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Omaha Magazine

Taking the Reins

Apr 26, 2023 03:08PM ● By Sara Locke
Danielle URban

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Like many little girls, Danielle Urban was enamored with ponies from a young age. Unlike most little girls, however, she was able to seize the reins and turn that love into a driving force in her life, both literally and figuratively.

Born in Canada to a certified “horse family,” Urban first learned to ride at her grandfather’s farm. 
“I was three or so on my first hour-long trail ride,” Urban recalled. “I was the kid who would ride to school instead of walking. Everything that could be horse-centric for me absolutely was from a very early age. My grandfather used to do some driving with his horses and buggy. My father was a veterinarian. Both of my sisters rode. I was really lucky to be born into a family that had the resources to be really supportive of the fact that I was born just horse-crazy.”

While having supportive parents in most hobbies and career paths might mean parents who will wake up extra early to take you to practice, if the object of a child’s affection is a 2,000-pound animal, then that’s a horse of a different color. 

“My parents may not have known exactly what they were getting themselves into, but they have always wanted me to do with my life exactly what I wanted to do.” Urban said. “I changed from Western to English when I was 11; I changed disciplines to jumping, and they were still on board. Even when I told them I wanted to move to the United States in my late teens. I was hoping to move up in the business, and the opportunities were in the States. They have always pushed me to go after what I want.”

When Urban met the Cudmore family at a Spruce Meadows event in Calgary, Canada, they were impressed with the aspiring equestrian. 

“They invited me to Omaha to learn from them and ride together, and that’s when I moved here from Canada,” she said. “I’ve gotten to travel to the US a lot for events, and I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time in other states. But the more I travel, the happier I am coming home to Omaha.”

Urban brought her reverence for horses to work with her, and spent 14 years at Quail Run Horse Centre in Elkhorn. Since 2019, she has managed her own business, Rise Up Premier Equestrian Services, out of Flying Change Farm in Kennard, Nebraska.

“My clients own their own horses, and the horses are in training with me,” Urban explained. “I have clients who range in age from 12 to 60 years old, and I work with them in sessions and lessons. Then we go on the road and I coach them in horse shows, or I ride their horses in competition.”

Flying Change Farm features a barn that houses 20 show horses, and the four-legged residents are treated to a five-star experience daily. Horses receive full care at Flying Change, from feeding and health monitoring to training and exercise. But while the pasture maintenance and stall cleaning are hard work, Urban invests in more than the technical good of the animals. 

“Dannee is incredibly confident in her work,” said Beth Delano, owner of Flying Change Farm. “She’s earned that confidence by being absolutely amazing at what she does.”

The pair became acquainted while Delano was a client at Quail Run. 

“We started taking lessons from her and got to know her better. Soon we had developed a really great friendship with her, which merged into owning a couple of horses together, becoming business partners, and then when I built our farm in Kennard, we were able to offer her a place where she could run her own business,” Delano said. “Our friendship and partnership kept growing through that time, but I would say she doesn’t have a single client she doesn’t have this kind of relationship with. She considers them all friends.

“She always puts the horse first, and that’s not always the case in our industry.” Delano confided. “The horse’s health, well-being, and happiness all come first to her. She makes sure every horse gets undivided attention and the highest level of care, but she also makes sure that they are turned out daily and that they get time to just be a horse.

“Dannee notices everything about each animal. The tiniest bit of swelling, she’ll catch it immediately and want to know where it came from,” Delano continued. “She knows each client, each relationship, each animal, and she tailors everything about her work to meet the needs of that day.”

For her own part, Urban spends a lot of energy deflecting any accolades for her success toward her support system— her family, friends, and team—but she never skips an opportunity to show gratitude for the life she’s built. 

“I feel lucky that I get to follow my passion in life," Urban affirmed. "It’s mostly about the horses, but as I get older I realize the relationships with the people I have been fortunate to meet and work with in this industry are truly dear to me.” 

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This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  
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