A group of horses first caught Lisa Yanney Roskens’ attention from a picturesque pasture beside her childhood home in Bloomfield Hills, a subdivision near Westroads Mall. Ever since, she has been enamored with horses.
By the time she was 5 years old, her parents, Gail and Michael Yanney, bought her a pony named Taffy. A year later, Roskens began taking Western riding lessons, and by her preteens, she joined Jan Mactier at Ponca Hills Farm and began learning English riding. She rode and competed in equitation (the art of riding) through high school, through her college years at Stanford University, and eventually sold her horse upon returning to Omaha in the early 1990s.
At that point, she began running instead of riding. But her former riding master knew where Roskens’ heart lay.
“Jan called me up one day and said, ‘let’s go for a ride’ and I’ve never gone back,” Roskens says.
Roskens began training again, in earnest, eventually getting back to competition. She rekindled her passion for horses, and in 2009, began looking at bringing the sport to Omaha when she attended the FEI World Cup in Las Vegas, the world’s top equestrian event.
“I was a junkie, and I went to see my heroes, and I wanted to see what this top level competition was like,” Roskens says. “I was overwhelmed at the level of horsemen, but I was underwhelmed with the facility, the layout, and how everything was set up, from both a spectator’s perspective and a horseman’s perspective.”
She began to work towards bringing the event to Omaha.
“I found some friends. What does a girl do but get all of her friends together and say, ‘let’s figure out how to solve this problem,’ ” Roskens says lightheartedly.
The friends she brought together included businesspeople, horse people, and marketing and promotions people. She brought onboard Harold Cliff of the Omaha Sports Commission, whom Roskens says was “incredibly helpful.” By 2013, she and her friends watched their sport in their hometown (at the International Omaha), and last year, they won their bid to secure the 2017 World Cup. Omaha’s bid beat out London, Hong Kong, and ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.
“To be honest, I thought the bid was kind of a trial run,” Roskens says. “We threw everything we had at it, but I really thought they’d get to know us, and we’d win for 2018. The entire equestrian community was surprised, and pleased.”
Roskens, who trains on two horses six days a week, frequently rides in the mornings before getting ready for her day job as chairman and CEO of Burlington Capital. While she pondered riding professionally in the past, she appreciates that her business acumen can bring knowledge to this sport.
“It’s easy to get caught up in how things are done and not look at them with innovation and a fresh set of eyes,” Roskens says. “That’s what I can bring to my sport.”
Roskens also credits some advice given to her by her parents for allowing her to keep her hobby as a hobby.
“Back when I was in high school, and I was considering becoming a professional rider, they said, ‘remember, when your hobby becomes your career, it’s no longer voluntary, and it changes the nature of your hobby fundamentally,’” she remembers.
So while it may seem as though Roskens has two careers, she is happy to continue pursuing riding as a hobby.
“[People who turn hobbies into careers] go at it with this joy, this sense of fun, which is great, but if you don’t know how to balance your books, and you don’t know how to negotiate a lease, you either need to find someone who does, or you need to learn how,” she says.
Roskens and her friends have learned how, and that has enabled them to bring a world-class event to Omaha. When the FEI World Cup rolls into town in April, visitors will find an event that has been set up by a team of disciplined and passionate horsemen ready to welcome (and take on) the world.
Visit omahaworldcup2017.com for more information.