Sixteen-year-old Nora Nauss is already making her summer in Traverse City one to remember. Up against top names and seasoned duos, she took her very first grand prix victory Saturday afternoon in the $30,000 National Grand Prix with Bretzelle D’Arthenay during the Traverse CIty Spring Horse Shows, presented by Turtle Creek Hotel & Casino.
If you’d asked Nauss if she imagined she’d be standing in the winner’s circle this early in her career, she would have been skeptical. But her training from Andrew Welles over the past eight months has carried her farther than she’s ever been before. “It’s only my third national prix so I’m trying to trust myself and relax but I’m very happy with it,” she commented.
The win wasn’t handed to her, however. Against experienced professionals, Nauss was one of seven to jump Manuel Ezparza’s track clean and advance to a quick jump-off. Just before Nauss went in, Kristen VanderVeen set a blazing-fast time of 30.668 seconds, leaving out strides everywhere possible around the short course with Bull Run’s David, owned by VW Sales.
Nauss and her 15.2-hand red mare didn’t do the leave-outs VanderVeen did, but the natural footspeed was enough to overtake the leading time, coming home in 30.434 seconds, ultimately taking the win as the class came to a close. VanderVeen claimed second and Sarah Segal took third with Speedy Jump for Horatio Street Ventures LLC.
“I’m very happy,” Nauss reflected on her first grand prix win. “My goal was to have a good round. I was going to do all the turns and go for it. I trust my horse a lot; I’ve had her for about two years now. She took me from 1.10m to 1.45m. She’s amazing. She’s given me so much confidence through all my riding. I’m super grateful to have her.”
Competing at the higher levels with the 12-year-old Selle Français mare was always part of the plan, but the pieces are falling into place sooner than Nauss had envisioned. “I got her as a horse to bring me to the 1.40m level,” she continued. “It’s been really great; she’s progressed with me getting more and more careful as we go. She’s been really fun to be competitive on as well.”
Two years ago, Nauss found Bretzelle D’Arthenay while in Florida, and it was love at first ride. “I like how forward she is,” she remarked on how the two hit it off to start. “I like to be carried to the jump. She’s super brave, never spooks or anything, and she’s very willing and sweet on the ground. I can trust myself to let the distance come to me. I can just let everything happen. She’s quick across the ground and over the jumps and she’s become very rideable over the years.”
Coming to the last fence of the jump-off, Nauss let the mare go forward and opted for one stride less to a tall vertical, a risk which ended up working in her favor. Her thoughts as she cleared the last fence were, “I hope it stays up!”
A native of Minnesota, Nauss is happy to be part of the Traverse City show scene for the summer and also plans to show at Spruce Meadows for the first time as the summer goes on.
“I’m super happy to be here,” she remarked. “There aren’t a ton of shows close to us but this is one that is closer. I love the facility; it’s super cool to show here and the competition is great as well.”
But as for the next grand prix win, she is leaving that up to her mare. “I have no expectations since neither of us has the experience. [I’ll jump] as big as she tells me. We’re just keeping her comfortable.”
Show jumping concludes for the first week of the Traverse City Spring Series on Sunday with the $77,300 Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel CSI2* Grand Prix.
Paige Walkenbach and Princeton Make Traverse City Their Kingdom
There’s a new face in the junior hunter ranks in Traverse City this summer, and she’s already dominating the division as the show season gets underway. Paige Walkenbach, of Paradise Valley, AZ, took the top honors in Saturday’s Common Good Bakery Junior Hunter Classic, securing the win with Princeton, owned by Walkenbach Equestrian LLC.
“His name is Prince in the barn,” she said of the 10-year-old Selle Français gelding. “I’ve been riding him for about two years now, since he won Junior Hunter Finals with Stella Wasserman. He’s been my rock for a while and I know him well.”
Walkenbach earned scores of 86 and 87 for a two-round total of 173, ultimately taking the win. Paige Jadick and Camelot BF claimed second and Walkenbach’s additonal entries, San Pedro 15 and Ever So Often, claimed third and fourth, respectively.
The young rider has her sights set on USEF Junior Hunter National Championships on both coasts, aiming different horses at different venues. “I have another Large [Junior Hunter] – San Pedro 15 or “Parker” – that I will do on the East Coast, and Princeton will go on the West Coast,” Walkenbach said of her master plan with her competitive horses. So far the luck in Traverse City has fallen in her favor.
“This is my first time in Michigan and at this show,” Walkenbach continued. “We normally stay in California because we are from the West Coast, but I am super excited to be here. It’s beautiful everywhere you look.”
Walkenbach is a force to be reckoned with in all rings and has top goals as a junior rider, but above all, she aims for consistency. “I want to be consistent with all of my hunters, and try to start learning them a bit better and same with my equitation horses. And just have a fun summer!” she shared.
Hunter action concludes Sunday with the $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby and the awarding of the Platinum Performance Hunter Horse of the Week.