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EQUUS Film Festival and Longines FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha Take Their Final Bow
The EQUUS Film Festival Tour Stop at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha concluded on Sunday, April 2 with great news for Team USA when McLain Ward clinched the victory on HH Azur. No one had a chance since McLain rode a total of five faultless rounds and when it came to that last round his final total of 0 faults could not be matched.
The joy he displayed was unlike any an audience has seen before. McLain rarely shows much expression, even in victory but this time he could not contain his happiness. He was clearly ecstatic after having achieved this milestone. Always the gentleman, he said only the nicest things about his support team, HH Azur’s owner and everyone else that helped him get to where he is today.
EQUUS Film Festival and World Cup are a Home Run
For the EQUUS Film Festival this was also a home run for founder Lisa Diersen and Co-Director Diana De Rosa.
“This was a great opportunity for the filmmakers whose shorts and features were shown at this World Cup,” commented Diersen. “We received so many wonderful comments from people about having had the opportunity to see films they would never have had the chance to see. It was truly a home run for both the World Cup and the EQUUS Film Festival.”
This was a first for a World Cup to showcase a film festival and it is thanks to Lisa Roskens’ vision that this came about.
“I met Lisa at a USEF meeting in 2016 and told her about the EQUUS Film Festival and asked if she would like us to bring a bunch of our horse movies to the World Cup in Omaha. She loved the idea and so the rest is history,” De Rosa said.
A World Cup with Vision
Having the vision to bring in the film festival was just one of the many things that this organization did. In addition to the trade fair, a Horse Discovery Zone was truly the highlight at the CenturyLink venue. Over the four days some 5000 kids came to learn about horses by doing hands-on activities, observing demonstrations, listening to lecturers, enjoying meet & greets and watching films. What better thing to do then to expose our future generations to the beauty of the horse.
A lot of credit for the Horse Discovery Zone goes to Education Coordinator, Jackie Vinci.
One of the many special additions to this year’s film festival were the meet and greets with riders, filmmakers, and producers. Of special interest was the meet and greet with Laura Graves after those present watched the documentary that NBC produced titled: Slow and steady wins the race: The story of Laura Graves and Diddy
Meeting Laura in person brought many of those present to tears when they were overcome by the chance to meet their idol in person.
People Who Enjoyed the EQUUS Film Festival Experience
While nine-year-old Eleanor Daboo never actually met Laura, she did watch the film and commented, “I think it is pretty cool to see how people learn to be a professional horseback rider like Laura, who started out as someone who just got on a horse. My dream is to become an Olympic gold medalist in eventing.”
It is comments like this that are the exact reason that the EQUUS Film Festival was started. Both Diersen and De Rosa feel it is important for these great horse films, whether they are one minute long or two hours long, to be seen. The EQUUS Film Festival gives them a place to do this.
Donna Wells from Horse Shelter Diaries and Julianne Neal and Bruce Anderson from The Edge were also there, giving those who watched these movies a chance to meet and chat with them in person. Rarely do the audience members get this opportunity to ask questions, get autographs and learn about the behind-the-scenes of the making of a movie. This was truly a great opportunity for both the filmmakers and the audience members.
Omaha Did It Right!
When it was first announced that Omaha would be hosting the next World Cup, there was a lot of skepticism. However, they established a wonderful template that other events should follow. Large signs made everything easy to locate. Information booths were available at every entrance location. Shuttle buses readily took you to where you needed to go.
The staff was welcoming and ready to help and for the media the setup couldn’t have been better, complete with lots of room for working, a nice press conference location, meals throughout the day and readily available information.
Even the draw for the order of go was beyond special. It was held at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. It took place in the theater with a big screen backdrop and was followed by a tour of the aquarium.
The trade fair was filled with horse friendly booths and the crowds flooded the place on a daily basis. It was a great introduction to those living and/or visiting Omaha to discover how supportive this community can be.
The fact that they saw the significance of adding the EQUUS Film Festival slate of films to their roster also gives an indication of their vision. Amanda Lustgraaf, Marketing Communications Manager, Mutual of Omaha, and Tom Hester, General Manager of the Marcus Midtown Cinema, were extremely helpful and supportive in ensuring everything went smoothly at the cinema, while Vinci took the lead for the theater in the Horse Discovery Zone. In the end, it turned out to be a win-win situation for both the World Cup and the EQUUS Film Festival.
“I like the idea of bringing in films that are outside the norm,” commented Hester. “I hope we do more of this.”
Overall this World Cup was so well run that it made being a part of it even more enjoyable.
Watching Olympic Veterans and World Class Riders
The cherry on the cake was watching the enthusiasm of the crowds, especially when well-known names competed in the arena. Dressage riders Steffen Peters, Laura Graves and Isabell Werth garnered huge applause from a very educated crowd. Isabell Werth claimed the World Cup Dressage Championship, with Laura Graves next in line. For the U.S. to be in such a strong position behind the best dressage rider in the world is no small feat.
Ward’s victory not only overwhelmed him but the audience stood up and filled the arena with a resounding applause. It was one of those moments you will never forget being a part of. For those who could not be there in person, they were able to watch the live stream which literally made you feel like you were there.
A Chance to Showcase Omaha to the Equestrian World
Roskens vision when she suggested the idea of a World Cup in Omaha was to give the state a chance to showcase to the world that they have what it takes to put on a world class event. They proved in every step of the way and in many ways that Omaha knows how to put on a show. Their setup was tight, easy to figure out and perfectly suited for the needs of the horses, riders, support staff, media and audience.
"The FEI World Cup Finals this past weekend exceeded all of my expectations. It was a great event for Omaha, Nebraska and the quality of the competition was outstanding. We were so thrilled with how everything came together. The EQUUS Film Festival was a wonderful addition to our array of entertaining and educational offerings. The festival was very popular both at the venue and at the theater," said Roskens.
On a personal note, when flying home an Omaha resident saw photos from the event on my computer and so we started to chat. Anne Vawser saw the show jumping competition and spent some time watching the riders schooling. She also roamed around the trade fair. During that conversation, Anne made one comment that said it all. “When would I have another opportunity to see that scale of riders without traveling quite a distance.” That comment alone is exactly what inspired the organizing committee to place a bid to bring this event to Omaha. And surely comments like that will bring a smile to not only Roskens’ face but to everyone else who put their heart and soul into this event.
Omaha has definitely achieved its goal of letting the world know that this is a place to be reckoned with.
For more about the Longines FEI World Cup in Omaha, click here. For more about the EQUUS Film Festival, click here. Take a moment to share this article in support of all that Omaha did and to thank them with your comments.
This is the final story in this series of five articles. So, take the time to relive both this EQUUS Film Festival Tour Stop and the Longines FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha by reading the past articles. To see the first article in this series, click here, for the second article, go here, third is here, and fourth here.