Tag Archives: competition

Christian Heineking

March 31, 2018 by
Photography by Jami Scull

As his last name implies, Christian Heineking is truly king of the horse jumping ring.

He’s won four out of five International Omaha Grand Prix jumping events, and he competed in the 2017 FEI World Cup (the world-class championship event held for the first time in Omaha).

Far from his birthplace in East Germany, Heineking says Omaha has played a unique and seemingly unlikely role in his life—both professionally and personally.

Heineking, 38, grew up around horses owned by his grandfather. As a teenager, he entered the Redefin Federal Stud of Mecklenburg as a riding school student and went on to earn a master certification at the German Riding Academy at Warendorf, completing years of course work in breeding, young horses, and operations, with extensively tested riding ability.

Graduating at the top of his class in 2008, he turned pro and headed to the United States on a two-year visa to experience American show jumping. He met Erin Davis, also an accomplished show jumper, and the two began dating.

That’s when Omaha entered their lives. Davis is friends with Karen Cudmore, an Omaha Equestrian Foundation board member, who eagerly touted the inaugural 2012 International Omaha to the pair.

They have returned each year since, with International Omaha competitions paralleling significant milestones in their lives: dating, engagement, marriage, pregnancy, and the birth of baby Ella.

Heineking’s fast-paced life includes many victories in national and international competitions, all while operating October Hill Farm and Heineking Show Stables near his family’s residence close to Fort Worth, Texas. Still, Omaha holds a special place in his heart.

“International Omaha is well managed and more compact—you have to be ready to compete,” Heineking says. “The people in Omaha are always friendly, and we really like it. It feels like home to me.”

Learn more about the 2018 International Omaha here: http://omahamagazine.com/articles/the-horses-are-back/

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Horses Are Back!

March 24, 2018 by
Photography by contributed

The International Omaha indoor jumping and dressage competition continues its ascent in the horse sports world, drawing the fastest horses and riders to Omaha from qualifying contests in Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Denver.

The InIt2WinIt Speed Jumping Series is the brainchild of Lisa Roskens, chairman of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation. Similar to speed competitions held in California during the early ’90s, she says, it features challenging turns and offers riders more options for successfully navigating the course in the fastest possible time.

Following recent qualifying rounds in the four major cities, the InIt2WinIt series culminates with 30 riders vying in a nationally televised, $100,000 championship at the 2018 International Omaha, April 12-15 at the CenturyLink Center.

The innovative event fits perfectly with the Omaha Equestrian Foundation’s mission to expand the sport-horse industry throughout the Midwest, with Omaha anchoring international-caliber equestrian competitions that provide educational and economic development opportunities.

“Omaha is a natural location to help grow the equestrian industry. It’s in the heart of the Midwest’s agricultural infrastructure, is easy to get to and is surrounded by pastureland,” Roskens says. “As traditional agriculture becomes more mechanized, expanding the equestrian industry and the jobs it provides can help augment it.” 

InIt2WinIt is joined by another first-time event: the Dressage Team Challenge. Dressage (rhymes with “massage”) is the ballet of equine competitions, with horse and rider moving as one through intricate movements and patterns.

The unique event brings a team approach to dressage. It features eight groups of three riders who qualified at high-level U.S. horse shows, primarily in the East, to win the chance to compete in the $45,000 final. Top-level, professional riders partner with junior, young amateurs and para riders across the age spectrum.

InIt2WinIt and the Dressage Team Challenge are innovative additions that will build International Omaha’s fan base in the Midwest and beyond, says Mike West, the Omaha Equestrian Foundation’s chief executive officer. They precede the regional competition’s mainstay and finale: the $130,000 Grand Prix, a breathtaking jumping event entering its sixth year.

“We thought of these concepts, then we went out and got the interest,” West says. “We are creating a fan experience you don’t get anywhere else in the Midwest.”

When most people attend a sporting event, he explains, it’s part of a larger happening that includes tailgating or other pre- and post-game activities. West says International Omaha mirrors how the sport is presented in larger European and U.S. coastal cities. Highlights include the Boutique Shopping Village with more than 100 vendors and the Tailgate Lounge, where fans can eat and drink—while watching horses and riders warm up—then party to live music after the event.

International Omaha also is offering free daytime competitions in the CenturyLink Center’s arena for up-and-coming amateur and junior riders; a free Horse Discovery Zone with interactive and educational displays; and clinics hosted by Olympic gold medalist Hubertus Schmidt (dressage) and legendary rider, trainer, and clinician George Morris (jumping).

“These equestrian events are exciting, fun, beautiful, and easily appreciated,” West says. “We’re building something really special.”

Visit internationalomaha.com for more information. Learn more about a top international competitor with long-term ties to Omaha equestrian competitions here: http://omahamagazine.com/articles/christian-heineking/.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Molly Schuyler

August 26, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Molly Schuyler’s family often dined at the buffet where her dad strongly advised her and her three brothers they had better get his money’s worth.

By now, the professional competitive eater has most certainly made papa proud.

Schuyler realized her talent for competitive eating as a child, between the buffet mandate and casual soda-chugging races in grade school.

“No guy could come close to me,” Schuyler says, “but I didn’t think anything of it.”

Schuyler, her four adorable kids, and one Air Force husband, have lived in Bellevue for the past three-and-a-half years. She’s competed for less than two years.

“It was all just for fun at first, no money involved,” she says. Her first paid competition was July 2013.

She began dabbling with challenges like the infamous Stellanator, a food challenge at popular Bellevue burger joint, Stella’s, that includes six 6.5-oz burger patties, six fried eggs, 12 bacon strips, six pieces of cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, and peanut butter, plus a bun. Oh, and a basket of fries.

In August 2012, Schuyler became the first woman to finish The Stellanator, belying her petite 5’7”, 120 lb. frame.

“I still can’t believe this tiny little lady finished the Stellanator in 15 mins!” Stella’s posted online.

But Schuyler was hungry for more. In October 2012, she returned, setting a new Stellanator record time of six minutes, 28 seconds. In April 2014, she tangoed again with the monster, finishing in an unbelievable three minutes, 40 seconds.

And guess what she did afterwards? She ate an additional four cheeseburgers, three grilled cheeses, and a huge basket of fries and onion rings—like most of us might nibble on a bowl of popcorn.

She is “just never full.” She’s felt sick after competing—like when she ate 15 pounds of pumpkin pie, then boarded a plane—but in general she doesn’t suffer for her art.

Despite her ability to crush massive menus, her favorite foods are healthy.

“I like salads and vegetables the best. If I go out to eat, that’s what I order.”

And working out?

“Yep, my four kids (5, 6, 7, and 10) take care of that,” she says.

“Girls typically don’t want to shove food into their face. It’s not seen as ladylike,” she says. “But it’s all about time. I’m not trying to be prim and proper.”

Schuyler met her best friend on the circuit—they are the top two female competitive eaters in the U.S. Through her career, she’s met many amazing people.

“It’s not for the money,” she says. “I do it for the people. I’ve met some of my best friends doing this.”

Contracts prevent her from identifying the event, but one of Schuyler’s next challenges is an international competition. She also plans one more dance with The Stellanator.

“I’m gonna do it again,” she winks. “I think I can hit three minutes.”

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Dan Urban

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Even while pursuing a degree in physics at the University of San Diego, Omaha native Dan Urban always knew he would build a career around his love of horses.

So after graduating college in 2006, he moved back to Nebraska to do just that. Urban serves as a trainer, instructor, and co-owner at Quail Run Horse Centre. His parents, Jim and Patrice, opened the facility near 220th and West Maple Road more than 25 years ago, and it’s where Urban nurtured his passion for equestrian sports, including show jumping.

The sport will be in the spotlight this spring when Omaha hosts The International, an equestrian jumping competition. Now in its second year, the event takes place April 12-13 at the CenturyLink Center Omaha downtown. Organizers are expecting about 200 horses, 135 to 150 professional and amateur riders, and thousands of spectators.

Urban, 29, will be among the local riders. He’s excited about getting the chance to compete at home instead of having to travel to Kansas City, Des Moines, and other cities.25 January 2013- Dan Urban is photographed at Quail Run for Omaha Magazine.

A graduate of Skutt Catholic High School, Urban has been riding horses since he was 4. He loves equestrian sports because of the thrill of competition and the unique partnership between horse and rider.

“Once you get horses in your blood,” he says, “it’s hard to get it out.”

Urban travels all over the country to compete in show jumping, sometimes as much as two weeks out of the month. In May 2012, he and his horse, Astro Boy, won the Grand Prix title at the Midstates Horse Show in Mason City, Iowa.

There’s a great deal of work involved before hitting the competition ring. To build stamina and strength and bring horses to peak fitness and readiness, they undergo various technical exercises, jumps, and other techniques.

“Just like any athlete, you want to make sure they’re in top fitness,” he says.

“Once you get horses in your blood, it’s hard to get it out.”

At Quail Run, Urban spends a good chunk of his day riding and keeping horses in shape. The farm offers acres of trails as well as indoor and outdoor riding arenas. He also gives lessons to riders of all ages and skill levels. Teaching is one of his favorite parts of his work.

In addition to competing at The International, Urban, along with many of his family members, will help with event setup, promotional activities, and other aspects. Bringing high-level equestrian events like the International to Omaha, he says, helps increase awareness and generates interest in horse sports to a wider audience.

25 January 2013- Dan Urban is photographed at Quail Run for Omaha Magazine.

Omahan Lisa Roskens, The International’s chairman of the board, says Urban’s horsemanship and character make him a wonderful representative of the sport.

“For a professional in a sport that takes so much guts, he is very quiet and thoughtful, not brash or full of bravado,” Roskens says. “His down-to-earth approach, combined with a good sense of humor and good horsemanship, make him very effective. He works hard, he’s kind and compassionate to his clients and horses, and really deserves a shot at the spotlight.”

The International Omaha

Photography by The International Omaha

Beautiful, elegant horses competing in The International Omaha horse jumping competition will thrill audiences at the CenturyLink Center Omaha downtown on April 12 and 13.

“It’s not only a beautiful sport but a highly athletic sport,” says Susan Runnels, executive director for The International. The show is administered by the not-for-profit Omaha Equestrian Foundation. “It takes eight years for the rider to develop a relationship with the horse.”

As for the competition itself, “Riders have to jump 13 jumps in 80 seconds,” she adds. “They use English saddles and don’t have horns to hold onto. Sometimes, they are thrown off.”

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What is equitation? A quadrille? What does dressage mean? Before heading for the competition, visit InternationalOmaha.com. A glossary of terms unique to the horse world is listed under Show Jumping 101. Also on the website is a map of the course’s design. No two courses are ever the same. Jumps are numbered and have flags to indicate directions: A red flag is right, a white flag is left.

There are different types of jumps. For example, the Oxer has two verticals that are close together, making the jump wider. A Combination denotes two or three jumps in a row, with no more than two strides between each.

But there is more to The International than watching horses jump. It’s a family and fun event. During the daytime Equine Expo when admission is free, visitors can experience what it’s like to be around the 1,200-pound animals. They can also learn about eight different breeds of horses.

“Kids love to get close to the horses,” Runnels says. “They can jump over the mini-jump course just like a horse. Families will enjoy visiting all the interactive displays.”

Face painting, equine toys, clothes, jewelry, and a living historical display of cavalry days will be part of the fun. Daytime competition with riders and horses begins each day at 9 a.m.

The International’s goal is to “foster and develop international-caliber athletes with the equestrian sport,” according to Runnels. Competitors come from many countries for the almost two-hour shows. Last year’s winner out of 97 competitors was from Germany.

Who will enjoy The International? “Everybody. From 3 years old to 80 years old,” Runnels says. “It’s such a phenomenal sport.”

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Getting the most out of The International:

  • Stop at the Greeter’s Table. Look for a volunteer and ask questions. “There will be a lot of volunteers to answer questions,” Runnels says. “They will wearing the same colored tops and khakis.”
  • Pick up a program. Everything you want to know about where to go and what to do—and terms that are used in the horse world—are in the program.
  • See horses warm up in the warm-up area.
  • Be on time for the opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. Special entertainment on both nights will feature the Strategic Command’s joint color guard and the Omaha Police Department’s mounted patrol. Singer Marcello Guzzo and the comic act of Tommie Turvey will also perform. “It’s amazing what Turvey does with his horse,” Runnels says. The Omaha Symphony will play on Saturday night.

Stay for the Victory Gallop at the end. “It’s really cool,” Runnels says.