Photo by Eric Francis Photography

Greater Omaha is a horse-lover’s dream, and the Burlington Capital International Omaha horse show gave the region an opportunity to showcase its vast network of trainers, riders and horse enthusiasts.

Karin Nilsson, an Omaha native, has noticed not only is the region’s equestrian community supportive of one another; the surrounding landscape is ideal for those who own horses and larger barns.

“One of the big pluses that I see is that we have a lot of land, so pasture turnout is much more available,” said Nilsson, in comparison to larger coastal cities, where many competitions are held.

Barb Huizenga, International Omaha attendee, grandmother of three, and horse enthusiast that grew up on a farm, loves Omaha’s, “flavor of the rural. Even though this is in the city, the rural is so close.”

With large pastures, open spaces, and easy accessibility, Omaha is ideal for both horses and the people that love them.  

Local trainer and owner of Quail Run, Dan Urban, saw firsthand how the horse community bands together in times of crisis during the recent flooding. With waters quickly rising and their trailers already under water, Urban and many local volunteers coordinated an evacuation plan and temporary shelter for their horses. Thankfully, there was no need to execute their plans, but Urban recalled there were “people willing to help with their trailers and such,” showing just how united equine enthusiasts are when it comes to their horses’ safety.

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“I think there’s a lot of diversity here in the equine community,” said Urban, “and it just seems that whenever there’s something that comes up like this flooding; everybody’s quick and happy to try to lend a hand, it doesn’t matter which discipline we were or what backgrounds we were, everybody was quite willing to help out.”

Jenny Johnson, director of the Nebraska Dressage Foundation, was particularly impressed by the amount of variety International Omaha offered. With headquarters located in Lincoln, Johnson was glad to have the event close to home while still getting the word out about dressage. The event, Johnson said, had “a lot of different areas of the equestrian sport represented,” lending the opportunity for horse lovers of all ages and skill levels to learn more about their beloved sport.

Kay Brown, a volunteer for International Omaha, said Greater Omaha loves horses, regardless of whether they’ve ever ridden a day in their life.

“It’s bigger than Omaha,” said Brown of the event. “Every year they want to make it bigger and better.”

According to Urban, “we’re trying to grow the sport, so it’s the Foundation’s mission to grow equestrian sport in the Midwest.”

Shari Stevenson, another local volunteer, has heard nothing but positive feedback about the event. “I’ve not been to a horse show of this caliber,” she said, “but I think that the competitors appreciate having their horses in the same building they’re competing. That’s a big plus because they don’t have to travel. It’s all inside, so I think that’s been a big advantage.”

Even coordinators from Denver came to International Omaha to gain insight and ideas for their own local horse shows. “I manage a horse show in Denver,” said Kendra McConnell, who coordinates the National Western Stock Show. “We have a lot of school tours at our event,” she said. “So, we want to see, how do we show these kids a live horse? It makes such a difference when they get to touch a live horse, or you’re brushing a tail, that’s the thing you need to see. Omaha does a fantastic job.” Between the competitors, vendors, local trainers, and multitudes of volunteers, International Omaha is a true demonstration of how much Greater Omaha loves horses, and how Greater Omaha loves them back.

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