Things are really jumping at Newport Farm.
The hunter-jumper stable at the Orange County Fairground Equestrian Center has been making headlines on the show circuit with its string of European warmbloods. The stable is the first in the county to import jumpers from Europe on a large scale, and its two dozen horses occupy two long rows of box stalls in a private training barn at the fairgrounds.
Newport's operation began a year ago, when its first stock arrived from the Netherlands. Among them was Saturn's Blue Flame, a black Dutch warmblood stallion which stands nearly 18 hands. Only 4 years old, he has not yet bred mares or competed, but he is the farm's Olympic hopeful for the 1992 Games. He is a half-brother to the famed grand prix jumper, The Natural.
"Warmbloods are wonderful," says Larry Hollahan, a partner in the business with Eva Voronaeff. "They are quiet and sensible, but they also have the power to carry you over a big jump. You really feel like you have something solid under you."
Hollahan, 25, trains the farm's horses, gives riding instructions and competes in shows. He and Rigoletto, a 17.2-hand Dutch warmblood, will make their grand prix debut in May at Del Mar. The flashy dark bay gelding finished third last season at the International Jumping Festival in Los Angeles.
When his imports arrive from Europe, Hollahan said, they can free-jump but are relatively green in flatwork. He starts their training over from scratch, spending six months to a year with each horse before he works them up to jumping and gets them ready for resale to competitive riders.
Although Newport Farms' trained imports are expensive--selling from $50,000 to $400,000--Hollahan has some less expensive stock available. Unlike some trainers, he said he will not turn a riding student away because he or she does not own a pricey horse.
"I really feel the horse business has been pushed to its limits. People have overpriced their horses and created two classes of horse people in California: the back yard horseman and the very wealthy," Hollahan said.
"People have come to me and said another trainer told them their horse was no good and that they need a $40,000 horse. I'm not going to tell you that. If you can afford a fancy horse, great, but if not we'll work with the horse you have. I want to run a good, honest business that allows more people to enjoy horses."
The horses Hollahan competes are selected by a European contact who shops the top breeding farms in the Netherlands, Germany and other nations. Last summer, after considering 600 horses offered for sale, Newport selected four to buy and import.
Among the farm's young stock that competed successfully on the local show circuit in 1987 are two 5-year-old geldings: Trevor, a Dutch warmblood which is the grandson of Rigoletto; and Frederikus, a Holsteiner which is from the line that produced Rittersporn, one of the breed's more famous foundation sires. Both youngsters were pre-green champions.
Hollahan's methods of training attest to the farm's motto: "The horse comes first." His facility stresses exceptional horse care and individualized horse training.
"Each horse must be trained according to its temperament, ability and natural talent," he said. "The horse should not be forced to perform something that he is not ready or willing to do. Training should be something the horse enjoys and looks forward to."
Hollahan, who is also a horse show judge, adopted his philosophy from a number of top competitors and coaches with whom he trained. He worked with Olympic jumper Melanie Smith on the East Coast show circuit and managed horse farms in Tennessee and New Jersey before he moved to California in 1985. He has ridden in clinics given by such noted horsemen as George Morris, Frank Madden, Conrad Homfeld, Lendon Gray, Ronnie Mutch and Tad Coffin.
Although he said warmbloods are "somewhat controversial" in the California hunter-jumper ranks--where American thoroughbreds have long reigned supreme--Hollahan said he is confident their performance will change people's attitudes.
"I like a nice, classic thoroughbred, too, but I love to specialize in warmbloods," he said. "It's a completely different feeling to ride a big, powerful warmblood over a course.
"With warmbloods you need a certain strength of leg, seat and sometimes hand because they are big animals, but I still prefer that to the mental strength you often need to figure out a thoroughbred's mind. Warmbloods are more predictable, and that's why they excel in competition."
For more information on Newport Farms' horses, call (714) 540-0121.
Darlene Sordillo, an author of two books on horse training and competition, covers equestrian events for The Times. Her column appears every Saturday. Readers may send horse-related news to her at: Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.
ORANGE COUNTY EQUESTRIAN EVENTS
SUNDAY, MARCH 27
Pavilion dressage show, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Sycamore Trails Stable, 26282 Oso Road, San Juan Capistrano. Spectators free. (714) 493-2141.
Dressage schooling show. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Rancho Sierra Vista Equestrian Center, 31441 Avenida de la Vista, San Juan Capistrano. (714) 496-0620.
THURSDAY, MARCH 31
-SUNDAY, APRIL 3
Beach Cities horse show. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Coto de Caza Equestrian Center, 1 Coto de Caza Drive, Trabuco Canyon. English. PCHA A/C-rated, OCHSA approved. Spectators free. (619) 753-0431.
FRIDAY, APRIL 8
-SUNDAY, APRIL 10
Spring horse show. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Orange County Fairgrounds Equestrian Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. Western. American Horse Shows Assn. (AHSA) A-C rated; Pacific Coast Horse Shows Assn. (PCHA) B-rated. Cal Grand Western qualifying competition. Spectators free. (714) 641-1328.
SATURDAY & SUNDAY,
APRIL 9 & 10
Stirrup Cup show. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Coto de Caza Equestrian Center, 1 Coto de Caza Drive, Trabuco Canyon. English. OCHSA approved. Spectators free. (714) 792-4284.