In 1978, David Murdock bought a farm. Not an ordinary farm, not a few acres of Mother Earth, but 1,300-plus sun-splashed acres in one of Southern California's loveliest valleys, just twenty-five minutes from the Pacific Ocean with the Santa Monica Mountains as a backdrop. Mr. Murdock saw Ventura Farms as a place of serenity and relaxation between work days in his Los Angeles office where he is the CEO of major companies on an international scale. "Most of all, the beauty of the farm won me over," Mr. Murdock remembers. "The farm is one of a kind."
A chance encounter with neighbors Bill and Terry Gregory first brought Arabian horses into Mr. Murdock's life. Terry Gregory recalls that time. "Bill and I were neighbors of Mr. Murdock, which is how we got to know him. We sold him some carriages so he could give his guests rides around his farm. He also took a liking to my gelding, Valez (aka Candyman), whom he could ride and drive himself. That relationship helped him decide to own Arabians." Mr. Murdock asked the Gregorys and Candyman to become part of his team.
Soon Candyman, a grandson of *Raffles and Ferseyn and ridden by Terry across the U.S. in the Bicentennial wagon train, was joined by four more geldings for the Murdock family's days exploring the ranch. The new horses were housed in a yellow brick stable built in 1928, once the home of Thoroughbreds raised on the ranch. Santa Gertrudis cattle, Murdock's second agricultural interest, soon grazed the pastures. Candyman, who died on the farm at age 32, started it all.
Mr. Murdock soon bought more Arabians. "I looked at a lot of different horses," he says, "including Thoroughbreds, as I enjoy racing, but they didn't quite fit my requirements. I thought it better to have a horse that was beautiful to look at, enjoyable to ride, enjoyable to breed, enjoyable to show, enjoyable to race, and that was the Arabian."
Two years after becoming a gentleman farmer, David Murdock nodded meaningfully to a ringman and made his debut as a major player in the splashy Scottsdale auctions. In 1980, he collected three *Bask daughters, a stallion, a National Champion Mare, and four others. In 1981 he bought seven lots, including daughters of *Bask, Comet, and Negatiw; a *Bask son, and two *Bask granddaughters. Nine more horses of Polish lines were added in 1982.
At the same time David Murdock was topping Scottsdale sales, he was doing the same at the annual Polish Prestige Sales in Poland, through his agents Bill and Terry Gregory. In 1980 and 1981, he bought the high-selling lots and brought in Polish and international champions, adding top Polish broodmares. Then in 1982, Mr. Murdock paid $806,000 at the Polish Prestige Sale for *Bandos PASB (Negatiw x Bandola by Witraz), the highest price ever paid at a Polish auction. At Ventura Farms, *Bandos, a highly valued sire in Poland, became the object of breeder and visitor interest. More Polish lines were added over the next few years. Then, back in the United States at the Polish Ovation Sale at Scottsdale 1985, Mr. Murdock paid $1.5 million for the mare *Penicylina, whom he campaigned to 1986 U.S. National Champion Mare.
All these treasures came home to a renovated farm. Miguel Vega, who began work (cleaning stalls) at Ventura Farms in 1980 at age 14, recalls: "We had no horse pastures, just open land. So we cleared the land, took out a lot of rocks and old fences, and built the pastures."
The acquisition of new stock brought a change in David Murdock's thinking about the Arabian breeding program. While he'd planned to send his choice Polish mares out to be bred, the addition of *Bandos, particularly, brought new interest in Ventura Farms. Soon a building program was under way (in part to accommodate visiting mares), the main stable becoming the farm showpiece. The very English-looking 60-stall brick stable with its cupola roofline and arched windows became the trademark for Ventura Farms.
The farm became a meeting place for Arabian breeders, a scene of splendid open houses, racing seminars, charity events, and sales. *Bandos always played the leading role, making a spectacular entrance on each occasion, or otherwise receiving visitors at his stall. "A very, very special horse," says Miguel of *Bandos. "When he came here I rode him and used to groom him. He was always a good horse to work around, gentle and nice. He lived next door to *Fantazja, his favorite mare, and they visited and nuzzled all day through the bars. Bandos is one of my personal all-time favorites."
Early on, Mr. Murdock was very active in the breed in a number of ways, but when when the market declined, he lost a bit of interest in being in the forefront. At one point, the foal cropped dropped to only four, but that changed when he bought Alada Baskin and Psymadre. The purchase of these stallions renewed Mr. Murdock's commitment to the following goals: 1) to produce internationally and nationally competitive halter and performance horses; 2) to maintain the highest level of honesty, integrity, and commitment to the Arabian horse industry; and 3) to provide the opportunity for his team members to realize their dreams. While the farm is now a private facility that no longer competes, Mr. Murdock still expects the staff to work very hard to to perform at the highest level they can.
At Scottsdale, 1998, David Murdock found new inspiration for his breeding program as he watched Psymadre (Padrons Psyche x Tomorrows Dream by *Aladdinn) make his victory passes as Champion Senior Stallion and Grand Champion Stallion. "I was impressed by his power, his elegance, and his extraordinary quality," Mr. Murdock recalls. "As I found out more about him, I realized that his pedigree complemented those of the many fine mares I've collected over the years. It was apparent to me that Psymadre would be a great addition to our breeding program."
Within weeks, Psymadre was led into his new stall in the Ventura barn and quickly worked his way into the Ventura Farms organization and into the feelings of Ventura staff. Intelligent, kind, and willing, Psymadre's show highlights include 1998 Canadian National Reserve Champion Stallion, and he has since added five Canadian and U.S. Top Ten Stallion titles. Today Psymadre benefits from his recognition as a sire of a National winners.
Psymadre's son TF Psymreekhe (x Lappes Mreekhie by Hi-Fashion Mreekh), a 2000 bay colt, came to Ventura Farms for conditioning and was purchased by Mr. Murdock in November 2000. At Scottsdale 2001, he was named Junior Champion Colt, then Region 1 Breeders Sweepstakes Champion Colt, and that fall U.S. National Champion Sweepstakes Jackpot Colt. In 2004, the first year his offspring hit the show ring, TF Psymreekhe was named Leading Juvenile Sire of Winner by percentage.
Alada Baskin (*Aladdinn x Llauna Basketu by Baske-Tu) was purchased the same year as Psymadre. A 1982 chestnut stallion, he was twice named U.S. National Reserve Champion Stallion. The get of Alada Baskin have won over 37 National Championships, 47 Reserve National Championships, and 151 National Top Ten awards. He passed away in 2006, but with the use of his frozen semen, continues to produce National Champions.
Ventura Farms is proud home to beautiful foals and a high level of teamwork. A great group of people work on the farm, and all care deeply about the horses. Most important is the care that the horses receive. Everyone on the staff admits that their first motivation is their love of their work.
Over the years, Ventura Farms has developed a state-of-the-art training and conditioning facility. The farm has every item known to mankind to condition a horse, from the track to a swimming pool, to a horse exerciser. No outside horses are accepted for training or conditioning. The focus is on the preparation of Ventura Farms-owned horses for marketing purposes.
Ventura Farms was expanded by 1,800 acres in the mid-1980s, and new barns were added. A quarter-mile track, an outdoor jumping arena and a six-horse multi-trainer were all added. A pool, two bullpens, hot walkers, and treadmills give the farm the ability to develop the horses using a variety of training and conditioning methods. The horses stay fresher, sounder, and happier.
"Horses of Ventura," Mr. Murdock's first major auction, came in 1985, after his first five years with the breed. The sale was all-Polish in content, and prospective bidders came from far and near to partake of the Ventura hospitality and to watch the presentations of sale horses under the oaks. Top seller was a *Bask daughter who brought $700,000. Since then, similar auctions have given bidders a chance at some of the farm's best, including sales held in 2002 and 2003. Graduates from these sales have achieved National and Regional Championship for their new owners.