Free Rein With: Larry Langer

Mar 14, 2011 - 4:52 PM
Larry and Marnye Langer.

Since founding Langer Equestrian Group in 1971, president and CEO Larry Langer has produced and managed multiple large-scale horse shows including the 1992 FEI World Cup Show Jumping Finals in Del Mar, Calif., and the 1996 Olympic Show Jumping events in Atlanta, Ga.

Langer started competing when he was 8. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Northrop University (Calif.) and a degree from California State University in business administration. He worked briefly as an engineer before deciding he wanted to be in the horse industry.

He bought 32 acres in Elkgrove, Calif., and started the Pacific Horse Center, where he oversaw 120 horses, competed, coached and taught college-accredited horsemastership classes. But after 10 years, Langer began to think about his future. “I knew if I was going to be in the horse care business, at 90 years old I’d be hobbling around on a cane feeding and taking care of 120 horses,” he said. “I decided at that point, I wanted to do the facet of horses that I really liked: event production and management.”

Today, Langer produces 34 shows in the western United States, including events at Woodside Horse Park (Calif.), Showpark Equestrian Center (Calif.) and the Colorado Horse Park.

A member of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, he currently serves on the Los Angeles Hunter Jumper and U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Boards of Directors and is a fomer member of the U.S. Equestrian Federation BOD.

“I always feel that if I can help the local sport, I will. My wife [Marnye] and I are both dedicated to helping the sport, and in the local area, that’s important,” he said.

Name: Larry Langer
Age: 69
Home Base: Burbank, Calif.

What part of your business do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy the work I do in governance, in helping the sport inspect itself and move forward. Ninety-nine percent of people in the horse world just want to ride their horses and take care of them and love them. But I find it fascinating to be involved in the rules that make the sport work.

How has the horse show world changed since you started Langer Equestrian Group?
Everything in our sport has gotten more expensive. A lot of trainers are struggling to keep their heads above water. But the grassroots of our sport has grown tremendously. I don’t know if that’s an escape from the high prices at the top, but I see so many grassroots horse show organizations that have formed. When I grew up, there was the American Horse Shows Association, and that was it.

In my estimation, the USHJA is probably the greatest thing that’s ever happened to the hunter/jumper sport. The old AHSA was basically a hunter/jumper association except that it tried to cater to 19 other breeds and disciplines and couldn’t do anything well. But when it spun off the USHJA, it could focus on those 19 breeds and disciplines. We’re just at the beginning [of the USHJA], but the results have been fantastic.

Are there any changes you’d like to see?
I’m very much a free market capitalist. I believe in a businessman’s right to innovate and do what he thinks is best. One thing about our sport is that there’s not enough experimentation. Because the rules are a little bit rigid, it’s not conducive to people thinking outside the box. I try to promote change, but innovation is difficult, and it’s not as free as I’d like it to be.

Can you tell me about the Trainer Incentive Program you started?
I bought some timeshares and offer incentives at my various horse shows. At most shows, there’s a trip to Hawaii for a trainer for a week. All through my career, I’ve seen these incentive prizes, but in I’ve never been able to see anything sustained. Just when a competitor becomes aware that there’s that prize out there, it ends. By buying the timeshares, it put me in the position to offer it every year. I’ve been doing it for about 10 years now.

What’s the best part of your job?
Conceptualizing on the big problems and trying to find solutions for them. I’m not bogged down in the day-to-day work because I have people who do that. I like the way I can stay in an overview or umbrella-type position.

What’s a typical day for you?
It changes, because I make myself available to every single person who works in my company. I give my advice to their particular tasks and problems. I have 34 competitions in four different locations, so I try to keep abreast of what’s going on.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment?
I was the competition manager at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. I remember walking into the ring during one of the competitions and looking around. There was a horse about to go on course, and there were 32,000 people in the grandstands. Seldom do we ever get to walk into a horse show and see 32,000 people! It was awesome, the most amazing feeling. We had 1,700 volunteers. The numbers were staggering. And seeing the best riders in the world was fabulous.

In my personal life, it was finding Marnye. We’ve been married for 10 years, but I’ve known her since I was 12. We both grew up, and we both divorced, and all of a sudden we looked at each other and went, “Oh my God!” It was kind of amazing.

Do you ever have time to watch any classes at your horse shows?
My wife competes two jumpers, and we have a young horse. I watch her ride and go to shows. We’re both USEF ‘R’ judges in hunter seat equitation, and I’m a steward. If I can judge anywhere from three to five shows in a year, I’m fine with that.

Where do you see yourself and the company in 10 years?
I’m always open for new challenges. We’ve recently started LEG Insurance Solutions, an equine insurance agency, as one of our divisions. It’s growing, and we’re all really excited about its success in the first year.

When was the last time you rode a horse?
I had a friend from New York come out about 10 years ago, and we went out on a trail ride together with Marnye and his wife.

What is your drink of choice?
Venti sugar-free vanilla latte.

What three things can be found in your refrigerator at all times?
Depends on if my wife went to the store last. Fresh oranges, milk for our morning latte, and strawberries when they’re in season.

What electronic device could you not live without?
My computer and my remote. I like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Castle,” “Criminal Minds” and “Bones.”

What was the last book you read?
Under The Dome
by Stephen King.

What is your favorite place to travel?
I find myself going back east a lot [to Wellington, Fla., and Lexington, Ky.] because of my involvement in governance. But I love to come back home to Southern California.

Do you have any hobbies?
Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism has had a big influence on my life. I read a lot of philosophy and non-fiction. I’m also very much into computers. I read a lot of computer magazines. I consider my governance work a hobby too. It’s not the end of the world or life or death, and one has to see the humor in that.

Mac or PC?
I’ve been a PC man from the beginning, but when Mac switched to the Intel chip, I bought a Mac. I have a Mac side of it and PC side of it. It can boot up as both.

Describe yourself in three words.
Rational, conceptual, long-range thinking.

What’s the most frequent item that appears on your credit card statement?
I have a curious hobby; I buy all of Marnye’s clothes. It’s kind of strange, but I buy most of them on the Internet. I know her tastes well, and I’ve kind of pushed her taste in various directions, but she’s very well dressed. I like finding tops and outfits that she likes. In the almost 11 years we’ve been married, she’s probably bought less than 10 pieces of clothing, and I’ve bought hundreds for her.

What word or phrase do you overuse the most?
“Concept” and “wider scope, longer timeline.”

What characteristic do you value most in a person?
Their rationality and ability to “get it.”

In a horse?
Their performance is paramount, and if they have a personality behind that performance, I’m really happy.

What is your biggest self-indulgence?
I can get really focused on my work, to the exclusion of everything else. I can be like a mad scientist. I get too linear and forget that there’s a world around me when I’m working on a project.

How many miles do you travel in a year?
I only live 2 miles away from my office. But I’m a premier member of United Airlines!

What was the last foreign country you visited?
I was a judge at a show in British Columbia, and I had an expired passport, so they wouldn’t let me on the plane. I had to fly to Seattle and take a bus across the border. It was funny that they let you go by road with an expired passport but not by plane!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. “Free Rein With: Larry Langer ran in the March 14, 2011 Horse Show issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.

Category: Interviews

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