Saturday, April 1, 2017

Thoughts on the World Cup in Omaha

Steffen Peters on the Jumbotron at the World Cup in Omaha.

I've heard the phrase, "Omaha, of all places," more than once. At this afternoon's press conference following the dressage final, Anne Gribbons, one of the USA's top dressage judges, who sat at C this afternoon, used the phrase. Has Omaha been a good venue for this international event? It certainly is a different venue from Las Vegas. Where Vegas might provide a faux Elvis to entertain you before the competition, or performers from Cirque du Soleil - Omaha has presented the Heartland of America Band, and Frontier Strings, young musicians from the Omaha Conservatory, among others who have entertained before the horses have appeared. If you want sex and glitter in your opening acts, you might miss Vegas; personally, I will take talented and passionate young people doing what they love, over an Elvis impersonator any day.

The Heartland of America Band performing at the World Cup in Omaha.
It's not the faux Elvis of Las Vegas, but that may not be a bad thing.

I believe that one of the reasons for bringing the World Cup to Omaha was to bring a top-level equestrian event to the heartland, to bring it closer to horse people in the middle of the country - but also to bring horses to a new group of non-riders who have never known what top horse competition looks like. I met several folks who had never been close to a horse - adults and many kids. They came to explore the horsey exhibits, to shop, and to watch a sport that was newly exciting to them. Some of these kids could be future Team riders, who would never have taken that path if they hadn't discovered horses at this event. Without a doubt the industry needs to kindle that flame in more potential riders.

For horse people, in the end, it's the event itself that is the most important thing. Can the management provide top-notch facilities for the horses and riders? Is the event well-organized and does it smoothly. They can and it did. Anne Gribbons reported good feedback about the stabling, the footing, and the organization and massive team of volunteers. The media facilities have been good, and the shopping seems extensive, with a good variety. If credit for high scores can go in part to management, for providing the background that makes them possible, the management in Omaha contributed to some record scores and personal bests.

If Omaha wins the bid for the World Cup again - or other international equestrian events - do sign up and come to the heartland. You'll be as enthralled with the incredible dressage, or holding your breath watching the jumping, as you would be in Vegas or anywhere else - I'm pretty sure you'll never miss the faux Elvis.

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