Marnye Langer: A Lifelong Obsession Part II

LEGIS Air. Photo © Captured Moments Photography

by Ann Jamieson

The Tevis Cup

Marnye has participated in many of the different functions of The Tevis Cup, gaining perspective for her journalism work. “One time I crewed for a top rider. Another time I tagged along with vets. One year I partnered up with the Ride Director and saw many aspects of the ride.” She jokes that she has done everything except compete!

Taking place in the hills she grew up in, it was a natural fit. “My mom would help with logistics when the Ride came to town. We’d get up at 4 a.m. and watch the horses go off; we’d watch and cheer for the riders as they went by and just kind of identified with it.”

She began doing freelance journalism in her 20’s, primarily writing for The Chronicle of the Horse. The editor at the time, John Strassburger, asked her what she knew about endurance riding. Marnye’s response? 

“You ride a horse for a long time.”

But John was serious. “It’s now an FEI event and the Chronicle wants to cover it. Do you want to cover it?”

Marnye answered, “I’m a hunter/jumper person and we don’t do things like that.” Her attitude changed instantly when he mentioned it was The Tevis Cup. 

“Oh that’s an amazing event and I now live only 20 miles from the finish line…so yes I’ll cover it!”

She completed the article, which was published in print (this was before everything was online). One day Marnye was at her fair job when someone told her there was a call for her. “It’s John Strassberger,” they reported. 

She was shocked! “OMG he’s like God, what is he doing calling me, a podunk little freelancer living in Northern California? I take the call, and he says, ‘Well you know, you must be really happy.'” Marnye couldn’t figure out what he was talking about.

He enlightened her. “You won the National Journalism Award.”  

Stunned, she replied. “There’s a national journalism award, what are you talking about?” 

He said, “You didn’t know about the National Equestrian Journalism Award?”

“No,” she answered. 

He replied, “Well it’s been a long time since the Chronicle won one. There are two main categories, Best News Article and Best Feature Article. 

Marnye, still not understanding, asked, “Which one did you guys win?” 

“Best News Article,” John answered.

“Wow that’s great,” replied Marnye, “and it’s so nice of you to just call and give me that news!”

That wasn’t why he had called. 

“It was your article that won,” he informed her.

“I was stunned!” says Marnye.

Steve Price was a well-known editor and writer for Lyons Press at the time. Marnye knew him through Larry, as they had both ridden at the same barn. Steve emailed her. “I think it was an Olympic year, 1992, and that year John Strassberger had complained to me that my Tevis Cup article was as long as his Olympic article, which covered all three disciplines.”

John told her “You can’t write articles that long.”

Marnye replied, “That is the story, you can’t cut it.”

He didn’t.

Steve said “I read your Tevis Cup article and normally I don’t read about endurance but because it was you I started reading it. I was just going to read a little bit and then all of a sudden I realized I read the whole thing.”

This led to infrequent conversations over the next few months with Steve telling Marnye she should write a book. Marnye didn’t take it seriously. Then she got a surprise in her mail. It was a book contract, from Steve Price. Marnye didn’t know where it came from and wondered what it was for. Steve said “It’s for your Tevis Cup book.”

“What Tevis Cup book?” asked Marnye. “I can’t write a book.”

“Why not?” he replied. 

“It was amazing,” says Marnye, “I mean a book contract does not just come out of nowhere!” But, she adds, “I have to say at the time it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.” She’d figured, “How hard can it be? It’s basically 20 articles.” 

At one point she quit. But it didn’t last.

When it came out, the reception for the book was tremendous. “Steve was just amazing. It was great; the American Endurance Riding Conference had me at their annual conference. I was kind of like this little celebrity in the endurance world, it was really cool. It went to paperback as well. It was a really special experience.”

Marnye has since won four additional national journalism awards and built LEG (Langer Equestrian Group) Up Media (Equestrian Public Relations Marketing) into one of the top publicity and news providers in the equestrian market.

Langer Equestrian Group

Together Larry and Marnye manage the Langer Equestrian Group and the businesses falling under that umbrella. From events services such as running horse shows to LEGIS covering insurance needs, to LEG Up Media, to Langer Consulting which offers analysis and consulting on a wide range of equestrian businesses, the two provide a tremendous range of services to the horse world.

When the Langers added Hansen Dam Horse Park, their newest acquisition, to their portfolio, Marnye’s horse was living there, and “it was a mess. We were putting on some small shows and I thought maybe if the right opportunity came along we could consider owning it. Larry was very busy in governance but was looking for something to stay in as he phased that out. 

“The opportunity to buy it came in 2017 and it was somewhere Larry could take his lifetime experience of events and facilities and all of that for his ‘final chapter.’ He was so immersed in the horse industry he really didn’t have outside interests or hobbies or traveling. So we took that on and we’re about five years into it and he’s made the place beautiful and there are professional horsemen there from several disciplines, hunter jumper, western, our riding school, dressage. We have about 200 horses there and do horse shows and it’s gratifying.”

The State of the Horse Show Industry

While Marnye and Larry have run as many as 38 horse shows in a year under their Langer Equestrian Group event services, the industry, obviously, is undergoing a major transformation. “There are changes in facilities, USEF is making all kinds of changes, the horse show industry, in general, is really undergoing a lot of change. I don’t know where it’s going and I don’t know exactly where the Langer Group’s LEG Shows and Events will fit in. I don’t know what it’s going to look like in five years. Part of it makes me sad, part of me likes to embrace change and the need for change and the value of it.”

What makes Marnye sad is the fact that the changes “have been sort of manufactured.”

She explains, “The USEF coming and nationalizing the sport (that’s how I see it) in California, they took all our licenses away at the stroke of a pen. We always understood that unless we did something really wrong our licenses would be renewed. That’s why we invest in facilities, invest in ideas, try things, and we’ve just had the rug pulled out from under our feet. The really big desert circuit is going to be fine and get more shows, but the rest of us who put on one week shows or maybe don’t have control of a facility…or even if we do…how do you invest, how do you plan, what’s your incentive for your three, five and ten-year plans? So that’s pretty hard.  

“The expectation of a nice horse show has gotten so high and the chasm between the average person who has an “average show horse” (who is wealthy, because let’s face it, someone who has a horse and can show is wealthy), and the uber wealthy is huge, and I don’t know what the future is. It’s a little scary. 

“We have a riding school as one of our businesses (Hansen Dam Riding School) which has a waiting list and they’re giving about 350 lessons a month. People can afford to do a recreational sport at a fairly serious level assuming they’re riding three or so times a week. 

“Then they see a show going on, with classes at their level and they want to show. But the school has to take a lesson horse out of the program for the weekend, and they have to charge a coaching fee and dedicate staff to go to the horse show and the rider has to buy show clothes and pay entries and everything else and what do you tell these people? Where does it go?

“So for a lot of those reasons I’m worried about our horse shows. We’re always going to have the amazing shows, the Tryons and Kentucky Horse Shows and Desert Circuit and the Wellingtons but what about the rest of the people? Do we care? And does our industry care? Are there enough uber wealthy people that can feed that, and then the rest of us take whatever scraps exist?”

Marnye speaks from a wealth of experience in all areas of horse showing. In addition to running horse shows, she is a big “R” judge in Hunters, Jumpers, and Equitation, the Treasurer for the LAHJA, serves on two USHJA committees and is President of Riding For Reading (legal name – Pacific Equestrians). 

How They Do It

With so much on their plate, it seems an impossible goal for the Langers to manage everything under the LEG umbrella. Marnye explains how it’s done. 

“As much as I love events, I love building teams of people even more. I have discovered that identifying people with interests and skills and bringing them together and giving them the tools and framework, and then as they gain the skills and experience getting out of their way and letting them go forth and do their thing, is incredibly gratifying.

“I like to find young people who want to be in the horse industry and don’t know all the various options. With the insurance agency, LEG Up Media, and LEG Shows & Events, I can provide a variety of opportunities and pathways.” 

Their students are motivated and excited and the Langers ensure that they have the knowledge, skills, training, resources, and support that they need. 

“There’s opportunity and they run with it and they do an amazing job and I’m proud of them,” says Marnye. “I have my riding school, we’ve got a groom and a Director and instructors who’ve come up through the school and are now teaching. My job is to give the Director the tools, help with the business acumen, be a sounding board for her, cheer for her when she needs cheering, be a little hands-on when she needs the rebalancing, and then…get out of the way. 

“I see my role as the pilot at 30,000 feet and see what’s coming ahead whether it’s the weather or problems and then having a few key people who fly at 10,000 feet and then the rest of the crew in their little Cesnas at a few hundred feet. It’s bigger and bigger concentric circles but we’re all moving in the same direction. And I love to promote from within even if it means moving them from one entity to another if there’s opportunity and there’s a fit. 

“That’s how I do it. I have great teams and we communicate.”

Sarah Rojoy, who works for her, is a perfect example of how Marnye trains the staff. Sarah ran the scoreboard company for a while but then went off to pursue other things. Marnye’s reaction? 

“Great, I don’t have to fire you.”

“Later, we were getting ready to start the insurance agency and thinking about some staff and Larry got a call from Sarah in northern Canada and she said ‘You know I’ve done a lot of soul searching, and growing up and I’ve decided I really want to be in the horse industry and do you guys know of anything?'”

Larry talked to Marnye and they answered, “Well as a matter of fact…” Sarah returned, and she and Marnye started LEGISequine together which has grown “to be a pretty big thing.” Marnye is the Managing Director of LEG Insurance Solutions. Their tag line, “Horsemen Insuring Horsemen,” says it all. One of the fastest growing equine-centered insurance agencies, Marnye explains their growth. “As horsemen we speak the language.”                                                                                                                         

It’s more than just the horses. They work with riders, trainers, owners, and horse show managers to find the best insurance solutions for their needs. Marnye couldn’t be more qualified for her position. As well as an MBA, she is a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and Agribusiness and Farm Insurance Specialist, a title very few equine-focused agents have earned.

Sarah is “now my operations manager and she’s going to open our East Coast office in Aiken, S.C., and they just moved to Aiken to the new farm I bought.”

Marnye put Sarah on track to be the COO of the Langer Group. “I’m a fan of training somebody into a position and then giving them the title. It’s unfair to give someone a title they haven’t earned. That’s fraught with peril.

“I wouldn’t want to do any of this without her. Sarah’s just a wonderful right-hand woman and we get along great and we’re super fond of each other and I trust her and she’s willing to challenge me. Sometimes I gnash my teeth when she tells me something I do not want to hear, but I listen to her. We all need somebody, especially when you’re about to gallop off the cliff.”

Marnye with Jethro

Cats

Marnye is well known for her affection for cats.

“I love animals; I just love them. I have a cat in the office; I have a couple at home. If you go the office and can’t have a soft horse nose to pet, you can have a fuzzy kitty and fuzz therapy. Our office cat (Sebastian) knows whenever someone is stressed and he just shows up at their office and gives them some fuzz therapy. It’s so amazing but it’s really true.” All of Marnye’s cats are rescues. Marnye stresses that she is not just a cat person; she likes dogs as well!

It’s All About Horses

“I want to have fun, I want people to be nice. I want to share the joy and fulfillment that horses bring, whether you’re standing there watching them, or getting to compete, it’s just such an honor and I’m so grateful that somehow or another I’ve always managed to have horses woven through my life. And they have opened amazing doors for me. Without horses, I wouldn’t have had any of these experiences.” 

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