Oh Oh Omaha: Swapping European Spring for American Frontier

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 04:23
2017 World Cup Finals

I'm not a World Cup Finals' routinier. With only 18 riders competing and no prospect on business, the annual winter indoor championships are not a must-go on my calendar. I usually cover it from home via the livestream and with several top colleagues photographing on the scene. However, this year's World Cup Finals in Omaha piqued my interest, maybe because Chicago is not too far away.

When the FEI announced that the 2017 World Cup Finals were allocated to Omaha, Nebraska, we all went Omaha where? Nobody ever heard of the  American city in the Midwest interms of horse sport. Omaha might be the starting point of the Mormons for their trek west to Salt Lake City or know to be the last city before the Great Plains. From a historic point of view Omaha certainly had revelance but I had never heard of a dressage competition being held there. While looking for flights to this destination, Chicago popped up as the lay-over and only then my head went Bingo. I'll connect it with a 3-day city trip to Chicago after the Finals and can finally scratch that U.S. city of my Wanderlust Bucket List.

I decided to the WCF "redux" version this year. Fly in right on time before the Grand Prix and back out right after the freestyle. I consider myself a die-hard dressage journalist and slave away behind the computer writing my reports and posting hundreds of photos, but I don't see the point in coming four days early to see the horses being unloaded from the plane and footing being poured in the arena. I can be more productive at home. Admittingly, I had to miss out on the morning jog and evening draw for the Grand Prix at the Omaha Zoo today, but instead I got settled in at the Doubletree hotel with plenty of time for a good night sleep. 

I felt a bit sad having to leave the beautiful European spring with the budding trees, first blossoms out and 20° C to go to a wind, cold climate in the U.S.A. My flight from Brussels to Chicago on United was luckily uneventful. It had been years since I stepped into such an old plane which was to carry 200 passengers transatlantic. The television screen in the seat in front was so 1990s: tiny, pixelated, and with three movies playing non stop, so one had to be lucky to tune into them at the right timing to see the beginning of the film. I rewatched two of my favourite movies of 2016 -- Moonlight and Arrival -- also read the first 100 pages in my new book "Earning the Rockies (by Robert Kaplan). I had a layover in Chicago with plenty of time not to stress at customs nor at the transfer desk. I strolled around in the airport, drank a capuccino and ate a salad while trying to spot other horse people heading to Omaha. I did not recognize a single one. OK, I must be flying in late. 

The one-hour flight to Omaha was a delight. I sad next to darling lady, Barb, who was returning home from Tennessee. Working in railway safety and often the road, Barb and I shared mutual guilt towards our pets and pet-sitters for always being away from home. We chatted the entire flight about politics, history, Omaha and travelling the globe. Instead of having to take a taxi to the hotel, Barb offered to drop me off at the hotel and before that gave me a quick tour of Omaha and where the best places are to eat and hang out. I saw a cute little area called Old Market with one great looking bar and restaurant next to another. Maybe my World Cup redux was a bit short after all.

The action begins tomorrow with the Grand Prix at 2 PM local time. A full report, Eurodressage style, will follow later that day !

by Astrid Appels

Related Link
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2016-2017 World Cup Circuit