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.
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.
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.”