January 2018 - A Horseman at the Helm

New year brings a new owner and approach to the newly christened Hansen Dam Horse Park.

by Kim F. Miller • photos by Philip D. Klipa Photography • produced by Alicia Anthony & Julie Conner-Daniels

Hansen Dam Horse Park has many obvious attributes. Thirty-eight acres, ample stabling and arenas and access to the sprawling Hansen Dam Recreation Area are a few of those. Between thriving training businesses, an active Riding School and a full calendar of equestrian competition and special events, there’s always something going on yet it never feels busy or crowded. A sense of peace and space distinguishes the San Fernando Valley facility that is bordered by the San Gabriel and Verdugo mountains.


There’s a less obvious attribute in that the facility has a new horseman at the helm: Larry Langer. With his wife Marnye, the well-known equestrian and sport advocate purchased a controlling interest in Hansen Dam this past September and his imprint is already evident. Not in a big, showy way, but in small improvements: more “real bathrooms,” smiles events director Vernell Carranza, while giving a tour. Gradual stall re-dos to create 12’ by 16’ and 12’ by 24’ stabling options, more pockets of grass and picnic tables and elevated judging stands are among the incremental upgrades making a big impact. “We are putting money into it, in subtle ways, and people are starting to notice,” Larry smiles from his office overlooking one of the trainer arenas in the upper portion of the property.

Sandrine Siefert is one of those to notice. “We are thrilled to have Larry in charge,” enthuses the hunter/jumper trainer whose D&D Stables has been located at Hansen Dam for many years. “They have already made tons of improvements and having people in the office who are horse people and care about the things we care about is a great resource.” Confidence in management will support continued growth for her business, and that of her fellow professionals, Sandrine predicts. As the new coach of the UCLA Equestrian Team, she is thrilled about the impression the venue makes on those visiting for Intercollegiate Horse Show Association activity.

Larry wears many hats in the equestrian industry and brings 50-plus years of hands-on experience, perspective and wisdom to operating the facility. Managing shows under the Langer Equestrian Group banner takes the most space on his extensive resume. In their heyday at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, LEG competitions including the Los Angeles National and the Memorial Day Classic drew 750 horses that kept seven rings humming from morning to night.

His legacy is highlighted by serving as show jumping competition manager for the 1992 World Cup Finals in Del Mar and the 1996 Atlantic Olympics. It’s alive and well in the 30 hunter/jumper shows at four venues that continue under the Langer Equestrian Group. Economies of scale don’t significantly apply to hosting shows at Hansen Dam, LAEC, the Woodside Horse Park in Northern California and the Colorado Horse Park, but economies of expertise do. “Everybody just knows what they are doing,” Larry says of the well-oiled machine that is the LEG team. “We are very good and very efficient at what we do.”

He’s no newbie to facility management. Before returning to Southern California for good in the early 1980s, Larry owned and operated the Pacific Horse Center for 10 years. The Sacramento-area boarding, training and show facility was home to 120 horses and included a horsemastership school with unique academic accreditation. He also authored Know Stable Design & Management for the Farnam Companies.

Marnye Langer serves as managing director for LEG and its subsidiary, LEG Insurance Services, two thriving companies. She is an accomplished amateur jumper rider with an Executive MBA and various insurance certifications. Giving her the reins of those endeavors is all part of the plan. “A lot of companies die when their owners die,” notes Larry, a very healthy nearly 77-year-old. “I have deliberately wanted to plan for succession.” Larry continues as a consultant for LEG and LEGIS and feels free to “interfere whenever I want to,” he laughs. The majority of his focus, however, is on realizing his vision for Hansen Dam.    

New Name

The New Year and new ownership brings a new name for the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center: the Hansen Dam Horse Park. That better conveys the Horse Park as an integral part of the huge Hansen Dam Recreation Area, located on the Tujunga Wash in Sylmar. The Area includes an aquatic center, a golf course, Discovery Cube Los Angeles and miles and miles of trails through the flood plain area behind the actual Hansen Dam.

The facility has been something of a hidden gem for many years. Located right off the 210 freeway, it’s just a half-hour from downtown Los Angeles, yet feels a world away. The current equestrian facilities were completed in 1998 by Eddie Milligan, who had the concession from the City of Los Angeles. For the last eight years, it was owned and managed by Sterling Champ. He brought his experience as the father of his accomplished daughter Olivia Champ to the task and is working very cooperatively through the ownership transition that will result in the Langers having 100 percent ownership of the Horse Park in four years.

The Langers began their involvement with Hansen Dam several years ago with what will next year be a series of 10 Verdugo Hills hunter/jumper competitions on the “show side” of the venue. They’re excited about bringing the Memorial Day Classic to Hansen Dam this year, too. (LEG’s Gold Coast shows will continue at LAEC.)

Hunter/jumper and dressage competitions dominate Hansen Dam’s current calendar, including four Interscholastic Equestrian League meets and a growing Interscholastic Equestrian Association team that is based at the Hansen Dam Riding School. Just recently, collegiate equestrian showdowns for nearby UCLA and USC jumped onto the agenda. The facility welcomes competition in other equestrian sports. A driving show was a hit recently and the venue is a natural for western disciplines. The show side of the property has up to nine arenas and show stalls for 368, a number that can easily jump to 400 if needed.

A Buck Brannaman clinic March 29-31 hints at educational additions to the coming calendar.

Hansen Dam is also home to regular Mexican heritage cultural events in a small stadium on the northwest corner of the property. Weddings, quinceanera parties, and movie and commercial shoots are additional functions regularly held there.

In April of 2015, the Langers launched the Hansen Dam Riding School, recognizing that an entry-level program was the one thing missing from the facility.  With beginner lessons and summer and holiday camps, the School is a thriving endeavor that gives the public an affordable experience with horses and funnels many enthusiasts into more advanced programs offered by Hansen Dam’s eight training programs.  The Riding School also offers horse care for boarders who are not in one of those programs.

With capacity for 166 boarded horses, there is room for another training program or two. The roster of Hansen Dam professionals currently includes Sandrine Seifert’s D&D Stables, Sheri Moser and Duncan McIntosh’s Edmonton Farms; Deirdre Davis’ Harmony Farms; Barbara Vasilaros’ Hunter Haven; Erin Rossen’s Moonshine Equestrian; Claudia Roberts’ Pacific Dressage, LLC; Sheri & Rainy Rose’s Rose Stables; and Michelle Morris’ The Clearing Farm.

A Remarkable Resource

Larry’s service to the sport is the stuff of legends, summarized nicely in January of 2017 with the United States Equestrian Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. An epiphany as a young professional triggered his ongoing volunteerism. “I was maybe 24, sitting on a horse about to go in the ring, when somebody informed me that the rules had changed and the class would be judged on different rules than I expected,” he explains. “’Who made this stupid rule?’ I asked. I came to realize that we make the rules and that’s when I decided to help make them, to add my two cents to the process. I jumped into governance in my early 20s and I never backed out.”

He continues to influence the sport on a large scale with various committee positions, and he relishes the chance to influence it on an individual scale as a mentor to the professionals who call Hansen Dam home. “This morning one of our trainers came in to ask some advice about her business and it was wonderful. If I can save somebody from all the mistakes they are ordinarily headed for, that’s great. Often, it’s a matter of just turning a few keys to give them the knowledge to look at something a little differently.

“If you can give people who are looking at the same thing a different viewpoint, you can open up the world to them,” he continues. “That’s very gratifying.” Financially able to retire under a beach umbrella if he wanted to and confident of Marnye’s management of LEG and LEG Insurance Services, Larry explains that he bought Hansen Dam as a way to keep helping the sport.  His vision for Hansen Dam is that it thrive as a well-run, multi-use equestrian facility and that is a priceless benefit to boarders, trainers, horses, exhibitors and, hence, the sport itself.