Tag Archives: Lisa Roskens

Omaha 2017 Ambassadors

March 4, 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.

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.

Local Dressage Scene

March 2, 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.

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

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.”

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Filling Mom’s Shoes

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Daughters become inspired, motivated, and awed by their mothers as they see them dash out the door on a volunteer mission time after time. They often follow in their footsteps.

But as daughters trail mothers down the volunteer road, they’re finding the path has veered. More women in the workplace means a different approach to volunteering. Meetings once scheduled for mornings are now scheduled for noon so volunteers can return to jobs. An e-mail sent at midnight is now more likely to happen.

How volunteers schedule their time has changed. The dedication and sense of responsibility that daughters learn from mothers has not. Here we share four stories about the gift mothers give daughters that keeps on giving —the gift of volunteering.

Gail Yanney & Lisa Roskens

Gail Yanney became an anesthesiologist in the 1960s when few women held careers. At the time, the consensus was that working women didn’t have time to volunteer. (We know better now.) But she soon became one of Omaha’s most active volunteers.

Her volunteering career began while she was a busy student at UNMC College of Medicine. Invited to join Junior League, she asked permission from her department head.

“He said, ‘Physicians need to be part of their community,’” remembers Gail, who is now retired.

Passionate about the environment, she was a teacher naturalist at Fontenelle Forest on her day off. Gail is also a founder of the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

 “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.” – Lisa Roskens

With her husband, Michael Yanney, she received the Spirit of Nebraska Award from the Eppley Cancer Center last year.

Gail’s daughter, Lisa Roskens, learned from her mom. “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.”

Lisa is chairman of the board, president, and CEO at the Burlington Capital Group, a company founded by her father, who partners with his wife in philanthropy. Volunteering is a family affair at the Roskens’ house where Lisa’s husband, Bill, and their two children join in. They rally around animals and kids and have helped at the Nebraska Humane Society and at Take Flight Farm.

Lisa tries to pass on to Charlie, 13, and Mary, 10, what her mother passed on to her. “We try to instill that sense of giving back as an obligation to being a citizen in a community. I don’t tell them what charities to support, but foster independence.

“Mom said the only thing you get out of life is what you give away.”

Sharon Marvin Griffin & Melissa Marvin

Sharon Marvin Griffin and her daughter, Melissa Marvin, have received many of Omaha’s top honors for volunteering. For Sharon, they have included Arthritis Woman of the Year, Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor, Salvation Army Others Award, and United Way of the Midlands Volunteer of the Year, among others. For Melissa, awards have included the 2010 YWCA Women of Distinction and honors from the Omaha Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Each has been involved in more than 40 charitable activities over a lifetime. Each presently serves on 10 nonprofit boards. Coincidence? Not likely. Melissa has inherited her mother’s zest for volunteering.

“Mom is a professional volunteer,” says Melissa. “No. 1 is the importance of giving back. No. 2 is the importance of how to be a leader, how to work together in teams. I try to emulate that.”

“Mom is a professional volunteer…I try to emulate that.” – Melissa Marvin

Melissa remembers her first volunteer experience at age 7. She and brother Barney, then age 2, delivered Christmas gifts to shut-ins. “We looked on it as an honor,” she says.

The family, including her father, Sam Marvin, who died in 1997, together rang bells for The Salvation Army.

The mother and daughter also have in common busy careers. Sharon, who is married to Dr. William Griffin, has had a 25-year career in real estate at NP Dodge. Melissa is with the Cohen Brown Management Group and is director of Community Engagement for Metropolitan Community College.

Mom has the final word: “The more you give, the more you grow.”

Susan Cutler, Jeanie Jones & Jackie Lund

Susan Cutler has big fans in her daughters.

“I watch all the friends Mom has made and the rewards you get from giving. I have huge shoes to fill,” says Jeanie Jones. “I don’t think she realizes how big those shoes are.”

Those shoes took the first steps to volunteering in her hometown of Council Bluffs, where Susan lived with her husband, Bill Cutler, a funeral director. They moved to Omaha in 1987. “When I started volunteering, I learned so much about my community,” she says.

She volunteered at her children’s schools. “I wanted to meet other parents, learn what was happening,” says Susan, who was a third-grade teacher earlier in her life. She presently is on the board of directors of the Methodist Hospital Foundation and Children’s Hospital Foundation and is co-chairman for Joslyn Art Museum’s 2013 Gala.

“I have huge shoes to fill. I don’t think [Mom] realizes how big those shoes are.” – Jeanie Jones

Her daughters have their own impressive resume of community service.

“I remember Mom was involved in Ak-Sar-Ben when I was in sixth and seventh grades. I had to go to stuff and didn’t like it,” laughs daughter Jackie Lund. The mother of two children is owner of Roots & Wings Boutique in Omaha. But Jackie now goes to “stuff” and enjoys it. She is guild board treasurer of the Omaha Children’s Museum.

“I met some of my best friends through volunteer work,” says daughter Jeanie, who has three children. She serves in leadership positions for such groups as Clarkson Service League, Ak-Sar-Ben, Joslyn Art Museum, and Girls, Inc.

Susan said she didn’t try to influence her daughters. “Your children do what they watch, not what you say.” She continues her devotion to volunteering. “You learn about yourself, as well as about the community. It all comes back to you more than you can ever imagine.”

Sharon McGill & Kyle Robino

Kyle Robino remembers as a child slapping stickers on hundreds of mailings for charities. That was her first exposure to the world of volunteering with her mother, Sharon McGill.

Their family’s tradition of volunteering has been passed down from generation to generation. Sharon inherited the volunteering gene from her mother, who helped establish the Albuquerque Garden Center, and from her grandmother, a strong force in her rural New Mexico community. “I looked back at their lives and learned how they made things better for others,” she says.

Sharon brought along her talents as a ballet dancer when she moved to Omaha in 1968. Not surprisingly, her first volunteer act was helping to build a professional ballet company. A dancer, teacher, board president, and, later, ballet mistress for Ballet Omaha, Sharon took her two daughters along. They attended ballet classes and absorbed the essence of volunteering from watching their mother. She now serves on the Joslyn Castle board.

“I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models. My mom was a great role model.” – Kyle Robino

Kyle and her sister, Gwen McGill, who resides in Napa Valley, Calif., are following in their mother’s ballet shoes.

The JDRF is the center of Kyle’s volunteer work. Five years ago, her older daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Kyle’s husband, Mike, is board president of the JDRF Heartland Chapter.

“As you get older, you figure out what your passions are and what causes are personal to you,” says Kyle, who owns Old Market Habitat flower shop. “I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models,” she says. “My mom was a great role model.”

Kyle is now a role model for a possible fifth generation of volunteers—daughters Olivia, 14, and Ava, 7. These young ladies will have big shoes to fill, too.

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.”