California Riding Magazine • July, 2012

Horse People: Jake Nodar
Have saddle, will travel.

by Kim F. Miller

Photo by Sherry Sheaffer

Horse trainer Jake Nodar chose an unusual mode of getting from Florida to California last year: he rode his bike, for 36 days, usually logging 100 miles daily and camping along the way. "I wanted to do a crazy adventure," explains Jake, who settled in the Los Angeles area in April of 2011. Some might say his approach to horse training is equally unusual in that he thrives on the diversity of working with horses of any breed and/or discipline.

Based in Maryland before moving west, Jake worked as a mobile trainer and plans to continue that out here. He's off to a good start with plenty of riding for Snowden Clarke's hunter/jumper training business at the Paddock in Los Angeles. Jake's growing clientele also includes dressage and western horses, young horses and those with specific challenges, like trailer loading.

Open minds are a common denominator among his clients. "The people I attract are usually open-minded riders that simply want to learn and improve," Jake says. Most have come his way after seeing him ride and appreciating the soft way of going he elicits from his horses.

Photo by Sherry Sheaffer

His belief that there's something to be learned from every discipline has served him well. He came to the sport while volunteering at an
equine rescue operation, where he was soon hired on as the farm manager. Hooked on horses from that point on, Jake was accepted into the John Lyons natural horsemanship certification program in
Colorado. There, he and his two horses spent a year mastering everything from roundpen basics to advanced under saddle work.

Jake returned to his native Maryland to work as a general horsemanship trainer for several years, then in 2003, sought to broaden his knowledge by spending a year with Olympic eventer Stephen Bradley in Virginia. The barn where Stephen was based was home to programs in various disciplines, and Jake's exposure to their methods influenced his own approach.

He has competed in eventing, dressage, hunters, jumpers, in-hand
breed shows, western pleasure and barrel racing. He was even a contestant on the Full Metal Jousting reality TV show, in which he reached the semi-finals earlier this year. "It was wild to go from riding
horses with whom my sole focus was getting them soft and pliable to galloping a plow horse in a straight line!" (It wasn't Jake's first brush with Hollywood. In 2009, his spontaneous application to the Discovery
Channel's Out Of The Wild: the Alaska Experiment was accepted and his performance generated considerable coverage and the
invitation to compete on the jousting show.)

Photo by Sherry Sheaffer

His passions of late, however, are less centered on the show ring. "I used to be really into competing, but what I love most now is seeing a horse advance through their training," he says. "I love seeing them progress and progress correctly."

Certified as a John Lyons trainer in 1999, Jake applies pressure and release-based principals with every horse he works with. "Whether I am working a horse in the roundpen or under saddle, it's the same mentality of making it so the horse can understand what I'm asking. The main purpose is to get them to understand the pressure on/pressure off and to see the work as a positive experience.

"So many people want to skip over these important foundation steps," he continues. "I think that's where the natural horsemanship techniques come in." Whether used on a young horse or a veteran, this foundation easily carries over into under saddle work and it's a system that any rider can pick up easily, Jake says. "The end result is a great, responsive horse."

"Jake's different background enables him to think a little bit out of the box," notes Snowden, who knows him from his Virginia days. "His natural horsemanship and problem solving skills are a real asset in our hunter/jumper program. Plus, he's a very personable guy. Our students and horses love him and we feel lucky to have him riding for us."

Jake doesn't have any crazy bike trips planned at the moment. Instead, he's finding plenty of satisfaction in building a clientele of similarly open-minded horse people who want more enjoyment from their riding, for themselves and for their horses.

For more information, visit www.jakenodar.com.