?Burlington Capital International Omaha | ? Eric Francis Photography

Sights and Sounds

Walk into the CHI Health Center Omaha in downtown Omaha for the Burlington Capital International Omaha horse show, the familiar smell of hay, the competitive excitement in the air and the sound of children laughing instantly washes over the senses. 

This year, International Omaha jumped into a whole new era to include new vendors, beautifully designed florals and an array of educational stations for children of all ages to learn the ins-and-outs of horses.

With live demonstrations, educational stations, and even a real horse skull to explore, many children saw and patted horses for the very first time.

First-grader Meredith, for example, was very excited to meet a horse, feed it a treat and pat its velvety soft nose. The greatest part? The experience was offered to regional students at no charge, allowing families and children the opportunity to see various breeds up close.

Kay Brown, a volunteer for International Omaha, said that an anonymous benefactor, “paid for the buses for Omaha Public Schools,” so they could experience the occasion at no cost.  

First Time for Everything

Donkeys, thoroughbreds, and even a massive white Shire greeted youths at the event. Charlene, a young attendee, said,

“I am excited to see a horse, because I really haven’t seen a horse.”

Ivy, another first grader, was excited to come because she, “wanted to pet a horse. The white horses are my favorite,” she said.

Things to Do and Learn

Maureen Armendariz, mother and home-school teacher, said she hoped her children would acquire, “an appreciation for the animal, maybe a little bit of history, a bit about the sport. Just to expose them to something for us isn’t super common. This has been really neat, seeing the horses next to each other and being able to compare the sizes.”

Upon entering the educational section, a braiding station greeted guests eager to try their hand at plaiting a horse’s tail. Another station allowed children and toddlers to practice grooming, feeding and even wrapping horse’s leg warmers. A child-sized horse jumping course allowed kids to leap over fences and navigate a test course that mirrored “real” competition.

Grandmother Barb Huizenga, visiting the event with her grandchildren. She shared, before International Omaha, “they didn’t know how to put a halter on, how to get on and off a saddle… I grew up on a farm and you just kind of know that stuff. For them, this is all foreign.”

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From Past to Present

For a glimpse into history, The Mounted Color Guard from Fort Riley, Kansas, set up an encampment similar to those from the 19th century.  A replica of an officer’s saddle could be seen and touched by young eager learners and even contained an ornate sabre, or curved sword. 

Autumn Sees, a student in the Veterinary Technology program with the University of Nebraska, answered questions and explained the biology of horses and their immense bodies. Referring to a pony skeleton the size of a quarter horse, Sees talked students through the horse’s body and some of its 205 bones. She encourages young veterinarians to follow their dreams. There is currently a huge need for vets, said Sees, “The numbers for large animal vets are dying down,” meaning there is a high demand for future veterinary students.

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See How It’s Done

After exploring all there is to know about the biology and care of horses, students and visitors were able to watch both the practice arena with actual competitors, and demonstrations in a smaller arena, where a parade of breeds was held among several other spectator events. Jane Fucinaro, owner of Coda Cavallo Riding Academy, conducted several clinics with students to show future riders the ins and outs of staying balanced while on horseback.

“I love horses!” exclaimed one Saddlebrook Elementary School student. “This is fun!” said another.

Going forward, Omaha plans to continue expanding International Omaha every year it is held. Expanding their vendor list to include fine artists, apparel vendors, and even a nail salon, a live band performing classic Eagles hits are just a few additions to the event. Shari Stevenson, a volunteer for International Omaha, said, “it shows how capable Omaha is for providing the venue, the resources that they need, education for the kids and I enjoy it. It’s just a beautiful thing to do.” For more information on this wonderful event, visit www.internationalomaha.com.

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