elevating that level of competition and all that you can learn. And as as a sidebar to that, one of the things I thought in 2017 that was so great is that you had so many educational programs for local riders, for barns and pony clubs and 4H  groups. And there were just there were young people everywhere learning about the sport, getting excited about the sport, starting to take lessons. I mean, I think that your Midwest community impact on elevating the sport from that, from more people participating all the way up through that national elevation. As you said, more riders aimed for this than than they did in 2017. Like, can you talk a little bit about all the educational opportunities at all levels that take so much work for your team that are so worth it for our sport? 

Julie Boilsen [00:35:28] Sure. The one one. I’m glad you enjoyed the warm up arena, because I to me, that’s, you know, one of the biggest educational opportunities for serious riders is to go and really watch and really study how these, you know, top level athletes prepare and what they’re really doing to prepare mentally for what they’re about to do. So, yes, we have the warm up arena is open to the public and, you know, just a really big part of our trade show area. And then we we run a demo arena from 9 a.m. in the morning until six or 7:00 every night. And we try to we try to have, like you said, kind of have something for everybody. You know, if you’re if your kids are suddenly one of the things we’re a topic for talking about right now is, you know, so you came to horse show and now your kids want to ride. How do you how do you even go about finding, you know, a barn or a pony club or, you know, how do you how do you approach getting lessons or buying a first horse? And so they’re, you know, bringing in local people to to talk about subjects like that, but also, you know. Other ways to get involved. You know, this is this is the Midwest. So can we bring in rodeo club to talk about roping? The hunt. We have a wonderful partner in the North Hills Hunt here in Omaha. So they come in and they talk about fox hunting and barrel racing. And we have we’ve been lucky the last couple of years to have Melanie Smith Taylor and Alicia Landman come and do a clinic and really, you know, talking about both jumping in dressage, how those things work together and the importance of groundwork and doing, you know, lots and lots of sessions and lots of demonstrations on ground work. Those principles apply to any equine sport. So we get a lot of great feedback from people who, you know, might show quarter horses or paints or, you know, participate in some other way and how valuable they find that kind of information. So you’ll see all of that this year and more. We’re obviously we’re looking at integrating our theme and how do we explain to people what goes on at a relay race, which is very much a part of the indigenous culture? And how do you how do you decode Lakota painted horses? If you’ve seen the poster for the event, it features a Lakota painted horse. Well, you know, those are kind of the original emojis. That horse walked up to you. There was a whole story being told on its body in the way it’s been painted. So yeah, we’re kind of all over the place. We’re working with some people that that are our human trainers, trainers, fitness trainers, but their only clientele is horse show people. So we’re working on bringing them in to do some demonstrations on how they specifically tailor their fitness training for the horse show crowd. So yeah, we’re always excited to show different breeds. Everything from Luke is a perennial favorite. He’s the biggest horse in Nebraska. He always makes an appearance, driving horses. Yeah, you name it, we kind of try to show it. 

Piper Klemm [00:38:55] I think this is so incredible because, you know, a criticism I would have of of many horse shows is that they don’t embed themselves into the community very much. And it’s a lot of work. And so kudos to your whole team. So can you tell us a little bit more about the the Blue Bird Cultural Initiative and what specific events that that spectators can enjoy there? I think it’s so incredible to bring in all of this educational stuff. And and see, I was like, ooh, the tallest horse! And I like see horses all the time. 

Julie Boilsen [00:39:36] Yeah when you see one whose foot is the size of a dinner plate. So it’s amazing. Yeah, we, you know, during the pandemic, we had a lot of time to think, right. While we weren’t running horse shows. And I come from a branding background, and I like to understand what the story is around an event. And so we really kind of challenged ourselves to think about why Omaha, why why should this equine event, what is special about telling a story about horses in Omaha? And so, you know, like I said, that’s how we sort of got to this 1723 idea and just started reaching out to community leaders. And we’re very lucky to connect with the Bluebird Cultural Initiative and their director, Steve Tamayo. You know, Steve is the real deal. He he’s, you know, a spiritual leader, speaks multiple languages. He is an authenticator for the Smithsonian Native American Museum. You know, it’s just he’s so fantastic. And he just really embraced the idea of, you know, the opportunity to tell tell the story, to tell the story about what horses mean to his people. And it was we felt like from the equestrian foundation side, it was an opportunity for us to provide a stage to, you know, a group of people that maybe don’t always get to tell their own story that we’ve told it for them. And this is, you know, the idea of let’s give them a storytelling circle. So in our in our education area, because we hosted about 4500, 5000 area children on field trips, free field trips every year. So there’s going to be a storytelling circle in that area. And so tribal elders can come in and talk about, you know, their relationship with horses. And there’ll be a full size fiberglass horse with that’ll represent our painted horses and kind of that we keep we keep saying the horse emojis, you know, the kids think emojis are new, but emojis are really old. So talking about, you know, really symbology and how that is part of tribal language and tribal storytelling and they’ll be a full sized Lakota Lodge that is constructed as part of the trade show area. So people are able to, you know, see it, get inside it, understand, you know, how how everybody always thinks everything’s, you know, the same. But lodges are different from tribe to tribe, just like people’s houses are different across cultures. There’ll be a drum circle. There’s actually a special drum song being composed right now for performance at the event. There will be dancers, there will be flute players, traditional flute players as part of the opening ceremonies, there’ll be tribal flags presented as part of our opening ceremonies also, so that each tribe that’s kind of from this area will have an ability to present their story and their their tribal song and their tribal flag and really celebrate something that’s unique about our area and their relationship to our fans. The commonality is horses. And so we’re just really excited to kind of see how everybody responds to that. 

Piper Klemm [00:43:15] That’s so amazing. You touched a little bit on your background. Can you tell us a little bit about a little bit about your history and what you bring to to growing this even bigger World Cup finals in 2023? 

Julie Boilsen [00:43:33] Sure. I’m a Nebraska girl. I’m from central Nebraska. I grew up showing horses and showed hunt seat horses and was a amateur world champion. And amateur high point rider, didn’t go back to college until I was 25. I thought I would be done having any fun I was ever going to have by the time I was 25 and then, you know, started my professional career and have worked in marketing, branding and advertising for 20 plus years. So this is sort of the merger of my two lives, of my horse life and my professional life, to have the opportunity to be part of the organizing committee for an event like this and really trying to think about it as how do we bring in more people, draw more people to the sport, to the event? You know, vaulting was a part of that story, was an idea of bringing in a really visually accessible event that is easy to understand. And, you know, we think to draw in a lot of people locally, Omaha’s a big kind of cheer, gymnastics kind of town. So we’re excited to present vaulting to that audience as an extension of what they already do. And we just I think that, you know. I love Omaha. I love showing people what a fantastic city this really is. And Omaha loves sport. We we have embraced all kinds of interesting sports over the years through the Olympic swim trials, the curling trials that Omaha love sport. And, you know, I’m excited for our fans to come out and really enjoy this. 

Piper Klemm [00:45:24] I think it’s so I think all sports have so much to learn from each other. And and I went to my first Quarter Horse Congress this year ever. And there are there are so many things about it I loved. But one of the things that was so simple that I thought was so interesting was every single placing they did because we we have money and in most hunter classes, most jumper classes, etc., but we kind of don’t talk about it and we don’t even talk about it in the victory gallop we don’t talk about it at all. Oh, it’s a $25,000 Grand Prix, but every single placing, every single ribbon, they gave out a quarter horse Congress. They would say how much money that per like what, what check that person got. And I thought it was the most minor change in the world that’s like basically free. But it it was absolutely fascinating how it moved my mindset because it would be like in sixth place earning, you know, $756.23. And from a sporting perspective, I was like, oh, this year it’s like this one tiny little change. Like I’m so much… I don’t know what I’m watching, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know how to do it.

Piper Klemm [00:46:38] But Yeah, I was like, I’m so much more invested right now in what I don’t even know what’s going on. And so I love that you’re you’re taking your background of so many different things and tying it into the city of Omaha’s background of supporting so many sports and doing so many sports correctly. And I think that that really shined in 2017, and I’m really excited to see it shine again in, in 2023 of not being the same people running the same horse shows who do a great job in so many levels. But you cannot be creative when you have to produce 50 horse shows a year

Julie Boilsen [00:47:20] Right And this is right. This is a sporting event. It’s a horse show. But it also needs to be a show. There needs to be production value. There needs to be things that make people feel like, you know, they just saw something really interesting and really special and spectacular. Yeah. So we, we talk about lighting and we talk about sound and we talk about the soundtrack and, you know, try to make sure that we’re, you know, bringing in one thing you’ll notice this this time around is we’re kind of have a a a woman, you know, on the street, if that’s up in the audience, engaging the audience and what’s happening. So during the drag, you might be doing a little education about, you know, horses don’t jump on dirt, they jump on footing. And what what is this? And so you, you know, bring people into what’s happening on the field of play. And how do you how do you make that connection that it doesn’t just feel like this is a separate space, but they’re part of it. I think the FEI, you know, is doing really interesting things with Longines with their design a jump contest. I thought that was really a great move on their part. 

Piper Klemm [00:48:34] Absolutely. There have been a lot of efforts at fan engagement all over the place, which I think there is nothing but benefits from from having from having fan engagement. So for all the people planning on going to World Cup for 2023 and April, where do they get tickets? Where do they get more information? How do they plan the trip with their friends? As you said, there’s so many hotels nearby. If you didn’t go in 2017, there’s a hotel in the building. There’s a hotel across from the building. There are hotels literally everywhere, which makes it a really easy trip and a really fun weekend with your horse friends. 

Julie Boilsen [00:49:10] Right. And it’s great because the venue is part of our old market area. So you’re really, you know, kind of the heartbeat of the city with all the entertainment and restaurants and everything. Right here downtown, you’ll go to Omaha Equestrian dot org FEI World Cup link and it will unfold a wonder of information. You can go to for tickets, tables, VIP, everything. Everything is available on Ticketmaster. I know that’s a little different than some other events and there’s a link for discounted hotel rooms on our page, so you can check those out. Yeah, we’re really excited for everyone to come in and enjoy our city. 

Piper Klemm [00:49:56] Amazing. Well, I’ll just reiterate Omaha equestrian dot org for more information. And Julie, thank you for joining us on the plaidcast!

Julie Boilsen [00:50:04] Thank you for having me. 

Piper Klemm [00:51:31]  To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit You can find show notes at Follow the plaid horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of the Plaid Horse Magazine at Please write and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it and if you enjoy this episode, feature with your friends. I will see you at the ring!