A Festival With HorsesMar 03, 2017 06:24PM ● By Josefina Loza
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.