Trade fair entices shoppers; exhibitions and demos stress equine outreach and cross-cultural ties
Story and photos by Jennifer O. Bryant
A large crowd gathered at the Demo Arena in Omaha’s CHI Health Center this afternoon for a demonstration of upper-level dressage movements. It was one of the 15 or so daily exhibitions spotlighting all manner of horse breeds and equestrian disciplines during the FEI World Cup Finals Omaha 2023—and it, along with the trade fair, was free and open to the public.
The estimated 1,000 schoolchildren from 38 or so area schools and homeschool programs attending the exhibitions almost surely have no concept of the caliber of horses and horsemanship they’re viewing. The Thursday-afternoon dressage demo featured commentator Karen Pavicic, a World Equestrian Games dressage veteran and a Pan American Games dressage team silver medalist. The demonstration pair was Nebraska-based FEI-level dressage trainer and competitor Jami Kment, who has been a member of the Kundrun USEF Dressage Development Program list with her mount Gatino Van Hof Olympia.
Putting such high-quality riding and training on free display is a genius move by Lisa Roskens, the amateur jumper rider and Omaha Equestrian Foundation founder who was the driving force behind Omaha’s winning the World Cup Finals in 2017 and again in 2023. Equestrian sport often exists in its own bubble, especially at the elite levels; Roskens recognized that it can’t thrive and grow without attracting new fans and participants, especially from communities that typically lack exposure to horses and riding.
Getting Close to the Real Thing
The best promotional tool for horses and horse sports is, of course, horses themselves. World Cup Finals trade-fair visitors flocked to the row of temporary stalls housing everything from miniature horses to draft breeds. Getting to pet a horse for the very first time, or standing so close to a magnificent dressage horse that you can hear him breathing and feel his hooves shaking the ground—do you remember when you yourself first experienced that magic? When the scent, warm breath, and soft muzzle of a horse intoxicated you for the first time? It’s a gateway drug, for sure, and it’s available to anybody who walks in the door here in Omaha.
For the committed enthusiast, the shopping is sublime. I counted 78 vendors listed on the official event app. The offerings skew high-end—from riding apparel, boots (lots of boots), and tack to devices designed to enhance the comfort and performance of the elite equine athlete. Occupying a large chunk of vendor space is the booth, or should I say store, of Longines, title sponsor of the FEI World Cup Jumping Final, its luxury timepieces displayed in elegant cases under sophisticated lighting. It’s what you’d expect from an event that also boasts a spacious VIP lounge and catered, white-tableclothed arena seating section.
That’s the thing about horses: They bring us together, whatever our backgrounds and our bank accounts. That solidarity is on display at the trade fair here in Omaha. If you’re here, take the time to check it out. If you’re not, here’s a look at what you’re missing.
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Awesome world cup.