Tag Archives: Omaha

Quail Run Discusses Regional Jumping Climate

March 23, 2017 by
Photography by Contributed

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

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.”

A Festival With Horses

Photography by Contributed by FEI

This article appears in the program book for the FEI World Cup Finals, produced by Omaha Magazine in March 2017.

Late March is beautiful in Omaha—horses, horse owners, professional equestrians, and horse enthusiasts will come from all over the world to be part of the timeless 2017 Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping & FEI World CupTM Dressage Finals at the CenturyLink.

This is the first time this venue welcomes the FEI World CupTM Finals, but it has hosted other equestrian events, such as the International Omaha. Nonetheless, people from all walks of life will enjoy horsemanship and impressive equine competition at its absolute best.

The competitions, clinics, and demonstrations create an intense atmosphere and the most rigorous and enlightening experience, says one equestrian who is particularly thrilled to partake in the festivities with her friends.

Marsha Niebuhr of Minnesota’s Twin Cities looks forward to the FEI World CupTM Finals Omaha 2017 as she explains, “It’s great to have the World CupTM back in the United States. One of the great things about it is everyone gets to see international riders in your sport.”

Dressage is hers. Niebuhr grew up in northwestern Iowa where her love of horses and riding was sparked as a child on her family farm. “My dad loved horses,” she says. “We had horses on the farm, but you rode them in the summer.”

The 1984 Olympics piqued her interest in horse riding when she was first introduced to dressage. “The sport looked awesome,” she explains. Now in Minnesota, she has a nine-year-old Canadian Warmblood and rides dressage. “It’s a great sport.”

Niebuhr attended the 2015 FEI World CupTM Finals in Las Vegas—and has attended many European and international championships including the FEI World Equestrian Games since the early 2000s.

Although the United States has hosted the FEI World CupTM finals several times, most recently in Las Vegas in 2015, this year will be the first time that a Midwestern city has been home to the finals. 

“It’s great to have the World CupTM in the Midwest,” she says. It’s a chance to see 70 of the world’s best horses and riders compete for one of the sport’s top prizes in America’s heartland. Riders are expected to represent at least 25 different countries.

The FEI World CupTM Finals Omaha 2017 is expected to draw 40,000 to 60,000 spectators from nearly 20 countries, and all across the United States.

Niebuhr said the Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping & FEI World CupTM Dressage Finals are two of the most exciting competitions, specifically because of the wonderful crowd of spectators who relish what they are watching. The camaraderie is really good, she says.

“Everyone talks to everyone. The whole atmosphere will be very festive.”

Attend as many events as you can, she encouraged. The spectators make the competitions fun because the crowd really gets behind each competitor.

Niebuhr highly recommends the Wednesday warm-ups for newcomers. At 9:30 a.m., spectators can attend a dressage familiarization and they can also attend a 2 p.m. jumping training session.

“You’ll learn a lot,” she explains. “You’ll see coaches with riders. Warm-ups are some of the best part of the whole thing.”

Germany’s Isabell Werth, the most decorated dressage rider in Olympic history, will host a demonstration at 3 p.m. March 31. There will be four horses used in the presentation, including two young horses (5-7 years old), a Small Tour horse, and a young Grand Prix horse. Werth will explain her training methods and the stepping-stones she takes in bringing a young horse up the levels to the highest level of dressage—the Grand Prix.

Niebuhr is among nine friends from Minnesota traveling to Omaha for the competitions. Another group of six friends from California and two from Canada who bred her horse will be meeting Niebuhr’s group.

“It’s a big get-together,” she said. “We’ll make a nice big group. But we’ll also meet new people and make more friends.”

That’s usually how it goes in equestrian circles. You meet new people and make lifelong friends. “Anyone who loves horses … You’re going to talk to other people who love horses.”

When Niebuhr attended the 2015 FEI World CupTM in Las Vegas, she met fellow equestrians in the airport also headed to the competitions and ended up spending the entire trip with her new friends.

In addition to the world-class competition, spectators can get up close to watch the horses. And then there’s the music. The event includes a full 24-hours worth of music.

Don’t forget about the lot. In true Nebraska fashion, the parking lot is the place to be. Grab a group of friends and a cooler and spend time meeting new people while enjoying a beverage at a tailgate.

The FEI World CupTM Finals Omaha 2017 is a party, and everyone is invited to join in.

Local Dressage Scene

Photography by Contributed

This article appears in the program book for the FEI World Cup Finals, produced by Omaha Magazine in March 2017.

Conventional wisdom says that the East Coast, particularly Florida, is where the premier dressage communities and competitions are in the United States, making this a more obvious choice for the FEI World CupTM Finals.

But a closer look reveals that the dressage community here in Nebraska is energetic and growing. That is not surprising, since the United States Dressage Federation was founded by legendary horseman Lowell Boomer in Lincoln, Nebraska, more than 40 years ago.

“It’s a small but growing group of dedicated people who value education and are dedicated to the sport,” says Missy Fladland, 45.

Local dressage rider Missy Fladland

Fladland is a regional and national dressage champion who has lived in Omaha since 1981. She owns and operates La Riata Ranch in Griswold, Iowa, with her husband, Kip, and she says she’s excited about the FEI World CupTM Finals being held in Omaha.


“The question is ‘Why not Omaha?’” she says. “It’s a great community, a great place to live. We’d love to share that with the world.”

Shan Lawton, 64, is someone who looked at Omaha and saw an opportunity. A trainer and competitor who has been involved in the sport for over 30 years, Lawton is originally from Boston. New England, he says, was once an important dressage area. It still has great trainers and interest, but shifting economics and Florida’s rise as a dressage community have resulted in New England becoming less important.

After a good client relocated to Omaha, Lawton decided to check the city out for himself.

“When she moved, I came out here to assess, really, what the dressage community was like here,” he says. “And it seemed to me that there was a desire for more training here. I met a number of people who were interested in dressage and in becoming better dressage riders.”

What Lawton has found has given him cause for optimism.

“My experience has been that there are a fair number of really quite nice horses here,” he says. “There are a number of people who are pretty serious about riding. It’s not the biggest discipline in the area by far, but there’s a definite interest, and I’d say earnest interest, in dressage.

“I think people really, really do care about the sport here [and] just have not had really good access to good training.”

Lisa Roskens primarily rides jumping horses and was not as familiar with Omaha’s dressage community before efforts got underway to bring the FEI World CupTM Finals here. But the more she saw of it, the more impressed she became.

“I’ve gotten to know the dressage community quite a bit more than I had in the past, and there’s really a great, very strong grass roots … community in this part of the country,” she says. It has a mix of high-end competitors and enthusiastic people who compete at lower levels. “I was genuinely very surprised and pleased with how strong it is.”

Gracia Huenefeld, 24, a teacher and trainer out of Hickman, Nebraska, has competed in dressage for almost eight years, since taking lessons in 4-H Club. Top-level clinicians and trainers are essential to growing the sport, she says, and the Nebraska dressage community is growing and will continue to grow.

“Obviously, with the World Cup coming to Omaha that will raise awareness of the sport [here] in the Midwest,” she says. “As a trainer [here] in the Midwest, that’s very exciting for us.”

The FEI World CupTM Finals Omaha 2017, Roskens hopes, will inspire more people to participate, both in general and at a higher level. In addition, the board will discuss a five-point strategic plan to grow both jumping and dressage. Nebraska’s large amount of land, particularly grassland, and agricultural infrastructure gives it an opportunity to be a major equestrian hub one day.

“Our goal is to continue to grow and develop the sport through education, through access to the higher levels of the sport and to continue to build that community,” she says.

Lawton is also optimistic that theFEI World CupTM Finals Omaha 2017 will have a positive effect on the sport locally.

“I’m hoping that it will stimulate interest, maybe in some people who have done other types of riding,” he says. “I think it will also be good for the people who are already doing dressage in the area to see … what the [world-class] standard looks like.

“It’s a coup for Omaha.”

Local dressage rider Shan Lawton

Omaha 2017 Ambassadors

Photography by Contributed

This article appears in the program book for the FEI World Cup Finals, produced by Omaha Magazine in March 2017.

Everyone involved in the equestrian world shares a passion—for the sport, for the horses, and for the beauty and nobility of the presentation. Lisa Roskens, founder of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation, counted on that enthusiasm to make the very first Omaha International a success. The number of local and regional volunteers who worked the event exceeded expectations back in 2012. But once the Federation Equestre Internationale awarded Omaha the 2017 FEI World CupTM Finals, Roskens knew organizers would have to overcome an obvious hurdle; one created by geography.

“This is the World Series of our sport, truly a global and national event,” says Roskens. “While most people involved in equestrian sports understand and follow the World CupTM, they don’t really understand Omaha.”

True to form, whenever confronted with a challenge, Roskens gathered her friends and colleagues in the OEF to brainstorm. How could they reach out to those who only know Omaha as a city locked in the middle of “flyover country?”

“We realized we needed a much more personalized outreach approach for those people to truly understand what they can expect (from Omaha) and to give them reasons to get excited about coming here,” she says. “So it wasn’t just mass mailers going out to generate excitement.”

Sybil Greene and Karen Ensminger, co-directors of Omaha 2017 Ambassadors

And so the Omaha 2017 Ambassadors program began. It quickly evolved into more than a platform to tout the positives of the Midlands. The scope of the effort, extending beyond neighboring states, also generated a groundswell of support for the FEI World CupTM Finals Omaha 2017 and for equestrian sports in general.

OEF board member Karen Ensminger and riding instructor Sybil Greene head the Ambassadors program. With the help of an office assistant and a few interns, they created an impressive information pipeline—one person at a time.

“Our goal was to get at least one person in all 50 states who would take information from us and then spread the word,” explains Greene. “We figured they would become a contact point for others in their area who wanted to know more about the World CupTM and Omaha in particular.”

The women started gathering Ambassadors by calling personal friends in the horse community. Having grown up in Maryland, Greene knows riders from the Chesapeake Bay area up through New Jersey.

Ensminger, a native New Yorker who has worked in Los Angeles and Boston, had no trouble making up her friends’ minds for them. “I called them up and said, ‘Look, this is what’s happening here in Omaha and I’m sure you want to get involved. So I’m going to sign you up as an Ambassador,’” she says as she laughs. The new recruits then received a packet of information from Omaha about the 2017 FEI World CupTM Finals. “I told them to put the flyers in their barns, tack stores, feed stores, their places of work, grocery stores, coffee shops, everywhere. And then, of course, I invited them to come.”

In addition to the invitation, Ambassadors received a navy blue ball cap emblazoned with the event’s colorful horse logo and “Omaha 2017 Ambassador” stitched in white underneath, an FEI World CupTM Finals pin, vouchers for a non-sold-out event, and discounted tickets.

To reach the massive number of riders they don’t know, Greene harnessed the power of social media. She created an Ambassadors Facebook page, where people could sign up electronically. She joined Facebook groups that had anything to do with horses—farms, stables, barns, riding clubs, horse dealers—and asked for people to volunteer as Ambassadors. She re-posted articles about the FEI World CupTM Finals Omaha 2017 and sent out media blasts, paying special attention to the ones listing things to do in Omaha.

“It’s been an extremely low financial output on our part,” says Ensminger.

Though striving for a modest goal of one contact per state, the committee managed to sign up multiple Ambassadors in several states, including 25 to 30 in horse-heavy states like Texas, California, and Montana. Many Ambassadors have taken up the invitation to attend the FEI World CupTM Finals. Some are even volunteering their services in whatever capacity needed during the events.

“The baseball people know about Omaha because of the College World Series, the swimming people because of the Olympic Swim Trials,” says Greene. “And now the horse world knows about us. We’re building on our reputation as a place for elite sports.”

Will the Ambassadors program, created especially for the Midwest’s first-ever international equestrian showdown, continue? “If participants see it as a valuable and fun experience, then we will consider expanding upon it,” says Roskens.

Judging from the number of selfies taken with Omaha ’17 merchandise and posted on social media, keeping the program might just be a plan.

Cheryl Johnson, Sue Morrison, and Karen Ensminger prepare mailings for the Ambassadors program.

Horses in Nebraska Today

Nebraska was granted statehood on March 1, 1867. In March 2017, Omaha Magazine published a collection of horse-related articles that appear in the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping and FEI World Cup Dressage Finals held in Omaha. Below is the fifth of those articles.

As technology has advanced and the role of horses has changed, the animals still remain an important component in the U.S. economy.

Horses are a multi-million dollar enterprise. Aside from the horses themselves, the industry encompasses feed, equipment, publications, veterinary care, advertising, entertainment, education, and many other fields that are either directly or indirectly affected by the equine industry.

One of the most comprehensive horse studies ever conducted by the American Horse Council revealed that horses contribute almost $40 billion in direct economic impact. The study also revealed that there are more than 9.2 million horses in the United States. And of those 9.2 million, 180,000 call Nebraska their home. From the ranches of western Nebraska, to the streets of downtown Omaha, horses are still writing their own history.

One of Omaha’s noted horseman was Donovan “Van” Ketzler, who was one of the last cavalry instructors in the U.S. Army and his family is involved in Dehner Boots. Ketzler’s 1989 brainchild, the Omaha Police Mounted Patrol unit started out as a test. Ketzler offered to loan two horses (Fox and Rusty), saddles, and trailers for a period of 30 days. After a successful trial period, the Omaha Police Mounted Patrol became a full-time unit within the Omaha Police department in April of 1990.  Today, the Mounted Patrol consists of six officers, one sergeant, one full-time barn manager, and eight horses. These officers and their trusted steeds have the same responsibilities as a normal
patrol car.

Located at 615 Leavenworth Street, the Omaha Police Mounted Patrol Unit’s state-of-the-art facility officially opened in May 2005. The facility includes offices and work areas, locker rooms, classrooms, a tack room, 15 horse stalls, a heated indoor arena, an outdoor arena, and a large heated garage area for parking trucks, trailers, and storage spaces for feed and bedding. The Mounted Patrol unit services the southeast precinct and downtown Omaha.

But it isn’t all work and no play for Nebraska’s horses.

A short 15-minute drive north, Horsemen’s Park is one of the finest simulcast facilities in the country. Opened on Jan. 3, 1998, Horsemen’s Park helps preserve live horse racing in Nebraska. With a seating capacity of 3,000 and over 700 televisions, horseracing enthusiasts can enjoy live racing broadcasts 363 days a year. Each summer, Horsemen’s Park plays host to live races on its 65-foot wide, 5/8 mile dirt race track.

Horses Run Early Statehood

Photography by Nebraska State Historical Society (provided)

Nebraska was granted statehood on March 1, 1867. In March 2017, Omaha Magazine published a collection of horse-related articles that appear in the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping and FEI World Cup Dressage Finals held in Omaha. Below is the fourth of those articles.

After Omaha’s territorial years, its favorite animal became both a local resource and a local problem. The early years of Omaha were a golden age for the horse, but Omaha was a rough and tumble frontier town, and the horses followed suit.

More horses equaled more horse-and-buggy and riding accidents. Runaway horses were a chronic problem, so much so that one local, James Findley, developed an unusual sobriquet: “The Horse Catcher,” celebrated in an Omaha Herald article from 1879.

His technique was to run alongside a rampaging horse, throw his arms around the animal’s neck, and pull it to a stop, which he did with surprising frequency and effectiveness.

Horses were also beloved by gamblers. A gang of them, called The Big Four—Charles Bibbins, H.B. Kennedy, Charles White, and Jack Morrison—ran a two-story building on Douglas Street called The Diamond. This included a horse-betting parlor.

Horse races at that time were not especially honest. Newspapers tell of a gang of bunco men led by a man named Canada Bill who, alongside their usual tricks of cheating at cards, stealing from drunks, and scheming to rob places, also fixed horse races. They seem to have run out of steam around 1876.

This may have been in part because horse racing started to become professional. The Omaha Driving Park had opened a year earlier, in 1875, between Laird and Boyd streets, and between 16th and 20th streets.

The Driving Park was also the origin of one of Omaha’s most enduring horse legacies.  In 1880 the grounds were sold to a group of businessmen that included John Creighton, James E. Boyd, and William A. Paxton. The new owners spent $15,000 to improve the grounds. It was the occasional site of the Nebraska State Fair. As befits a frontier town, the Omaha state fairs were notoriously raucous, and in 1895 the State Board gave the city an ultimatum: Provide something “other than saloons, gambling houses, and honky tonks” or lose the fair.

A group of local businessmen headed down to New Orleans for inspiration, and, borrowing from the Mardi Gras tradition of parading secret societies (called “krewes”), created their own organization, the Knights of the Ak-Sar-Ben.

This group produced parades and live shows for decades. In 1920, they built their own racetrack, also called Ak-Sar-Ben, and, in 1927, started their own stock show and rodeo. This group would dominate Omaha horse racing for most of the 20th century, closing the track in 1995.

Miss Jean Cudahy atop her horse before or after the Omaha Horse Show circa 1910.

Horses Pave the Way in Nebraska Territory

Photography by Nebraska State Historical Society (provided)

Nebraska was granted statehood on March 1, 1867. In March 2017, Omaha Magazine published a collection of horse-related articles that appear in the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping and FEI World Cup Dressage Finals held in Omaha. Below is the third of those articles.

There are not as many horses around the city of Omaha as there used to be. You still see a few now and then, mostly downtown, generally being ridden by police officers as bars close, shooing people out of the streets.

Nebraska was declared a territory of the United States on May 30, 1854, by the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854. This act, drafted by Democratic Sen. Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and President Franklin Pierce, was partially created to open up thousands of new farms and make feasible a Midwestern Transcontinental Railroad.

It was the height of the Old West. Four years earlier, Horace Greely, editor of the New York Tribune, popularized the saying “Go West, young man,” and many did. Essential to this movement was the horse.

While horses were ridden as transportation, they could very literally be the difference between life and death for territorial settlers. A team of horses was used to break the prairie land into workable crop land. Horses were also used to haul goods to and from towns.

As a result, horse thievery was treated very seriously. In fact, the same year Nebraska was declared a territory,  the Anti Horse Thief Association was organized in Clark County, Missouri.

One story regarding this subject in Nebraska involves a pair of unnamed vagabonds, who, in the summer of 1856, stole two horses from settlers and sold them to Pawnee Indians near Elkhorn. The horses freed themselves and wandered back to their homes in Omaha.

The Indians followed the horses’ trail and claimed them as theirs, but the original owners queried them about who they had bought the animals from. The settlers were promised that the next time the vagabonds showed up with horses, the Pawnee would alert them. Not long after the first incident, the same pair showed up with mules for sale, and the Pawnee held them while the authorities were notified.

There was no jail in Omaha at the time, so the citizens came up with a suitable punishment: First they shaved half of each of their heads. The locals then tied the men to a pole in the center of town (at that time 12th and 13th Streets between Harney and Farnam streets) where they were whipped by the Indians and the settlers from whom they stole the horses. The men were then free to leave, with the condition they never return to Nebraska.

They got off easy: In March 1858, two horse thieves from Iowa, Harvey Braden and John Daley, were caught near Florence (now northeast Omaha) with stolen horses in their possession. Following a few days in a jail at 16th and Farnam Streets, a group of Omahans took justice into their own hands. They took Braden and Daley out of their jail cell and moved north toward Florence, specifically to a stout oak tree, where they hanged the thieves.

Belgian Horses Pat & Ted in a pulling contest.

The Omaha Tribe and Horses

Photography by Nebraska State Historical Society (provided)

Nebraska was granted statehood on March 1, 1867. In March 2017, Omaha Magazine published a collection of horse-related articles that appear in the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping and FEI World Cup Dressage Finals held in Omaha. Below is the first of those articles.

The city of Omaha is named after the Umonhon people. The state of Nebraska is also an Umonhon word, NiBlaSka, or “Land of the Flat Waters.”

Neither this city nor this state would be named as it is without horses. The Umonhon people originally lived in Ohio, migrating to Nebraska in the 1750s after horses were introduced to the tribe from trade networks. The Umonhon controlled extensive trade networks through their oversight of the Missouri River, or NiShude. The network extended as far north as Lake Winnipeg in Canada and as far south as St. Louis. The shonge or “horse” was acquired at this time from trade relationships, and by 1775, the main Umonhon village was located at TonwonTonga or “Big Village,” near current day Dakota County, Nebraska.

The Umonhon, or Omaha, are part of the Dhegiha linguistic group. Dhegiha means “people of this land.” Umonhon translates to “people who went upstream,” relating to the separation of the Umonhon and the other cognate tribes at the headwaters of the Mississippi River hundreds of years ago. Umonhon women were agriculturalists, breeding strains of maize, beans, squash, quinoa, and melons. They also gathered other foods and medicines that grew naturally in their environment and were herbalists. Men hunted large game, such as elk and buffalo. Buffalo was especially important as it was a staple food source and provided primary provisions for blankets, robes, moccasins, fuel, shelter, and utensils. The Umonhon had a complex kinship system based on the clanship, known as the Hu’thuga.

The Umonhon had a historical impact on the state of Nebraska that is evident in present day. The Umonhon were the first equestrian culture of the northern plains as the evolving economy of the horse and fur trade was occurring. The adoption of the horse into Umonhon society forever changed Umonhon culture.

Umonhon quickly developed a strong relationship with horses. Horses were highly prized and used as a form of currency. Men, women, and children could possess horses equally. Horses were seen as the highest form of a gift one could offer.  Some marriage ceremonies consisted of women being led around the village on horseback followed by her husband’s gifts to her family.

Umonhon people loved their horses. Men frequently painted their horses for spiritual reasons or to illustrate rank. Horses would also be decorated with ribbons, and their tails would be painted or braided. Women embroidered the cruppers of their horses for decoration and spiritual significance.

Horses were used to assist with labor, often in the form of a travois, a historical A frame structure that was used to drag loads over land. Prior to the introduction of the horse, travois were pulled by dogs. The horse travois were often used by women in times of long distance travel. Parflesche, or rawhide bags are utilized to store materials, were used as saddlebags on horses.

Horse culture became an integral part of Umonhon life. They changed the trade economy and horses and Umonhon people maintained a strong spiritual and social connection that continues to exist today. In January 2015, the Omaha Tribe hosted “Spiritual Ride: Prayers for Generations to Come.” This ceremony consisted of a 21-mile horse ride in freezing conditions. The purpose was to pray and bring attention to the state of Nebraska suing the Omaha Tribe over reservation boundaries. In the end, the Supreme Court sided unanimously with the Omaha Tribe in preservation of their boundary.

Umonhon Chief Prairie Chicken on Horseback, circa 1898.

The Best Is Yet to Come

March 10, 2017 by

Wow! A city of “Bests!”

Omaha is filled with so many amazing businesses, innovators, artists, entrepreneurs, vendors, doctors, venues, restaurants, and… well you name the category. The “Bests.” They make us proud to be from Omaha.

And yet, how many times have you been on a trip to some exotic locale like Bora Bora, Paris, Costa Rica, Portland, or even Lubbock, and upon being asked where you’re from, you’ve mumbled, “Omaha,” furtively, under your breath?

Despite the fact that our hometown boasts a 6-foot-tall bronze statue of Chef Boyardee, and the archetypical power of our name emblazoned on the Wizard of Oz’s escape balloon, we feel shy about claiming our place as one of the best places on earth.

Admit it. We’ve always had a bit of an inferiority complex about where we’re from—where we live. But, why? Well, I suspect that bit of shame might be rooted in the lyrics of an old song that described this town of ours back in the early days:

“Hast ever been in Omaha,
Where rolls the dark Missouri down,
And four strong horses scarce can draw
An empty wagon through the town?
Where sand is blown from every mound
To fill the eyes and ears and throat?
Where all the steamers are aground
And all the shanties are afloat?
Where whisky shops the livelong night
Are vending out their poison juice;
Where men are often very tight,
And women deemed a trifle loose?”

Hardly a “New York, New York” or “April in Paris,” that’s for sure. The lyrics are no match for “Bombay Se Gayi Poona,” either.

We started with a pretty brutal musical self-image. Maybe this nagging sense of “less than” is rooted in the dearth of good tunes about our fair city.

Groucho Marx tried to lift our spirits with a ditty that included, “There’s a place called Omaha, Nebraska, in the foothills of Tennessee.” The geographical illiteracy, however, negated any positive image building.

Stan Freberg didn’t help with his musical Omaha! that included lyrics like; “Who me? Miss the weenie roast in Omaha?” and “Omaha moon keep shining. You shone on Council Bluffs last June. Leaving Dundee lovers pining. Please remember you’re an Omaha moon.”

Nobel Prize winner Robert Allen Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) sang, “I’m going to ride into Omaha on a horse. Out to the country club and the golf course,” in 1964—no comfort there.

Psychedelic ensemble Moby Grape did us no favors with their 1968 single, “Omaha,” which didn’t mention Omaha even once beyond the title.

Bob Seger sang about “A long and lonesome highway east of Omaha” in his paean to touring as a rock star but he never mentioned actually coming into town while he was in the neighborhood. So, thanks a lot, Bob.

We did hit it big in 1973 when Grand Funk Railroad sang about “four young chiquitas in Omaha,” in their No. 1 hit “We’re an American Band.” The problem was, Little Rock got top billing in the verses, and, after the chorus we ended up getting a hotel torn down.

So here’s the deal, we need an Omaha anthem. A song with the Omaha equivalent of “little cable cars,” and some parallel to “that toddling town.” We need to be where “little town shoes” are headed. Omaha needs a “Best Song About Omaha” winner next year. We need to patch up the psychic scars we’ve borne for all these many years.

It won’t be easy. Others have tried and failed. I’m counting on you, we all are.

Do you have an anthem for Omaha? E-mail a video of your song to Omaha Magazine at editor@omahamagazine.com to be considered for prizes.

This article was printed in Omaha Magazine’s 2017 Best of Omaha” issue.

Lallenia Birge

March 9, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

The website for Big Birge Plumbing has an old-fashioned look. “That’s intentional,” says Vice President Lallenia Birge. The theme is displayed on the company trucks, websites, and social media pages. “We started our company with the slogan ‘Old-fashioned values reborn.’”

Throughout their marketing, you will notice Lallenia wearing 1950s-style outfits; her husband, president of the company, Brad Birge, appears dressed like a lumberjack. Their logo is of Brad’s muscular arm in a red and black flannel shirt holding an oversized pipe wrench. “It’s very tongue-in-cheek marketing,” she says, adding, “We try to be honest and fair with everything we do, and believe our marketing reflects that.”

“It’s is unusual for a woman to own a plumbing company,” she says. It all began when she fell in love while working at the gym. “I saw this super attractive guy and found out he [Brad] was a plumber. Not realizing what went into the plumbing business, I would make jokes about it to my clients.”

The jokes must have paid off! They were married in 2009. “He quit his job at another plumbing company, and in 2012, we officially started [Big Birge] together,” she says. “I was still working as a trainer, started learning marketing, and dug into the business side.”

Hiring their first employee in 2013, they have expanded to nine employees. Lallenia enjoys the supportive workplace atmosphere, which they encourage with regular company outings and weekly meetings. “It’s kind of like a brotherhood; we have each others’ backs,” she exclaims.

Every Monday morning, they hold a meeting with their employees to discuss company core values. Protect the health of our community, tighten every bolt, and take ownership are three of the six values they review with the crew.

“If something doesn’t go right, we do everything in our power to fix it. Plumbers sometimes get a bad rep, and I want to prove that is not the case with our company.” She goes on to explain the company has three plumbing divisions: service, residential remodeling, and commercial.

“My role isn’t only marketing and business but to keep learning and growing myself and our team. I am even taking business classes at Metro. Someone has to keep those guys on their toes!” She says with a laugh. Her resilience on the job reflects the old-fashioned values that she holds dear from her diverse childhood.

Lallenia learned to be self-reliant at a young age. Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, her parents separated around the time she was 2. She was in and out foster care and family friends’ homes until age 9, then adopted. By the time she was 16, she was working three jobs while going to high school and living on her own. Following a friend to Blair Nebraska at age 18, she eventually made Omaha her home.

“I give a lot of credit to the fact that I surround myself with positive people, people who are smarter than me, better than me,” Lallenia explains.

Having already accomplished her dream of becoming a personal trainer, she now wants to be remembered as a loving mother to her children (Wyatt 6, Brielle, 11 months), a great wife, and an inspiration to others in and out of business.

“I want to be known as a woman who is able to overcome and achieve something greater than herself,” she says.