FEI World Cup Finals: Equestrian Event Makes Local Economic Impact

The FEI World Cup Finals, which take place April 4-8 at CHI Health Center, will bring in the world’s best equestrian athletes — human and equine — in the categories of jumping, vaulting and dressage. It will also bring millions of dollars to the local economy and thousands of visitors to Omaha from around the globe.

For five days, the CHI Health Center will be transformed into a world-class equestrian event venue complete with competition and warm-up arenas and stables for the international competitors (both human and equine). Equestrian sports fans from around the world as well as local visitors will be able to enjoy not only the competition, but also educational exhibits, special presentations, a shopping expo and even multiple dining choices. 

The FEI World Cup Finals have been hosted in major cities all over the world. So, why Omaha?

“Why not Omaha?” said Jon Garner, the event director. “What you really need is a mix of two things: The physical ability to pull it off, the venue structure, that type of thing … CHI Health Center, that was easy. And then the only other thing you need is the will.”

A big part of that will was Burlington Capital CEO Lisa Roskens, who founded the Omaha Equestrian Foundation in 2010. In 2012, the organization introduced The International Omaha, a premier showjumping event repeated in years since. In 2017, Roskens’ vision of Omaha hosting FEI World Cup Finals became reality when Omaha was named the site for the individual world championships for jumping and dressage. The 2017 events, which took place at CHI Health Center (then CenturyLink Center), brought in 52,000 spectators from 38 countries and all 50 U.S. states and generated an estimated $19 million in economic impact including 11,000 room-nights for local hotels.  

FEI, the international governing body of equestrian sports, is short for the French name of the Switzerland-based organization: Fédération Équestre Internationale. A little over a century after it formed with eight affiliated nations, 136 National Equestrian Federations from all over the world are affiliated with the FEI today. The World Cup events have been hosted in various major cities over the years including Paris, Milan, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, and other U.S. cities, including Las Vegas and Lexington, Kentucky, have served as hosts. Omaha received considerable praise for the high quality of its venue as well as the community’s hospitality in 2017, Garner said, and the OEF team was confident it could be a 2023 contender. 

“When we went to Lausanne (Switzerland) for our pitch meeting with the FEI, there was skepticism,” he said. “[But] the vision of what it was all came from Lisa. I think within maybe 30 seconds into her initial speech — and, frankly, because of her salesmanship — the FEI was sold. When you have a product like the World Cup, the FEI wants it to be in places that genuinely want it.”

In Omaha, the World Cup isn’t just one of numerous other large events like in larger host cities, Garner said. 

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“I think the city gets so behind it … it is the major thing going on. And when there is a major event going on in the city of Omaha, the population is behind it,” said Garner, who hails from England. “I mean, you’ve got that prairie mentality of welcoming everybody – doesn’t matter what part of the world they’re from.” 

Another plus is that the venue is large enough to house everything under one roof, including dozens of horses. 

“What is fantastic for me is that the convention center is completely attached. So, once we’ve got the horses in there, they don’t have to go outside. In Las Vegas, for example, the stables were outside in a parking lot, then they warmed up for the practice in a separate tent,” Garner said, adding that at the CHI Health Center, “the conditions are perfect, from the moment they get off the truck and walk into the venue to the moment they leave the venue to get back on the truck.”

Spectators also have a great experience, Garner added. 

“I think the audience has the opportunity to see the sport completely differently,” he explained. “They have the training, the warm-up ring, in the middle of the hospitality vendor area. When you’re just hanging out, you can sit and have a coffee or have a drink and a bite to eat and watch the horses prepare, which is one of the most fascinating pieces of the sport; you see them doing all that work prior to going in the ring. For the majority of venues, the warm-up ring is away from the public.” 

The World Cup Finals is three events: the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final, the FEI Dressage World Cup Final, and the Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup Final. Show jumping is probably the most-recognized competition category for any local audience. Dressage, sometimes described as “horse ballet,” judges the horse’s obedience and gait as well as the partnership and communication between rider and horse as they perform specific movements. Vaulting is often described as gymnastics or dance on horseback, and its roots in circus entertainment are evident. All three equestrian sports are exciting to watch, Garner said, and appeal to people of all ages.  

“It’s for everybody and anybody,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things that make equestrian sport special.”

FEI World Cup Finals are open to the public. Tickets can be purchased online at omaha2023.fei.org.

In addition to the competition, visitors can enjoy live demonstrations by award-winning equestrians as well as educational exhibits and an international trade show. A wide variety of food and drink is also available. The event will also feature some uniquely local content. 

“As we were developing ideas and plans for our education and entertainment program for the World Cup, we recognized the opportunity to share a global stage with local nonprofit Bluebird Cultural Initiative and bring attention to authentic stories about the horse’s rich history in our region,” OEF CEO Julie Boilesen said. “The theme is ‘1723.’ We’re flashing back 300 years ago to a significant moment on the Great Plains when horses were transforming Native American livelihood and culture. Horses became revered and honored members of tribes, responsible for providing security and for enhancing trade and commerce. We’ll be sharing those fascinating stories throughout the World Cup. We hope fans will enjoy listening and learning from Native American orators, musicians, historians and creatives as we celebrate the horse’s heritage and significance in this region.”

An Education Expo, free to the public, will feature horses in STEM exhibits as part of a partnership between OEF and Prairie STEM. The University of Nebraska at Omaha will also present a biomechanical exhibit that details the functional movements of both the horse and rider. Thousands of elementary-age students will visit the Expo on free field trips the week of the event. 

Other highlights include Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, leading a discussion of the special bond between neurodivergent people and animals. Grandin, who has autism, is a noted author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior. A Gallery of Horses exhibit will provide an up-close experience with horses representing a variety of breeds. And a Friday autograph session will provide visitors with the opportunity to meet equestrian athletes from each sporting discipline.

There will even be a few special touches that won’t be revealed ahead of time, Garner said, including a Grammy-award winner singing the national anthem. 

“It will surprise people when he turns up,” Garner said.

The final stages of preparation are near. Beginning March 29, 3,500 tons of horse footing — primarily sand, silt and clay and some additives like coatings, synthetic fibers and pieces of rubber — will be delivered in 16 dump trucks to create the competition surface for the event. Horses begin arriving March 31.  

“I’ve been really blessed and honored to be a part of it. And I’ve been involved in the organization for well over 10 years now,” Garner said. “We’re excited and a little bit nervous. We’re going through final details … The train is definitely about to leave the station.”

Schedule of FEI World Cup Finals Events

All times are subject to change.
For the latest information download the official FEI World Cup™ Finals 2023 app!


TUESDAY, April 4th

8:45 VIP Lounge Opens – Featuring Timmy Saqueton

9:00 Tradeshow and Demo Arena Opens

9:45 FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final – Familiarization

12:00 VIP Lounge Opens – Featuring Kevin Robinson

1:00 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final – Training

2:45 VIP Lounge Opens – Featuring One 2 Go

3:45 Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final – Training

7:00 Demo Arena – Athlete Draw (Open to the Public)

8:00 Tradeshow Closes

WEDNESDAY, April 5th

9:00 Tradeshow and Demo Arena Opens

12:00 VIP Lounge Opens – Featuring Chris Saub

1:00  Opening Ceremonies & Tribal Welcome

1:15  FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final -Grand Prix

4:20 Awards

6:00 VIP Lounge Opens – Featuring Susie Thorne Band

7:00 Opening Ceremonies
– It’s 1723…Welcome to the Horse Nation!
Created in partnership with Bluebird Cultural
Initiative and sponsored by Union Pacific

7:15 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final – Round 1

8:00 Tradeshow Closes

9:00 Awards

THURSDAY, April 6th

9:00 Tradeshow and Demo Arena Opens

12:00 VIP Lounge Opens – Featuring Jake Duncan

1:00 Opening Ceremonies & Tribal Welcome

1:15 Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final
– Round 1
(Ind. Women, Ind. Men & Pas de Deux)

6:15 VIP Lounge Opens – Chris Saub

7:00 Opening Ceremonies & Tribal Welcome

7:15 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final – Round 2

8:00 Tradeshow Closes

9:45 Awards

FRIDAY, April 7th

9:00 Tradeshow and Demo Arena Opens

TBD Autograph Sessions, Books Signings and Special Events.
Download the event app for details!!! 

5:15 VIP Lounge Opens – Rat Pack Jazz

6:00 Opening Ceremonies & Tribal Welcome

6:15 FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final
– Grand Prix Freestyle to Music

8:00 Tradeshow Closes

9:30 Awards

SATURDAY, April 8th

9:00 Tradeshow and Demo Arena Opens

12:15 VIP Lounge Opens – Jake Duncan

1:00 Opening Ceremonies & Tribal Welcome

1:15 Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final
– Final Round
(Ind. Women, Ind. Men & Pas de Deux)

3:15 Awards

5:15 VIP Lounge Opens – Tablao  

Lounge Sponsor: NetJets

6:00 Opening Ceremonies & Tribal Welcome
Created in partnership with Bluebird Cultural Initiative

6:15 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final – Final Round

8:00 Tradeshow Closes

9:45 Closing Ceremonies & Awards