California Riding Magazine • November, 2012

Jan Pearce Training
Hunter/jumper training barn is dedicated to achieving excellence at all levels and at all ages.

by Esther Hahn

Jan Pearce and her show jumper, Ice Station.

There's a distinct difference between surviving a course and executing a round with style and ease. At Jan Pearce Training in the Bay Area's Woodside, whether it's 18-year-old Catherine Hannay in the 1.3M jumpers or 12-year-old Audrey Isackson in the Small Pony Hunters, students learn the foundation to ride well and in good form—for the benefit of both horse and rider.

Head trainer Jan Pearce holds over 30 years of experience in the equestrian industry and brings a wealth of knowledge to her barn. Stirrups are taken away (even for the amateur adults) and correct rein management is taught not only to achieve the pretty picture but, more importantly, to create the correct ride.

With hunters, jumpers and equitation specialists, the variety of show divisions at Jan Pearce Training builds a dynamic riding situation in which riders' abilities are constantly developing. The specialized attention that Pearce directs to each individual translates into tangible growth. And the smiles in the ring, at home and at shows, say it all: the feeling of a successful round is second to none.

A Dedicated and Experienced Professional

Jan found a career with horses at the age of 11. Down the road from her childhood home was the Will Rogers State Park where she worked as an exercise rider. As she developed her skills on the polo pitch, Jan learned to jump under the tutelage of the highly respected, international rider Egon Mertz. This mix of early riding experiences impressed upon her that a good seat, a light hand and a steady leg are universal requirements to excel in riding, no matter the discipline.

Tara Kariat on her pony, Amigo.

A move to Woodside in Northern California as an older junior rider introduced Jan to the horse show circuit. Mentored by trainer Tommy Lowe, she began to win in both the hunter and jumper arenas and was soon tapped to ride clients' horses as a professional.

In 1980, Willow Tree's Butch Thomas convinced Jan to work for him as groom and exercise rider on the international Grand Prix circuit. While there, Jan began developing her own string of show horses and had a very successful jumper campaign with her gray gelding Ice Station. After traveling throughout North America with Butch, Jan worked for international Grand Prix rider Gary Ryman. And following that, she learned how to handle young horses at Tom Bachman's Thoroughbred breeding facilities in Sebastopol. She returned to Willow Tree in 1985 to manage the riding school program and started her own training barn in 1992.

Individualized Training for Success

Jan adjusts the training program she developed to meet the needs of each individual team of horse and rider. Whether a rider wishes to show or not, the trainer's first and foremost goal is to equip the rider with a solid position. Success in the show ring follows naturally.

Sabina Kariat on her horse, Something Special.

When sisters Sabina and Tara Kariat joined Jan Pearce Training, Sabina was struggling in the .7M Jumpers and Tara was stagnating at the Walk-Trot level. After a few months of training with Jan, Sabina successfully swapped into the Hunter/Equitation classes and won reserve champion at the 2011 CPHA Horsemanship Medal Final, while Tara learned to jump. And now, Sabina is a force in the 3'-3'3" Hunters and medals, and Tara marches around the Short Stirrup division with ease. The girls attribute their success to learning the solid fundamentals that largely went ignored until Jan intervened.

This past summer, Jan earned the prestigious role of chef d'equipe for the 1M NorCal Prix des Nations team at Spruce Meadows. Only allowed a few days of preparation as a team, she focused on the unique strengths of the four horse and rider duos and coached the spirited team (aptly named "NorCal Teens and Queens") to an exhilarating, come-from-behind victory.

Jan Pearce and the winning Prix des Nations 1.00m NorCal "Teens and Queens" team at Spruce Meadows 2012

Success at home is as valued as success at shows. From bringing along a green pony to taking a lesson on the weekend as an escape from a demanding career, Jan tirelessly coaches a variety of clients with diverse goals and aims to extract the best possible riding each week, each lesson.

Growth is Constant

The Jan Pearce Training goal to continually improve is not only set for the riders and the horses but also for Jan and her training. She uses the gap between November medal finals and February season openers to host clinics by industry veterans such as Bernie Traurig and Paul Bennett. And for her own riding progression, she annually trains with George Morris. She also uses the off-season to focus on introducing new riders and horses into the program and pushing the existing rider-horse combinations to the next level.

Jan Pearce Training rider since the age of 5, Catherine Hannay, now 18, clears 5'6" on Carrettana. Photo © Damian Marhefka,

The future shines bright for Jan and her training barn. With a focus on the fundamental building blocks, her riders quickly advance and are equipped to explore and develop their own individual styles in partnership with their horses. She may certainly be a veteran on the scene, but her training approach remains fresh, innovative and anything but complacent. In her own words: "There's more to be done."

For more information, visit or call 650-851-0910.