Tag Archives: Omaha Equestrian Foundation

Omaha Equestrian Foundation

August 15, 2018 by

Mission Statement

The Omaha Equestrian Foundation produces international caliber equestrian events with the goal of developing Omaha as a hub of the sport horse industry, while fostering educational and economic development opportunities for the community.

Wish List

  • Donations and sponsorships to support the educational expo, free field trips for area school children, underwriting for the Salute to the Military, Veterans, and First Responders, and scholarships.
  •  Volunteers
  •  Become a Flag Horse Club member
  •  Office supplies or gift cards
  • Visit: Make plans to attend the International Omaha and bring along some friends

Upcoming Events

International Omaha
 April 4-7, 2019


The Omaha Equestrian Foundation, founded in 2010, hosts jumping and dressage competitions that attract riders, horses, and businesses of excellent caliber to the Midwest while providing educational opportunities in the Omaha area and surrounding communities. OEF’s premier competition, the International Omaha, is a world-class equestrian show jumping and dressage experience, combining high-level, intense competition with educational activities designed to engage and entertain the whole family.

Brag Lines

April 2012: Host of the first U.S. five-star jumping competition in the region, the International Omaha

April 2013: The SecondAnnual InternationalOmaha becomes first international competition in the Midwest Region

March 2017: Hosted the FEI World Cup in jumping and dressage

April 2018: The International Omaha expands to four days and adds two unique competitions—the Init2Winit Speed Jumping Challenge and Dressage Team Challenge

Pay it Forward

Not only about the competition and sport, the OEF is dedicated to giving community members a chance to learn about opportunities in the horse industry. Donations and sponsorships will help OEF expand the educational expo, the Horse Discovery Zone, which is one of the largest and most unique expos at any horse event. The “Zone” includes information about the science of horses, the history of horses in Nebraska, and various jobs within the horse industry.

The OEF’s free field trip program is a fun day for over 3,200 students across the metro to learn about an amazing animal and everything horses have to offer. 

Omaha Equestrian Foundation

1004 Farnam St. Omaha, NE 68102

The Big Give was published in the September/October 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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: https://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: https://omahamagazine.com/articles/christian-heineking/.

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

Frequent Flyers

March 29, 2017 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

When the world’s elite horses (and riders) arrive in Omaha, an entourage of police and first responders—including mounted patrol—will escort them to the location of the Longines FEI World Cup. The international championship for show jumping and dressage begins March 29 and continues through April 2 at the CenturyLink Center.

European competitors depart from Amsterdam, Netherlands, aboard a chartered Boeing 777 cargo plane that takes more than nine hours to reach Omaha.

The flight requires horses to be loaded into specialized containers called “jet stalls,” which resemble an enclosed stable stall. Jet stalls can hold up to three horses. The charter flight includes a “pro groom,” nine shipper grooms, and a veterinarian—all provided by the company overseeing the transportation, the Dutta Corporation.

Horses at this elite level are well-seasoned air travelers, making the journey seem almost routine, says J. Tim Dutta, the founder and owner of the international horse logistics company.

“Horses are just like human beings,” Dutta says. “Some get jittery, some read the rosary, some like some gin and tonic, some go to sleep before the plane leaves the gate, and the rest are worried about life two days afterward. Everybody’s an individual, and we are ready for each and every situation.”

Any concerns or worries, he says, are the things that can’t be entirely controlled or predicted—such as poor weather conditions or a horse getting sick during transportation.

“You’ve got a couple hundred million dollars worth of horses on the plane, so that’s serious business,” he says. “You want everything to go smooth, and there’s always challenges. But for a guy like me who’s been at it for 28 years, and has done quite a few of them, it’s just another day at the office.”

Once the horses arrive in Omaha, they will be quarantined at the CenturyLink Center for up to three days while the USDA checks for diseases and other potential health concerns.

Veterinarian Mike Black—based out of his Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic just outside of Blair—says any adverse effects of a long journey would be the same for horses whether they traveled by trailer or airplane. It’s not unusual for humans and animals to struggle through temporarily weakened immune systems due to stress and long periods of confinement with other travelers.

“Whenever the animal is put under stress, it will compromise some of their ability to respond to infections,” Black says. “And a lot of horses are carriers of viruses and things. So, as they’re around other horses that they’re not normally around, then things can be spread.”

When the competition opens March 29, folks without a ticket will have an opportunity to get a closer look at all the horse-and-rider teams. The practice area will be free and open to all.

Mike West, CEO of Omaha Equestrian Foundation, hopes to create a fan-friendly and carnival-like atmosphere.

The World Cup is the first international championship of its kind to be hosted in Omaha, he says. Sure, there have been championship boxing bouts in the city. And the NCAA crowns the champions of college baseball in Omaha. But never before will so many world champions prove themselves on local grounds.

Back in 1950, when the College World Series first came to Omaha, nobody could have expected how the “Gateway to the West” would become a Midwestern sports mecca.

“They didn’t know about swim trials; they didn’t know about NCAA basketball or wrestling or volleyball and all the great events that we have now,” says West, a veteran Omaha sports-marketing professional. He previously held management positions with the Lancers, Cox Classic Golf Tournament, and Creighton’s athletics department.

The Omaha Equestrian Foundation is not only dedicated to putting on a good show. West and his colleagues are committed to continuing the city’s relationship with the FEI, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (aka, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports), the governing body for the sports of show jumping and dressage.

“We have an opportunity, but we also have an obligation as an organizer to do a good job. Because if we do a good job, we don’t know what it will lead to, but we know it will lead to something [positive],” he says.

A successful 2017 World Cup in Omaha could improve chances of the World Cup returning, along with its estimated economic impact of $50 million.

“We have to be better than anybody—by far—at listening and delivering on our promise to the fans of this sport,” West says. “And if we do, I think we’ll develop a reputation that if you want to be treated like a fan [of sports], go to Omaha, Nebraska.”

Visit omahaworldcup2017.com for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Quail Run Discusses Regional Jumping Climate

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.

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.”

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.

Legends of Dressage

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.

In 1996, she won the individual gold medal at the Atlantic Summer Games. That same year, she also won her second team gold Olympic medal. Since then, Isabell Werth of Germany won team gold in Sydney in 2000, in Hong Kong in 2008, and in Rio in 2016.

With a total of 10 Olympic medals under her belt and ranked No. 1 in the world, Werth is unquestionably the most decorated dressage rider in history.

And she has chosen the 2017 FEI World CupTM Finals for her first exhibition in the United States.

Lisa Roskens, OEF Board Chair

“We are so excited that the legendary Isabell Werth is coming to Omaha,” says Lisa Roskens, chair of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation, which produces the 2017 FEI World CupTM. “The Dressage Showcase segment with Isabell Werth will give fans a rare opportunity to learn from an international star who has won more Olympic medals than any dressage rider in history.”

Werth will headline a special showcase presented by the Dressage Foundation on Friday, titled “Young Horses to Grand Prix with Olympic Champion Isabell Werth.”  However, she will also compete in the dressage finals along with several other legends of the sport, who plan to travel to Omaha from around the world to compete for this year’s dressage title. »  2016 FEI World CupTM Dressage Champion Hans-Peter Minderhoud of the Netherlands will be here to defend his title. Top American rider Steffen Peters, who won the FEI World CupTM in 2009, will be here to try to reclaim it. And two-time FEI World CupTM champion Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain will also seek to have her name engraved on that coveted trophy.

Other names to watch for this year, according to Thomas Baur, director of dressage for the Omaha Equestrian Foundation, include Edward Gal of the Netherlands with his famous stallion Totilas (nicknamed “Toto”); Laura Graves, the American who won a bronze medal in the team competition and fourth individually in the 2016 Olympics in Rio; and Carl Hester of Great Britain, who Baur says is currently ranked sixth in the world.

“We haven’t seen a lineup like this at the World Cup Finals for several years,” says Baur. “It’s a bit of a small Olympics—a good opportunity for the dressage people in North America to see these top horses.”

Dressage, a French word meaning “training,” dates as far back as ancient Greece and the society’s training of their cavalry horses for war. During the Renaissance period, however, this training became a true art form. Dressage has evolved over time to modern dressage, which is what we see today at international competitions such as the Olympics and the FEI World CupTM Finals.

Horses and riders perform a series of movements that test a variety of skills as well as the ability of the horse and rider to work together. The purpose of the sport is to not only develop a horse’s athletic ability but also his willingness or ability to respond to cues from his rider. Roskens says a good way to describe dressage to those who are unfamiliar with it is as the “figure skating of the equestrian sport.”

“It’s a beautiful, dramatic, precise partnership of the horse and rider,” Roskens says.

Two separate competitions are planned for the FEI World CupTM Finals—the FEI World CupTM Dressage Grand Prix on Thursday, and the FEI World CupTM Dressage Final, which will feature dressage freestyle to music, on Saturday. The grand prix is more of a fixed test, where all of the competitors will be asked to complete specific patterns of gaits and movements at several levels, Baur said. During the second event, the dressage final, the riders are more free to choose what they want to show, the order in which they want to show it, and the music to which they want to perform. The focus here is more on beauty and artistry.

“All the while, the rider looks like they are going for a walk in the woods,” Roskens says. “Let me tell you—they’re not.”

The judges will give scores between 0 and 10 for each movement, with 10 being the highest score. Movements range from a “half-pass,” where a horse travels diagonally, moving both forward and sideways, to a pirouette, a 360-degree or 180-degree turn in place. Other required movements in the test are a collected gait, a passage, a piaffe, and an extended gait.

The horses and riders that rise to the top will be those who work together calmly, professionally, and in complete partnership with each other. And that will come down to the horse, Baur said. 

“The rider is a big part of it, but the horses are the ones making the difference at the end of the day,” Baur said. “If you have an average horse, you will probably not win, but the horses in this year’s finals are all top horses. That’s why I think it will be one of the best FEI World CupTM Finals  we’ve had.”

FEI World CupTM Gold Dressage Winners

The FEI World CupTM Dressage Finals have drawn horses and riders from all over the world to compete at top levels against top competitors since the event was founded in 1985. However, the horses and riders that have stood out as legends of the sport have had their names engraved on the coveted trophy not once but in some cases two or even more times. Here is a list of some of those legendary riders and the years they won gold.

  • Andy van Grunsven (1995 in Los Angeles; 1996 in Gothenburg; 1997 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch; 1999 in Dortmund; 2000 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch; 2004 in Dusseldorf; 2005 in Las Vegas; 2006 in Amsterdam; 2008 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch)
  • Christine Stuckelberger (1987 in Essen; 1988 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch)
  • Isabell Werth (1992 in Gothenburg; 2007 in Las Vegas)
  • Ulla Salzgeber (2001 in Aarhus; 2002 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch)
  • Monica Theodorescu (1993 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch; 1994 in Gothenburg)
  • Adeline Cornelissen (2011 in Leipzig; 2012 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch)
  • Charlotte Dujardin (2014 in Lyon; 2015 in Las Vegas)

10-time Olympic medalist Isabell Werth of Germany.

*Editor’s Note: The program book incorrectly identifies the 1996 Atlantic Olympic Games as being in the winter.

The International Omaha

February 25, 2013 by
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.”

Equestrian_photo copy

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.”

IMG_9717 copy

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.