Gornall Equestrian – Noelle Floyd Article

Determination to Succeed

How Great Britain’s Jamie Gornall set his sights higher than most

By Erin Gilmore

 

Jamie Gornall

Jamie Gornall and Baloutelli

Shouldn’t every doctor know that uttering the words “you’ll never ride again” just doubles down on a person’s determination to return to the saddle?

When that verdict was handed down to Great Britain’s Jamie Gornall in 2010, as he sat staring at his freshly operated-on knee, he met the diagnosis as a challenge. Of course, he would ride again. There was no doubt in his mind.

Today, the 32-year-old rider can reflect on that time as a temporary setback that was worth it in the end. Gornall Equestrian is a remarkable display of equestrianism, from an immaculate yard to a string of stallions, one more stunning than the next, that fill the stalls.

Jamie and his wife Averil (Blundell) bought Home Farm, their base in Great Britain in the small village of Kirk Hammerton outside York at the end of 2012. They spent two years transforming it from a former diary farm to an elite base from which to build an international show jumping program.  Averil’s profession as an interior designer shows throughout the facility, no more so than in a masterful conversion of a former hay barn, now a stunning office space with two-story, glass walls.

Adding the Pieces

The facility is finished now, with just one more open space where a covered walker will be installed soon. With 17 grass paddocks, a grass jumping field, and an enormous, modern indoor, the property is a marvel at every turn. In form and function, Jamie and Averil thought of everything—in addition to being aesthetically beautiful, the barn is perfectly designed for ease of use.

It’s all part of a master plan that Gornall very purposefully put into place. As he completed the best facility, he recruited the best he could find in veterinarians, farriers, support staff, and so on. It’s a circular sort of puzzle, Gornall explains. To have the best horses, you need the best barn, and the best staff, who won’t come unless you have the best horses, which have to be looked after by the best vets and farriers, and so on. But, he insists, that’s the only way to make it to the top.

That determined state of mind comes with a level of intensity, but Gornall is relaxed as he walks down his barn aisle, conducting himself with an unflappably kind eye as he pauses by each and every horse.

“You’ve only got one chance at a first impression, and with that in mind we’ve set up our yard, horses, and program with all the fundamental parts needed to push forward to the next level,” Gornall says.

To do that, he’s invested in his program first, while building up his string at the CSI2* and 3* level. He’s at the reins of an impressive string of stallions: the 12-year-old Holsteiner Carsten (Cassini II x Quinar Z) was campaigned up to CSI5* level by Marco Kutscher until Gornall took over the reins at the end of 2016. Christian 25 (Cartani x Lord Liberty), memorable for his grey mottled face and his style over fences, is next in the string of Gornall’s top horses. Those coming through include 6-year-old Clintendro K, and 7-year-olds Count Codex and Clintadel. The fact that all of his top horses are stallions is no accident— by breeding from his competition horses alongside the sport, Gornall plans to raise the next generation of competitors from his string as well.

Fit and Sound

“It took a while to get going,” he downplays about the two years, from 2010-2012, that he spent out of the saddle.

He didn’t expect such a setback in his own career; after going in for what was supposed to be a routine surgery to correct a knee chip, he ended up on the sidelines for two years when debilitating chips were found it both knees. A double operation required a long and sometimes frustrating rehab period. But Jamie didn’t sit idle, working in finance in London during the period—“if I was going to be sitting at a desk, I might as well be doing something useful,” he quips—but all the while, he was counting the days until he could return to riding.

Prior to his injury, Gornall worked for Germany’s Janne Meyer and developed a close relationship with several European riders, including Germany’s Marco Kutscher.. The strong connections he made while living and riding in Germany paid off when he was ready to get back onto the circuit. Once he felt fit and sound, he was able to join Marco Kutscher’s team at Beerbaum’s LB Stables to train, and as soon as he arrived, he put himself under a self-imposed program to return to top shape as expediently as possible.

“I was straight into riding nine horses per day again, so purposely I had no TV, no laptop, nothing but a small room for the first two months. The only comforts I had was a gym membership and the stables,” Gornall says. “If I wasn’t riding, I was in the gym and vice versa, just to get fit again, lose a couple kilos, and become flexible. Now, I can ride nine to ten horses and go for a five kilometer run at night with zero problems from my knees.”

And now, Gornall’s doctors can reference a job well done, rather than a man who couldn’t ride again.

It was while he was completing his own rehab that Jamie and Averil began planning their yard, at “Home Farm.” They live on the property, which stretches back for acres from its modest entrance on a small village street in Kirk Hammerton.

Modern, oversize stalls are centrally located inside the main barn, which was completely renovated with its original walls intact and a sweeping ceiling through which plenty of natural light and air filters. An extra row of stalls beckons for the serious rider that wants to base there for part or all of the year.

When the couple pass photos around of the “before” state of the property when they began construction, the old dairy barn is unrecognizable. They oversaw every detail themselves, designing comforts for the horse into the crossties layout, a big center island in the oversize tackroom for easy organization, and space upon space for riding.

“We’ve come here to get all the fundamental parts set up, and now we push forward,” says Jamie. “Our goal is really to provide a service to people who have the same ambitions in the sport that we do. We’re trying to show the investment that we put into the sport, to encourage others to get involved.”

Jamie has high hopes that Team GBR consideration is in the near future. British show jumping is replete with the legends of the sport, and Gornall hopes to continue his upward climb until he can compete alongside them.

“We have a really good base [of riders] in England now and that’s why I decided to stay here, and not ride for anybody else,” Gornall says. “These days, you can really show your worth and knock on the door when you’re ready, and say ‘look, my horse is jumping well, I’ve got the results, so give me a chance’. I think I’m not far off given a few more good results.”