“Why are we in Omaha? Why, for the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping and Dressage Finals.”
Okay, admit it: Only a small part of your friends or family understood that sentence. MOST folks who are aware that you were either going to or paying keen attention to Omaha looked at you funny with a cocked head and repeated “Omaha” slowly like you’d said “Parsley” when asked for your favorite food. It’s pretty close to suggesting that you were going to meet the mother ship outside area 51.
Mainstream folks may not ‘get’ what exactly is being hashed out in competition here, but they are happy if we’re happy. And today McClain Ward is happy, so the hometown crowd of American fans are happiest of all.
Omaha Goes All Out, Does it Right
Let it be stated plainly first that the city of Omaha and the organizing committee here deserves a TON of credit for doing right by the fans, the riders, horses, owners, media and basically anyone who is at all interested in our sport and probably more than a few people who just came to see what all the hubbub was about.
The layout is amazing. There is so much to see, and there are trade fair booths everywhere you go. But the kicker for anyone who’s been around a few big shows before is what organizers chose to do in the warm up area.
In a complete break from tradition of behind the curtain seclusion, the warm-up ring is surrounded by more trade fair areas so the fans are within feet of their heroes as they prepare and it makes for an immersive experience that is very much the exception to what most high level competitions involve for the spectators.
Fans could be seen with cell phone cameras trying to get better angles and selfies with a horse jumping a sizeable warm up fence timed just perfectly in the background. McLain and HH Azur were being actively sized up for the.perfect.shot. over every single warm up jump.
An Epic Night of Competition
Show Jumping fans the world over have a healthy respect for the partnership of McLain and “Annie” and the crowd enthusiasm tonight showed it. It’s an amazing opportunity to see beloved riders and the world’s best in a single room, and the crowd loved every minute of it.
Omaha packed the room with energy, even during a drag break when the audience did a sing-along with provided flashlights illuminated to the Neil Diamond hit, “Sweet Caroline.” Unexpected as it may have seemed, there was a certain enjoyment in watching an international crowd swaying in rhythm and bopping their lights all over the arena.
So tomorrow we move to the power round. If history is any indicator, someone in the current top eight will likely bring home the title. But who knows? We’re all in Omaha watching and we’re grateful to have you following along, too.