World Cup 2023 Omaha, Fabulous Horses and Venue; Crazy Weather
8 months ago StraightArrow Comments Off on World Cup 2023 Omaha, Fabulous Horses and Venue; Crazy Weather
Story and photos by ILSE SCHWARZ
OMAHA, Nebraska, Mar. 5, 2023–It has been some years since I last attended a World Cup Final…I think Las Vegas was the last one, so definitely too long. So I was motivated for this year to go a venue and state completely new to me. Despite living in the USA I confess to only having a very vague idea of where Nebraska is…sort of in the middle was my guess. Turns out, it IS sort of in the middle, but actually closer to Chicago than I imagined. It’s actually directly above Oklahoma, then Kansas…and technically in tornado alley (but so far all the recent tornadoes have gone to other parts of this infamous alley). The weather here is actually not quite sure if it is in winter or spring.
Last Thursday, the day the horses arrived from Europe, the temperature was 18F (-8C) with wild winds. Yesterday it got to a balmy 75C. The wind is picking up again at the moment with the temperature expected to drop below freezing again tonight and reach the high of 47F (8F) with strong winds again. How do the horses cope with these dramatic shifts in weather?
One of the fantastic things about this venue–the CHI Health Convention center, is that everything is under one roof. The horses will remain in the temperature controlled facility from the moment they get off the truck and walk into the venue to the moment they leave the venue and get back on the truck to the airport. So, it truly doesn’t matter what goes on outside!
As we flew into Omaha, I confess I was looking for perhaps the edge of some snow-capped mountains…however what I saw was hundreds of miles, as far as the eye could see, of farmland. Fields wintering with ploughed stubble in precise rows and a few silos here and there, you know, the ones you see in movies with tornadoes lol The plane had a bunch of people going to World Cup but strangely, no one that I knew. As far as I can tell, half of Wellington is attending this event, so I guess they all flew on a different airline with different connections! However, I ran into Sabine Schut Kerry at the baggage claim who was fresh off her flight from Los Angeles. Then, when checking into the hotel which is a 5-minute walk to the convention center, I heard the unmistakeable voice of Lilo Fore. Then whilst walking from the hotel to the convention center I ran into Janet Foy and later Steffen Peters and Anna Buffini with her fabulous hair.
I arrived on the day of the jog, there had been arena familiarization earlier in the day where the riders definitely did more than wander around and then the jog late in the day. The vendors were all open and there was a surprising number of people already at the venue. It’s a perfect set up with the warm up arena being literally in the middle of the vendors, so you can shop and watch at the same time. There is also a demo arena where various entertainment from other aspects of the equestrian world are taking place all day. We were reminded at the media briefing that a large number of spectators will be not familiar with high end horse sport, and the show has absolutely catered for this crowd.
The jog itself was very well organized, with only 3-4 horses waiting to jog at any one time, so no danger of anyone getting too close to the other.However, it did have it’s own drama with one of the top ranked horses, Hermes ridden by Dinja Van Lieren, being sent to the holding box. Apart from this being a huge deal at any event, the World Cup is already a small select number of combinations, so one less is a huge deal. Hermes is a very very naughty stallion in the jog and is much more interested in trying to get some part of Dinja between his teeth rather than think about where his feet are landing. After a tense and much more forward re-presentation he was accepted but, gosh, he made it difficult for them.
Following the jog I was shown the actual arena, where media is allowed to enter and where we are allowed to sit and stand. Followed by the slightly worrisome comment that “if you get lost just keep walking, eventually you will walk around the entire arena and end up where you started.” Hmmm….then I will still be lost!!
The whole downtown area has FEI World Cup banners hung off lamp-posts and I had the added surprise of a cool light show of the icons for the three disciplines being projected onto the building that was outside my hotel window. Kind of like a low key Las Vegas, but definitely adding to the idea that we are at an international event.