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October 19, 2012

Nusz Shortens Her To-Do List At Harrisburg

She and Vesuvius take the top check in the $15,000 Amateur-Owner Jumper Show Jumping Hall of Fame Classic.

Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 19

When Kent Farrington sat down with Meagan Nusz for lunch two years ago to discuss training her, he suggested she write a list of her longterm goals. But Nusz was way ahead of him. She reached into her purse and pulled out a two-page list she’d compiled ages ago and passed it across the table. That’s when they both knew their partnership would be a good fit.

It’s a progressive list, with entries as well, like “Earn the amateur-owner jumper national championship.”  And after winning today’s Show Jumping Hall of Fame Classic on Vesuvius, clinching the amateur-owner jumper and leading amateur-owner jumper titles at the Pennsylvania National, she’s close to crossing that one off the list.

That’s just one step on the way to the entry on the bottom of the last page: “Earn a red jacket.” To that end the 25-year-old devotes 100 percent of her time and focus to improving herself and her horses. She has a string of horses she rides from sun up 'til sun down and works closely with her barn manager Erin Everett, whom she cites as instrumental to her success. While she trains seriously with Farrington, she also picks up tips wherever she can, lessoning with Barney Ward, listening in as McLain Ward coaches her friends Lauren Ward and Katie Dinan, and spending any time she can spare at the ring watching top riders school and show. 

“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said simply. “You have to be mentally prepared for what it takes to get there. These amazing riders weren’t born on a horse. Some are more talented, yes, but they all worked really hard to get there.”

That work's paying off. Last year Nusz had her first serious fall indoor circuit, surprising herself when she won this title on Banana d’Ive. This year she came back feeling more pressure to do well. 

“You don’t come here to canter around; you come here to win,” said Nusz, who’s originally from the Woodlands, Texas, and now splits her time between Lexington, Ky., and Wellington, Fla. “I put pressure on myself because I did so well last year. I wanted a repeat but I have to find that happy medium.”

The tough track had three of the 27 riders leading their horses out of the ring in hand, but four riders found a clear go round. The current leader in the national standings, Callie Smith and Upstaire, made the track look simple, and Nusz, Robert Lee (El Greco) and Katie Dinan (Sandro) followed suit. Smith led off in the jump-off, but when she went for broke, she and Upstaire logged a pair of refusals. Dinan and Greco both ticked rails to give Nusz' tidy clear blue. Dinan took second and the reserve title, with Lee in third.

Nusz raves about Vesuvius, but not because he’s easy.           

“When we walk we always have a very specific plan, especially for that horse,” she said. “He’s very spooky, and he has a really big stride. So I just have to always be cautious about our distances not to run him too deep because he’ll jump too high and have a back rail. Also not to get him too far off because he’ll spook and back off the jump.”

Worth The Trip

Daryl Portela started out her year by throwing her back out while hacking her niece’s horse, spending three months out of the tack while she recovered. But she’s wrapping up the season in fine style, winning the low amateur-owner, 36 and over, and grand low amateur-owner titles at Pennsylvania National on Winner. They topped an over fences class and the handy on their way to the title.

Portela, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., considered the win especially poignant as her father, who has been very supportive of her riding career throughout her life, is ill. It took her sister convincing her to go to indoors, as she’d worked so hard to qualify after a shortened season.

Get The Names Straight

There are two low amateur-owner hunters at Harrisburg named All In. They’re both bay warmbloods. And they both earned excellent ribbons. Nicole Lyvere’s partner is a Westphalian (Portafex—Ferrara) in the 18-35 division. They finished second in the stakes class and third under saddle. Kelly Champion’s (by Grand Cru) is in the 36 and over category. Just to add to the confusion, Champion’s mount was reserve champion behind the division winner, Winner. Got it?

Straight To The Top

Sarah Sturges clinched the low amateur-owner, 18-35, division title with a win in today’s stakes class. The junior finance major at University of Cincinnati (Ohio) made her return to Harrisburg after four years away, and this marked by far her best result at the show. She trains with Chris Payne and David Belford at New Hope Farm.

That’s The Score!

Julie Holzberger had to race off after winning the NAL Adult Amateur Hunter Finals with Revealed to catch a plane back to Cincinnati, Ohio, so she could be back at her job as the owner of two Aveda Institutes.

“Just before I walked in the ring my groom said, ’87,’ ” said Holzberger, who did indeed score that mark in the first round. “When I walked out he just said ‘See?’ ”

Like Sturges, Holzberger trains with New Hope near Cincinnati, and Payne rode Revealed to ribbons earlier in the week in the first year green division.

Whirlwind Win

Shane Sweetnam picked up the open speed championship at Harrisburg thanks to a pair of wins on Cyklon 1083 for Spy Coast Farm.

For full results, visit www.panational.org

Catch up on Thursday’s hunter and international jumper action.

Horse Sports