BY TYLER BUI
Transforming Jaz Creek, Northern California’s newest horse facility, was an ambitious endeavor to reshape the family horse property into a world class training and boarding facility. For years, the property had been home to a handful of the family’s horses, a small hunter/jumper breeding program and a select group of boarders. There had been frequent talk of further developing the facilities, but when Jeanette Gilbert-Gnaizda and her husband, Josh Gnaizda, purchased the property from her parents last year, there was finally an opportunity to make that expansion a reality.
Since taking over last year, the 15 acre property has been totally redeveloped. The existing 16 stall custom barn, designed by Jeanette and her mom in 2005, still stands, but is now joined by 24 additional stalls, offices, and multiple tack and feed rooms – all part of a new best-in-class, 30,000 square foot covered arena complex. While the renovations were done relatively quickly, it was a thoughtful process that had been in the works for over a decade.
When the new facility began construction, the couple set their sights on building an all-weather outdoor arena to complement the new covered ring, and they brought in Olympia Footing to handle their demands for both exceptional drainage and impeccable footing. The outdoor riding space was quickly put to the test. Within a couple weeks of its completion, Northern California received a record 13 inches of rain in just a few days. When the downpour finally ended, the arena was rideable within hours.
Given the property’s new facilities and amenities, it’s no surprise that trainers were eagerly awaiting the grand opening in May. Jaz Creek is now home to not only Gilbert-Gnaizda’s personal horses but also Landmark Equestrian, owned by Ali Telatnik; and Rohan Dressage, owned by Jordan Rohanna. Former Olympic show jumper Buddy Brown also lives on the farm and serves as its onsite consultant and mentor.
“Ali (Landmark Equestrian) and I, we work with each other. Our relationship is synergistic,” says Gilbert-Gnaizda. “Everything’s woven together. She has her clients, she’s an incredible teacher, and she’s worked really hard to build this business. I’m just happy to be able to support her, help her business grow, and continue to work together side by side. My goal is to support Ali’s business and watch Jaz Creek turn into the best place it can be.”
The facility has plenty of new residents but strives to maintain a nurturing, intimate atmosphere. “This facility is pretty unique for the area in that it has 40 stalls but still has a really private feel,” says Gilbert-Gnaizda. “We try to keep everything really well managed and not have that big public boarding facility feel.
Gilbert-Gnaizda keeps a small string of young horses that she trains herself. While she never imagined herself having her own business, with Jaz Creek, she has the best of worlds as it is also home to other professionals.
“To me, the horses always come first,” says Gilbert-Gnaizda, “Everything about the facility was designed so that the horses would be happy. We have something for everyone—from how we laid out the barn to having enough turnout for every horse to be out at the same time.”
Ali Telatnik, the owner of Landmark Equestrian, established her business in 2017 after years of working in the industry under other operations. She has been surrounded by horses her entire life, with her grandparents being involved in the racing industry. She made the move to California upon turning professional in 2009 and has based her business out of the northern part of the state ever since.
“At Landmark Equestrian, I have a mix of amateur and junior clients—we’re looking to add a few more to our program, but I want to make sure that I can personally see and handle the horses,” says Telatnik. “I would like to focus on bringing in clients who want to learn how to really ride instead of just show. I love to see students grow. I want my riders to be educated beyond just getting on in the show ring and riding.”
Telatnik says that Jaz Creek is the perfect facility for her business, as it offers amenities that allow the horses to be as comfortable as possible. In addition to two large arenas, one fully covered and lit and one outdoor, Telatnik has a few favorite features that stand out.
“The turnouts are number one, but we also have a lovely, huge EuroXciser,” she says. “The footing is beautiful, the stalls are secure, and the horses can all put their heads out. It’s everything you could want at your fingertips.”
Telatnik developed her relationship with Gilbert-Gnaizda through Buddy Brown, after developing a relationship with him when in search of a coach and mentor.
“You always keep learning, and the minute you think you’re done learning is [when you make] your first mistake,” says Telatnik. “I really wanted to up my game and my riding and knew that I needed some coaching so I reached out to Buddy. He started coming out and teaching a few clinics once every couple of months, and then he started joining me at shows, which is how Jeanette fits into the picture. She started stabling with us at horse shows and it was an instant friendship. Buddy is a wonderful instructor, but our relationship has developed beyond just being a clinician. He’s really a part of the team.”
Telatnik and Gilbert-Gnaizda want to keep the number of clients fairly small to be able to concentrate on the coaching and individual handling of each horse.
“Jeanette and I are both really trying to make a top-notch boutique barn between our involvement together and Buddy and his coaching,” she adds. “We’re hoping to get a really good solid group of conscientious horse owners that want to learn and ride but also do it at a high level.”
Buddy Brown has been Gilbert-Gnaizda’s mentor for the past decade and is the horseman who helped her to understand horses and the sport on a deeper level. She met Brown after approaching him for help with a young horse she was bringing up. Gilbert-Gnaizda ended up getting the opportunity to ride with him more often, and their relationship continued to grow. Four years ago, Brown came to Jaz Creek to live onsite.
“I met Buddy when I had come back to riding and had a young horse that I was showing. I had seen Buddy teaching at shows for a couple of years and approached him at some point and ended up getting the opportunity to ride with him quite a bit. He was based out of a barn fairly close by, and [our relationship] grew over the years. Every time I’m on a horse at home, if he’s home, he’s down and watching, helping and teaching,” says Gilbert-Gnaizda.
A former Olympian, Pan-American Games individual silver- and two-time team gold medalist, and WEG team bronze medalist, Buddy Brown brings an abundance of experience, knowledge, and wisdom to Jaz Creek.
Today, Brown can use his experience as a rider, clinician, course designer, and trainer to work with Gilbert-Gnaizda and Telatnik as well as boarders and clients at Jaz Creek. For Brown, the fundamentals of both riding and horsemanship are essential tenets of his training.
“As far as horsemanship, you should know your horse. You should recognize when he’s got swelling [or something] that’s not normal,” says Brown. “As far as a rider, the biggest fundamental is to practice turning. I build a lot of my flat work around transitions and turns. We incorporate a lot of connecting the dots with the horse’s understanding and you being able to tell them ahead of time.”
Brown says that the biggest thing he learned from his time on the U.S. Show Jumping Team was understanding the importance of communication with your horse and knowing how to put all the pieces together.
“Bert de Nemethy was our coach—and we were coached as a team. We trained as a team, and I got invaluable information on how to connect with the horse,” says Brown. “Bert was a fanatic about flatwork, gymnastics, and understanding balance in space, which I incorporated into my riding career and is what I try to communicate in these modern days.
With the likes of Brown and Telatnik on site, Jaz Creek has set out to do more than just create a premier facility for Northern California. From the training and instruction down to the details of grooming and property management, the operation has set its standards to world class.