Houston native Meagan Nusz returned for this year’s Pin Oak Charity Horse Show after a five-year absence, and it turned into an even sweeter welcome home when she topped the $10,000 Pin Oak Welcome Stake presented by the Kathy and Brad Coors Family on Wednesday, March 30.
The Welcome was the featured jumper event today during the 71st Pin Oak Charity Horse Show II, presented by Irish Day Farm. More than 1,000 horses are set to compete during this week's show, March 29-April 3, at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, Texas.
Nusz, 28, and Vesuvius, owned by Amalaya Investments, sped to a convincing win over Andy Kocher, who placed second aboard Evalyn Grace LLC’s Cantu 5 and third with Eagle Valley Partners LLC’s C’Havinia.
“I’m from Houston, and I grew up at this horse show,” said Nusz. “When I was little and just started doing the jumpers, I didn’t have my own horse and all of the little girls from the barn would come to this event. We would watch the older girls compete, and it was something we looked forward to each year.”
It wasn’t long before Nusz began showing her own horses at Pin Oak, and the venerable competition became a regular stop on her schedule until she relocated to the East Coast about seven years ago. Although she’s now based in Wellington, Florida, for the winter, she decided to take the 24-hour drive back to Texas.
“This year, my good grand prix horse was sold, and my other one’s hurt, so I thought, ‘Out of all the years, this is a great year to go back and have fun, go back to my roots and be with my friends.' That’s why we decided to come back, and, of course, we love this horse show, with president Lynn Walsh and all of the organizers. They do a fantastic job here,” she said.
Nusz has come a long way from those early years at Pin Oak and is now a veteran international grand prix rider herself. She trains with world-ranked rider Kent Farrington and is based in Lexington, Kentucky, during the summer season.
“Kent’s doing the Olympic (qualifying events) right now, so he’s off doing his own thing,” she said. “He overly prepared me to come here and actually gave me his grand prix horse to show, so that one will go this weekend. But he’s constantly on the phone and checking in with us, so I’m really glad I get to give him good news tonight because I keep telling him, ‘Almost, almost!’ ”
Nusz and Vesuvius went second in the 18-horse class and set a jump-off time no one could catch. “I knew I had a lot of firecrackers behind me!” she said with a laugh. “I’ve been watching them the past week, and I thought, ‘You know, I’m really going to have to do something tricky to catch them.’
“My horse isn’t naturally as fast indoors as Andy Kocher’s horses, so I thought I’d use my horse’s big stride to my advantage,” said Nusz, who left out a stride down the first line and still made a difficult inside turn, then also kept momentum through a challenging rollback to a substantial oxer.
“He’s been my main man the past five years. I bought him off a video, and when I saw him I knew he was the one,” she said of the bay Dutch Warmblood. “He’s ideally my type. He’s hot, strong and careful, but he is the bravest horse I’ve ever ridden. He always wants to do well and please you, and to have a horse like that with such a big heart is great. He’s taken me from 1.40m jumpers to winning at Global Champion Tour shows. He’s taken me up the steps. He always puts in a good effort and never disappoints.”