November 2020 - Better Together
Written by by Brooke Goddard
Friday, 30 October 2020 02:20
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Show managers Marnye Langer and Steve Hankin team up to create a series of fun and affordable shows.

by Brooke Goddard

“How can we do shows that are affordable and different from other shows?” This was a question that Steve Hankin, President and CEO of Desert International Horse Park, posed to his business partners.

To answer his question, Steve teamed up with one of his peers with decades of experience in the equine business: Marnye Langer, the Managing Director of LEG Shows & Events. While Marnye and Steve have very different backgrounds, both feel strongly committed to their passion for horses, growing the base of the sport and creating fun, affordable horse show opportunities on the West Coast.

 


Marnye and Steve are collaborating and co-producing a series of shows in Thermal targeting riders who are competing up to 3’3’’ in the hunters and equitation and up to 1.20m in the jumpers, starting with the National Sunshine Preview that was set to take place Oct. 23-25. Their first show hosted all seven of the 2020 LA Hunter Jumper Association Medal Finals, which were initially scheduled to take place in Los Angeles and had to be moved due to COVID-19 restrictions from local government entities.

 

“It feels like a lot of the shows are the same thing over and over,” comments Kay Altheuser, LAHJA President. “It’s important to make it exciting and keep people interested in coming back. This year, COVID-19 has put a wrench in everything and I think it’s great that we are able to return to horse showing safely.  I love what Marnye and Steve are doing with their joint show. I like that there is also a reining competition at the same time as the National Sunshine Preview.”

“We came up with the objective of an affordable show at a fantastic facility, with professional staff top to bottom and over great jumps,” Marnye shares. “That idea led to us reconfiguring an existing show right before the National Sunshine Series followed by Coachella Valley Opener in January, and the Coachella Valley Classic in February. It will be a three-show mini-series. We want to invite people who can’t afford to do a couple weeks in the desert or who are not that focused on high-level competition.”

Photo: Cathrin Cammett

Unique Perspectives

In August of last year, Steve and his partners took the reins of the Desert International Horse Park. Since then, his team has transformed the facility while actively working to create a fun and distinctive horse show experience for all exhibitors coming to the desert.  DIHP brings a fresh take to show management and maintains their motto of “Horses First.”

Steve Hankin and Casper.

On the other hand, in 2021 the Langer Equestrian Group, founded by CEO and President Larry Langer, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of producing horse shows. In addition to producing A-rated shows, Marnye has worked passionately over the past several years to develop a series of local, USEF B and C-rated shows at Hansen Dam Horse Park and LA Equestrian Center that cater to the weekend rider.   

Marnye serves as the Managing Director of LEG Shows & Events, which produces hunter/jumper shows in California and Colorado. As the Langer Group’s CFO, she oversees all of the companies within the Langer Group, including LEGISequine.com, an equine insurance agency; LEG Consulting; and LEG Up News, a public relations company. She and Larry started the Hansen Dam Riding School, which gives over 300 lessons a month. It is based at the Hansen Dam Horse Park, which Larry manages and has brought back to thriving status as a boarding, show, clinic and special event facility.

Marnye and LEGIS Let’s Do Lunch

“I want people to have fun with horses. I don’t care if you are riding English or Western, hunter/jumper or dressage,” Marnye expresses. “I want people to have fun and be safe. While it’s great for an entry level person to go to a big show and watch grand prix riders like Mandy Porter, it’s also good to have some shows focused on them, riders jumping up to 3’3’’ or 1.20m. It’s important for them to not always be stuck out in Hunter Ring 7 but for them to be the focus of attention.”

“It feels like lower level riders are often overlooked because a show is so huge, and people are paying attention to the bigger classes,” Kay notes. “Eventually, it becomes mundane and they don’t want to come if there’s not something special to do.”

Although Marnye now competes in the Amateur-Owner Jumpers, she comes from a grassroots background as the daughter of a local level professional. “People are always talking about grassroots. I like to joke that I was the earthworm looking up at the grassroots. When I was younger, I got to go to a USEF show maybe two or three times a year and it was a big deal.”

Sophia Segesman trained by Georgy Maskrey Segesman at ETCetera at Hansen Dam Horse Park. Photo: Equine Clicks/Liz Corkett

Relating to Exhibitors

“I always knew that I wanted to work in the horse industry and years ago there weren’t many options,” Marnye explains. “You could be a trainer, a vet, or a tack store owner. Seeing my mom’s experience as trainer, I saw firsthand how challenging it was. I thought that I wanted to be a vet and went to UC Davis with the intent of studying science. I realized that wasn’t my passion and after graduating I worked in the fair industry. I stayed involved in the horses and had to work to support my own riding. I was a braider, a show secretary, and started writing for California Horsetrader. I became one of the founding members of the Sacramento Area Hunter Jumper Association (SAJHA) and eventually got involved with the governance of the sport.”

Steve is passionate about providing great experiences for riders of all levels and he hopes to learn from Marnye’s involvement at the local level. “We’re working closely with the team from the Langer Equestrian Group because of their experience in the sport and also their expertise with producing this type of show,” Steve says. “We believe that we need to help build the base of the sport. Marnye and I are both learning that each of us has a strong point of view about creating more fun horse shows and we are excited to work together.”

 “As horse show managers, Marnye and I have many discussions about the sport and where it’s headed,” he adds. “It’s not often that you see horse show managers working together. “

Steve comes from a corporate background, but first and foremost is someone who loves horses and loves riding. Steve’s wife, Lisa, also rides and competes on the hunter/jumper circuit. They are “horse people” who, like the Langers, understand the perspective of the competitor. “DIHP’s primary focus is the major circuits and they are not the entry point for the sport,” Steve explains. “However, DIHP is a place where many new riders come for this first experience. The first show I rode in was here at DIHP, as an exhibitor.”

Marnye also speaks from the exhibitor’s perspective: “I’m sensitive to the fact that shows are expensive because I show. It’s not inconsequential. However, the horse show bill represents about a third of your horse showing cost for the week. When we talk about lowering the cost, we need to talk about the whole picture from barn set-up fees to hotels, shipping, and even meals on the road. That’s the conversation we need to have when discussing showing costs.”

Elvenstar riders with trainers Kay Altheuser, Rachel Mahowald, and Becky Abeita. Photo: Kristin Lee Photography

Forward Thinking

Julie Conner-Daniels runs Eclipse Farms in Newhall, Calif. and has entry-level clients in training who are looking to get a taste of horse showing at an affordable price. “I bring my clients to LEG shows because Marnye is always trying to improve, her arenas have good footing, and she makes sure there are quality courses. Marnye is not standing still. She is always trying to go forward and trying to come up with new ideas and new ways to get people excited about the sport.”

“I feel like she is a huge supporter of the whole horse industry,” Julie says.  “Marnye takes it seriously and she does a great job. You have to be striving all the time in this industry. It’s an ever-moving target.”

Georgy Maskrey-Segesman is a professional who operates Whitethorne LLC in Somis, Calif. She trains top level hunter, jumper and equitation riders and sells horses suitable for all levels of the sport. Georgy is passionate about promoting growth within the sport and she feels optimistic about the LEG-DIHP partnership. “It really gives me hope for the sport that people are willing to work together. I feel personally that not enough people embrace that. It’s always competitive and people are stepping on one another. I believe in banding together to lift one another up. We are stronger in numbers than individually. This really makes me excited about what we could do.”

Before heading to Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina, Georgy asked Marnye if she could rent out the HDHP Grand Prix Arena to school some of her horses before making the trip. “I think it’s great that Marnye is willing to be creative and I appreciate it.”  

Marnye also looks forward to horse shows returning to Los Angeles. “We have used this downtime to prepare Hansen Dam Horse Park to be able to host major five-day shows along with smaller, local-focused shows. It is a fabulous boutique location for quality shows to fun one-day schooling events and everything in between,” she comments.

Photo: Cathrin Cammett

“Whether it’s show managers or trainers and people across the board, everybody needs to support one another,” Georgy shares. “Of course, we all need to make the bottom line work. Steve is interested in engaging in a conversation about how we can make the sport better and Marnye is making a huge effort to do something different and needed.”

Kay Altheuser echoed Georgy’s sentiments. Kay represents numerous perspectives as she wears many hats: the Director of Equestrian Programs at Elvenstar, the President of the LA Hunter Jumper Association (LAHJA), a USEF “R” licensed official, and a member of the USHJA Zone 10 Committee. “I think it is a great idea that Marnye and Steve have teamed up because both of those minds have some amazing thoughts to put together. Many times, you see managers disagree with each other or see each other as competition. Maybe if they started working together more, we could create better shows and improve the sport. Putting good ideas together is a good thing.”

 “If you work to make your industry better and stronger, your own business will benefit,” Marnye concludes. “Larry has taught me to think big picture, looking at the long-range plan and trying to do things that are generally good for the industry. At the end of the day, when you work together you will be better than you could have been on your own. I like it when one plus one equals three.”

For more information on the shows resulting from this partnership, visit www.langershows.com or www.deserthorsepark.com.