Horse trainer Jake Nodar will be participating in one of the oldest horse sports as a contestant on History's Full Metal Jousting, which will premiere on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 10 p.m. Along with fifteen other competitors, Jake Nodar will don 80 pounds of steel armor, mount a jousting horse and pick up a 11-foot-long, solid fir lance to compete in full-contact jousting for a chance to win $100,000. The EquiSearch staff had a chance to ask Jake a few questions about his Full Metal Jousting experience.
EquiSearch: How did you get into horses?
Jake Nodar: I began my career at the age of 17. I started as a volunteer for Days End Farm Horse Rescue, and within a few weeks, they hired me as farm manager. From there I pursued the training aspect and headed out to Colorado with two horses to go through the John Lyons training program. After graduating, I started up my business and have been training full time ever since.
ES: How did you prepare for the show?
JN: I wasn't really sure how to "prepare" for jousting. I guess you could go out in the street and let a Fiat hit you at 25 miles an hour. In addition to the horses I was working daily, I started hiking 7 miles a day 5 days a week as well as lifting at the gym. I'm built like a noodle, so I needed to increase my strength.
ES: Tell us about the horses used for the program. Were they already trained jousting horses? What breeds were they?
JN: All the horses were draft or draft crosses. All had several months of training for full contact jousting prior to the start of the show, some had a bit more. They were great horses that came from all over, and some of them were actually rescues, which given my background, I was really happy about.
ES: We couldn't recognize the saddle used in the bio videos. What sort of specialized tack did you use?
JN: We used an Australian stock saddle. It allowed for a long leg and the pommel gave a little extra added protection to the "important parts" of the competitors.
ES: What kind of training did you undergo as part of the show?
JN: Prior to making the show, we had to go through a week-long boot camp to ensure we could hold up to the demands of the sport. We started with basic under saddle exercises and then the lance was added in, then the 85 pounds of armor. I've gone through some tough training programs, but I can safely say, this one takes the cake. Once on the show we did all sorts of training exercises from experiencing our first hit, to regaining balance after a hit, to proper lance control.
ES: How did you get used to holding the lance?
JN: Holding a lance completely changes your balance. We did exercises where we would cradle the lance and ride tight serpentine patterns, as well as "lance push ups." Basically we would do repetitions of lowering the lance slowly, then bringing it back up over, and over, and over again to build the strength in the right arm.
ES: Can you tell us about the armor? How hard was it to get used to riding in armor?
JN: Riding in the armor was a huge challenge. I knew it was going to be heavy; I prepared myself for that. I didn't think, however, about just how much my vision would be limited, and your helmet is basically locked in place, so looking side to side doesn't really happen.
ES: What gives a jouster an advantage? Size? Riding skill? Accuracy?
JN: I think you need a combination of all of the above. Size definitely helps, but you can knock someone off their horse every pass, but if you aren't hitting the grand guard (target), you won't receive any points, so you need accuracy, and having a good seat can make all the difference between taking a hit and being catapulted off your mount.
ES: It looks like there's quite a variety of horsemen participating in the show. How was it competing against such a diverse group of guys?
JN: It was a great mix of horsemen. About half of the group came from theatrical jousting backgrounds, and the other half was all types, everything from a world champ steer wrestler to a grand prix show jumper.
ES: How did your experience with horses help you throughout the competition?
JN: My past experience with horses helped greatly for jousting. I'm used to getting on new and different horses on a daily basis, so I'm very comfortable getting on new horses and figuring out how they ride. The partnership is so important between horse and jouster. If you have their trust, you can focus on everything else that you need to when galloping down the joust list.
ES: Be honest: How much does it hurt to get hit with the lance? To fall off in your armor?
JN: I'm not going to lie, the hits hurt… they hurt really bad. The hits can also vary, depending on the angle the lance hits you, where it hits you, speed, etc. As far as falling with armor, who said I fell? You'll have to tune in to find that out.
ES: What was the biggest challenge for you when learning to joust?
JN: My biggest challenge was lance control. My arms are like noodles. Most of the guys' biceps seemed to be the size of my thighs, so I had to work very hard on that so I could be on target.
ES: What are some jousting essentials that people should know before watching the show?
JN: Jousting is amazing! It's very easy to follow and is such a great spectator sport. It's a beautiful combination of chaos and finesse. The rules are simple. There are up to eight passes. You must hit the grand guard for points: 1 point for a touch, 5 points for a broken lance, and 10 points for an unhorsing. Those are my favorite. It's going to be a great show. Get ready to see something like you've never seen before!