Omaha Equestrian Foundation founder and amateur jumper rider Lisa Roskens brought the 2017 FEI World Cup™ Finals to Omaha, Nebraska, in 2017. The finals will return to the CHI Health Center Omaha April 4–8, 2023. In addition to the jumping and dressage finals, the event will include the vaulting finals. Here Roskens shares more about herself, what to expect at the 2023 finals edition and what she thinks Omaha has to offer the world of horse sports and vice versa.
Practical Horseman: Could you tell us about your professional and personal background?
Lisa Roskens: I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and had prodigal years in graduate and undergraduate school in California. Through a series of “flight of the bumble bees,” I found myself in our family business, Burlington Capital, LLC.
I did a bunch of different business jobs before I came to work for my father because I really felt that I needed to deserve that job, not just get it because I’m related. I wanted to go out and get a lot of good experience so when I came to run the company, I had the relevant chops to do so.
On the personal front, my name is Lisa Roskens. I’m addicted to horses, and we can talk about that as much as you’d like.
PH: How did you get involved with horses?
LR: When I was a little kid, our backyard faced a fenced pasture. My parents moved there just because they liked the pastoral scene, not because they had anything to do with horses. Both of them were very much afraid of horses, but I kept crawling under the fence to go pet them.
They finally just gave in and started letting me take riding lessons, and I rode Western. I’ve worked cattle on a ranch. I still go out to my friend’s ranch in western Nebraska once a year and help them move cows around for a week. I ended up switching over to jumpers when I was about 10 years old and never looked back.
PH: Your major nonprofit here is the Omaha Equestrian Foundation. Could you tell us a little about its mission and vision?
LR: The mission of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation is twofold. One has been to bring Omaha into the center of the horse world. Horses are such a part of our DNA here. We’re a farming and ranching culture. We have incredible Native American history here, and I really want to bring energy back to our community.
On the flip side, I really wanted to professionalize how we presented our sport. I took information and ideas from every sporting event I could possibly go to, to say, “Let’s make this produced event so that it has the same feel of a major sporting event.”
And then the third piece of what we’re doing is really to try to educate people about horses, horse sport, animal husbandry and agriculture in general so that we have a huge educational component to the event.
Originally our goal was to host the World Cup Finals in 2017. We caught that bus, and now we’re doing it again.
PH: That educational element is very important to you. Why is that? What are you hoping to accomplish with it?
LR: We’d like to grow the sport in this region, not just because we love the sport, but to me it’s an engine of economic development. If you get 10 more people riding and owning horses, then you probably need another horseshoer and the vet clinic needs to expand.
You start building a business, and we have multiple new A-shows in our area. That then means we need braiders, course designers and jump crew. To me, it’s a really great employment vehicle, especially for people who have a non-traditional desire and don’t want to spend the next 10 years in school, and they want to work with their hands.
I really wanted to bring all the facets of this sport to our community so people could start participating in a new, more robust way.
PH: What plans are underway for the return of the FEI World Cup™ Finals next year?
LR: One idea I’m really excited about is from Julie Boilesen, the foundation’s CEO. She was looking at [the dates of the 2017 and 2023 Omaha finals] 20-17, 20-23, 17-23. What was going on here in 1723 on the Great Plains? Interestingly, that era was when horses really started making a change in how the tribal nations in our region started living, started fighting, started moving and started taking care of their families.
Horses became an integral part of their culture in that century. We’re really excited to be partnering with the Bluebird Cultural Initiative, among others. We want to give our Native American tribes a platform to showcase their history and their connection with the horse. We also want to demonstrate the great culture that has been built around the horse in this part of the world before we Westerners even started swinging our leg over one. I love that bringing forward of our history and creating that connection to our sports.
The promotional materials really are building on that theme of Native American crossed with the sport. I’m really excited about the partnership with the FEI. They’ve been open to some of our new ideas and very collaborative. We’re excited about that.
Another thing that we have added is the vaulting championship. We’ll have three championships next year—jumping, dressage and vaulting—which will be very exciting, and there will never be a dull moment in the arena.
PH: What are you most looking forward to with the World Cup™ coming?
LR: During the 2017 finals, I loved the energy it brought. I loved all the languages, and I really loved all the local people coming up and saying, “This is amazing.” The mission of the 2017 World Cup was to introduce the world to Omaha and introduce Omaha to the world of equestrian sport. And it was so fun to see both sets of eyes get opened. People were like, “Wait there are stoplights and good restaurants?” On the flip side, people that had been coming to the International Omaha saw the next level, and they’d never seen high-level dressage.
That blending of community, culture, the world and the horses is what I really enjoy the most. And then, I must admit, I really enjoy when it’s all over, and it went well.
PH: You brought up introducing Omaha to the world. It’s an unusual place to hold an event of this caliber. What can you say about Omaha?
LR: I love it. To me, Omaha is very unexpected, and it’s nice. There’s a little bit of what you expect in that good Midwestern hospitality. Everybody’s friendly and helpful and welcoming, and they really do want everyone to come and enjoy our community.
We’re very proud of our little city. Since 2017, we have four new hotels that have opened within a couple miles of the venue. There’s lots of local shops and restaurants. We have very good museums and cultural experiences. We have a Western heritage museum that gives you a great regional experience, and our zoo goes head-to-head with San Diego Zoo every year for the top zoo in the country. What I would say is come for the horse show, but make sure you make time to enjoy what else is going on.
Because it’s Easter weekend, we’ve shifted the schedule so it will end on Saturday. Hopefully that gives people Sunday to do some things before they have to fly home.
Get Ready for Omaha
The 2023 FEI World Cup™ Finals for jumping, dressage and vaulting will be April 4-8, 2023, in Omaha, Nebraska. Tickets are on sale now for “all sessions” for each discipline as well as VIP seats, hospitality lounge passes and fully-catered tables. Tickets for those groups plus single-session tickets will be available starting October 18. For more information and to buy tickets, go to omahaequestrian.org/fei-world-cup and ticketmaster.com.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of Practical Horseman.