When most of you heard that Omaha won the bid for the FEI World Cup, I’m sure you thought, “Omaha? Who wants to go to Omaha?” Born and raised in Nebraska, I was thrilled. My friend, Susan, and I jumped at the chance to go and we artfully conspired to include our husbands on our long Equestrian weekend. After attending the World Cup in Las Vegas a few years ago, I had high hopes that Omaha could put together a top notch event but I was slightly concerned that the event couldn’t outperform Vegas. However, I can honestly tell you the event exceeded even my expectations. The first thing I noticed about this venue was the shopping!! I fell off the shopaholic wagon within minutes. My first stop was the Der Dau boot vendor, where I was professionally measured for dressage boots. Over the course of the next few days, we saw the latest in Equestrian fashion, in horse medicine, and in sports technology. An interesting difference at this event was the competitors’ warm up rings were located in the center of the vendor area, allowing us to watch the warmup rides.
We learned a lot at the actual competition. One of the most surprising lessons for me was seeing that professional riders struggle with all the same problems the rest of us struggle with. However, when Laura Graves came out and performed her ride, we were mesmerized. Although she lost to the great Isabell Werth, I have a feeling we are going to see great things from Laura Graves in the future. And then there was Isabell…her rides were amazing and I gained a lot of respect for her. Isabell gave what was described as her first ever class in the arena, explaining what she looks for in a young dressage horse. During the class, she provided instruction to riders on three young horses, each one year older than the last. Her words to these students sounded very similar to our own trainer at home. Isabell focused a lot on having the riders let go of the inside rein and focus on the inside leg and outside rein. She described overusing the inside rein as blocking horses ability to come over the back and into the reins.
The weekend ended with watching McLain Ward win the jumping competition. There was no doubt to anyone in the arena that we were watching something very special occur between McLain and his horse. The two were very graceful and they didn’t even come close to knocking down one pole all week. Their rides was more than just a few fast and clear rounds. It was a true indication, to me, that this horse and rider had the kind of relationship that is unique and extraordinary.
I read after the event that the FEI governing board, as well as the competitors, were extremely impressed with the organization and facilities at the event and Omaha will definitely be considered for future events. I couldn’t agree with their assessment more. If you ever hear Omaha has won the bid for a future World Cup, I highly recommend you consider the trip; you won’t be disappointed.