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Fixer Uppers a
Specialty for the
By Laura Danowski
Getting qualifed for Indoors is no easy feat. Given
a choice, many riders seek to conjure ideal, seamless
criteria to achieve the goal. And then there are horsemen
like the Gurneys whose talent to blend the unlikely and
overcome the adverse, has proven successful over three
generations that harkens to the $80 horse known as
Thanks to hostile weather in upstate New York, an
abbreviated show season didn’t keep the mother and
daughter duo from qualifying for Harrisburg or taking home
champion and reserve tri-colors from The Zone 2 Finals in
the Low A/O and Children’s Hunters, respectively.
Jennifer Gurney grew up hunting and showing and
carried her competitive nature through college. A few years
after graduating from Penn State began a 15 year break
from showing. She worked in the Thoroughbred race
industry, starting as a hot walker, becoming an exercise
rider and eventually Mike Hushion’s assistant. “I never
considered a career in the racing industry. I always saw
myself as a Carol Brady type, with children in tow around
a farm. Now, a self dubbed midwife for horses, Jen makes
her living breeding and raising Thoroughbreds on their
farm, Avandelle, in Cazenovia. Her job description also
includes rehabilitating slower horses or ones coming back
from physical repair for second careers. “I like solving
puzzles and I’m a big believer in fxer uppers,” Jennifer said.
She described one advantage of the snow season as: “There’s
nothing better for a bad ankle or tendon than standing in the
snow, nothing fancy – just good old fashioned Mother Nature at
her best.”
One particular repair project epitomizes her theory. “I
purchased my adult hunter Wahoo from my dad for the price
of the horse’s surgery – he told me I was out of my mind,” she
laughed. Her father Ernie Dahlman has always made his living
in the racing industry, frst with harness horses and now with
Thoroughbreds. From 2006-2009 Wahoo went from being a
lawn ornament to the top of the jog more often than not.
Rehabbing a Family Affair
Jennifer’s husband Cameron manages Cornell’s Large Animal
Hospital and he brings horses to their farm for post surgical care
and rehabilitation. She makes a point of taking on a project
horse from the track or the hospital each year.
Her current mount Fred, known to the show jumping world as
The Other Brother is another successful rehabilitation. Under
Jennifer’s program, the 15 year-old Hanoverian overcame a brow
raising physical history. Jennifer said, “His injuries stemmed
from a horse just being a horse. I worked with what was given
and never ask him for more than he’s capable.” Thankfully Fred
needs only a few rides a week which does not include the trails,
it’s not his thing.
In the winter Jennifer pulls his shoes and Fred mentors the
weanlings who associate his full fgure with their mother’s.
Jennifer’s approach has awarded the duo with winning the 2009
NAL Adult Hunter Final and the 2011 Handy Hunter at Devon.
This year they led Zone 2 in points and their next trip will be to
Kentucky Horse Park in November for year end competition.
Ava and Sarafna
Jennifer’s daughter Ava debuted at the 2011 Zone 2 Finals
Jennifer Gurney and The Other Brother
Photo by Al Cook
Ava Gurney on Sarafna
Photo by Trey Talbott /