This article appears in the program book for the FEI World Cup Finals, produced by Omaha Magazine in March 2017.
Omaha’s equestrian community has made gains over the past several years to better explain and show the beauty of horse jumping and English riding to the area’s general public while also making strides, regionally and nationally, with riders, owners, and exhibitors. In short, it’s an exciting time to be a horseman or horsewoman in Nebraska’s largest city.
Patrice Urban has a healthy, long-view perspective. She and her husband have owned and operated the Quail Run Horse Centre jumping/training facility near 220th Street and West Maple Road for three decades. And while, she says, the FEI World CupTM Finals is exciting—in her words “huge”—the work leading up to earning that event has been important, as well. Thanks to the work of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation, Omaha hosted its first U.S. five-star jumping competition in the region, the International, in 2012. The International has been held annually since then. The application for the 2017 FEI World CupTM Finals, characterized as a “longshot” bid on the OEF website, was submitted four years ago. Event organizers in Omaha during the past few years have learned how to make a great show for everyone—participants, horse community members, and the public, she says, and people who come to the FEI World CupTM from beyond the area are going to be pleased.
“They’re going to come because it’s the World Cup, but what’s more important to Omaha is they’re coming to see Omaha,” Urban adds. She says that she has been educating people about Omaha whenever questions come up about this year’s FEI World CupTM Finals. Omaha is the first new city selected for the event in a decade.
“We’re in the niche in the United States in the equestrian world that we really don’t exist very much,” Urban says. “So for them to be able to come to the Midwest and experience our hospitality and what we have to offer is a new adventure for them.”
Dan Urban, Patrice’s 32-year-old son, has grown up in the area’s horse community and says he would enjoy seeing more people get excited about his sport. He serves as a trainer, instructor, and co-owner at Quail Run.
“When you’re watching a grand prix like that it’s suspenseful. It’s exciting. You kind of sit on the edge of your seat when they’re in the speed phase and they’re trying to beat the clock and the rider before them,” Dan says.
Over the past five years, he and his two brothers have been organizing horse competitions, as well, to add onto the horse centre’s teaching and boarding business.
“I want people to know that they’re going to see the top of the top (at the World Cup), but anyone can do this,” he says. Separate from the International, Quail Run now runs five weeks of competitions. Prior to offering an Omaha-based riding event, the nearest competitions were in Kansas City, Des Moines, or Colorado. The recession of 2008 highlighted a need. Shipping a horse to a horse show in St. Louis costs more than $700, Patrice says.
“When the gas prices went crazy, shipping went crazy,” she says. In 2008, the buying and selling of horses in the area took a hit, as well, but teaching riding was a constant.
“Our lessons didn’t take a hit at all. We are very consistent with what we teach and we are always busy,” Patrice says. “Sometimes we have four instructors teaching at the same time out there.”
“People (after the start of the recession) didn’t want to travel anymore,” Dan says. “They didn’t want to pay to put their horses on a trailer when the nearest venue was four, five, six hours away.”
During the past few years, Quail Run added three outdoor riding arenas and a stabling barn with the competitions in mind. The facility has 45 stalls and conducts 300 to 450 riding lessons a month. The horse shows typically bring in 95 to 125 horses and are now attracting riders and owners from around the region in their own right.
Patrice says the OEF’s focus on bringing in spectators to its large events has been important. Family friendly educational displays, demonstrations, and more have made kids love the International, she says. Dan says he would like to see a lasting economic impact for the metropolitan horse community because of the FEI World CupTM Finals Omaha 2017.
“It’s here. It’s not some, like, event to put up on a showcase that’s unattainable for people,” he says. “We do this right here in Omaha, and anyone’s invited.”