Erin Davis Heineking rides on a horse that jumps over a railing in front of a giant crowd at the 2019 International Omaha event.
Erin Davis Heineking and her horse jump over a railing at the 2019 International Omaha. Photo courtesy of Omaha Equestrian Foundation.

Despite a pandemic and other challenges, the Omaha Equestrian Foundation is gearing up for some big competitions.

After sitting on the sidelines for three years, the Equestrian Foundation is set to host its own state event — the International Omaha — and to bring back to Omaha the prestigious FEI World Cup Finals in 2023. Both equestrian events feature horse jumping competitions in which riders have a time limit to navigate an obstacle course.

International Omaha has been around since 2012 and has been the premier competition for the horse industry in Nebraska ever since. 

The FEI World Cup Finals in 2023 is expected to attract competitors from all over the world. Its debut in Omaha in 2017 brought over 52,000 spectators from all 50 states and 38 countries. 

The event was significant in Omaha because it generated $17 million in economic impact, the foundation estimated. 

Similar numbers are expected in 2023 and are part of the reason why Omaha was selected ahead of multiple other major cities, according to Aniya Greene, the foundation’s marketing director.  

“That’s big,” Greene said. “We beat out other big places like Tokyo, and so it’s cool. And  somewhere like Omaha, which to everybody else is this little part of the United States that gets to do something that’s on an international level.” 

But then there’s the challenge of putting on these events, something the staff of the Equestrian Foundation have little experience doing. Along with Greene, there are only four full-time staff members who work for the foundation, including CEO Julie Boilesen, Director of Partnerships Jill Boyle and one off-site project manager. 

All were hired after the International Omaha event in 2019, so no one on staff has any previous experience with running events at that scale. But that doesn’t mean they’re not confident. 

“It’s definitely a balancing act; we’re working on two very big events,” Greene said. “International Omaha planning is going very well. You know, the closer it gets to the event, the more stressed out we get.” 

What also helps is that the foundation was awarded $53,000 from the Nebraska Tourism Commission to help promote the World Cup Finals, furthering the support the state of Nebraska has in horse competitions. 

International Omaha takes place at CHI Health Center in downtown Omaha from May 6-8, 2022, while the FEI World Cup Finals will take place from April 4-8, 2023.

My name is Geoff Exstrom and I am a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I pursuing a major in both Sports Media and Broadcast Production. Along with school, I am also a sports writer for the Lincoln Journal Star covering numerous high school and collegiate sporting events. I am also the Sports Director for 90.3 KRNU - UNL's student radio station. I've also had the great opportunity to create many podcasts throughout my media career including Athletes Unfiltered, the podcast hosted by myself as well as former Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez.