Tag Archives: The International Omaha

The Horses Are Back!

March 2, 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.

Of Omaha, Oats, And Ovations

September 11, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Three years from now, a very special group of athletes will board a chartered flight in Belgium bound for Eppley Airfield. And when the cadre of world-class competitors strap on the proverbial feedbag for an in-flight meal somewhere over the Atlantic, they’ll be strapping on…well, actual feedbags.

Belgium will be the embarkation point for the European contingent of horses that will vie for the 2017 FEI World Cup Jumping and Dressage Finals at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.

Omaha beat out London, Hong Kong, and the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenboscht to land the event—the grandest stage in the world of equestrian jumping and dressage (pronounced dress-AHGE). The World Cup will be hosted by The International Omaha, which has held equestrian jumping events of the same name in each of the last three years at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.

“I care about horses and I care about Omaha,” says Lisa Roskens, “and I wanted to bring the two of them together.” Roskens is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Burlington Capital Group. “These are two things that I’ve worked really hard to develop—my sport and my city—and now people all over the world are excited about Omaha. To host the sport’s premier event in our own little town is a feeling that is…indescribable.”

The World Cup will feature four days of competition surrounded by a weeklong celebration of Omaha as individual champions are crowned in both jumping and dressage.

In preparation for the World Cup, The International Omaha 2015 will introduce dressage for the first time. Dressage is the sport where horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of intricate, predetermined movements—think something akin to ballet, but for horses.

The 2015 FEI World Cup will be held in Las Vegas the week before The International Omaha, and Roskens expects a strong presence of international competitors anxious to check out the facilities, city, and vibe of the site of the next American-hosted World Cup.

“Every year of the International Omaha has been better than the last,” Roskens says, “Next year’s event will be huge for us, and 2017 will be off the charts.”

Roskens’ passion for horses perhaps explains how a fledging group could launch an event like The International Omaha and—a mere three short years later—find themselves being awarded the bid for the most luminous spotlight in the world of equestrian sports.

“Every instinct of a horse is to shed anything that attempts to climb up on its back,” Roskens says. “But they allow us to do just that. We climb on their backs to do all the crazy things we ask them to do. It goes against the very essence of their being, but the result—that harmony when horse and rider are one—is absolutely magnificent.”


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.