It seemed like an inappropriate interlude in a long journey from the lush green farmland outside Hamburg, Germany, to the boxwood and chestnut trees of Warrenton, Va., overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains.
But 35 champion-class show horses owned by millionaire horseman Fritz (Ted) Schroer -- another wave in the Europeanization of the equine population of Virginia's hunt country -- took John F. Kennedy Airport in stride early yesterday, showing more aplomb than most international travelers.
In a cavernous hangar reverberating with a cacophony of clattering hooves and whining jet engines, Schroer's prized horses were unloaded from a specially-chartered DC-8 jet-liner in the first leg of a $50,000 trip Schroer hopes will end with the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team.
The horses, who showed less evidence of jet lag than some of their handlers, protested occasionally at the seeming indignity of being hoisted through the air in tiny portable stalls; but, for the most part, the transfer from a Flying Tigers cargo plane to a half-dozen waiting vans went effortlessly, albeit tediously.
Beginning shortly after midnight, it took a team of experienced handlers and trainers until near daybreak to complete the intricate procedure and send the horses on their way to three days of quarantine at a U.S. Customs farm in Clifton, N.J.
From there, they will be trucked to Chestnut Lawn Farm, the magnificent 225-acre estate Schroer recently purchased for $400,000 cash to become part of the exclusive Fauquier County horse and hunt society.
In the past two years, scores of wealthy Europeans and South Americans have been buying up large estates in Fauquier, Loudoun and Albermarle Counties at prices ranging from a mere $200,000 to more than $1 million. And many bring their horses with them.
Aside from bringing smiles to the hunt country regulars -- who suffer mild paranoia from the prospect of subdivision housing -- the new landed gentry seem to be soothing some fears of their own about the political and economic climate of West Europe.
"I think there will be trouble with socialism in Europe in the next five years. Look at Italy and England now, and see what you think," said Schroer while he supervised the unloading of his valuable cargo.
Schroer, a former race car driver who made his money in Hamburg reconstructing and maintaining office buildings, said he felt "Germany will be okay from socialism for five years, but the United States will be okay for longer. It is an important thing to consider."
ASide from the attraction of Virginia's conservative political climate and the availability of more land than can be bought in Europe, the cafe society immigrants say they are attracted by the U.S. tax structure and the stability of the currency here.
These people don't buy houses transitionally like Americans do. They tend to think in terms of generations," said Charles H. Seilheimer Jr., president of Sotheby Parke-Bernet International Realty Corp., a subsidiary of the famous auction house, who handled the sale of Chestnut Lawn Farm.
"They're concerned about the safety of their countries and what's going to happen to their accumulated wealth," he added.
Schroer also was clearly concerned about the health and safety of his horses while Customs and Agriculture Department officials inspected them and checked off their names from a manifest: Donetta, Jubel Kordi, Windroeschen, Baroness, Fischerin, Kraus, Meilenstein and Heumar, among others.
Nervously pacing while government veterinarians drew blood samples in the hangar and inspected the animals for signs of disease, Schroer said the seven-hour flight went smoothly, except for occasional moments of panic by the youngest of the yearlings.
Most of the horses are in the 3-to-6-year range and are being trained in jumping, cross-country and dressage, the most sophisticated show event.
Erica Heorfer, a friend of Schroer and a well-known German horse-woman, who accompanied the horses, said, "They are some of the best in Germany. They are really good horses, but many are too young to say whether they will make the Olympics."
Mrs. Hoerfer, who with her husband, Hans, has a partnership with Schroer in some of the horses, said she will stay at Chestnut Lawn long enough to train some of the horses.
"Then I will turn them over to better riders," she said.
Hoerfer said it was necessary to tranquilize only three of the horses, who were confined to small stalls grouped in sets of three on pallets, which were lifted on and off the plane. "We spent most of the trip talking to them and keeping them quiet," she said. "I was happy there was no trouble."
Schroer said he left 30 more horses behind in Hamburg, most of them older mares but including several stallions he plans to bring over in October. He said he will spend most of each year in Warrenton, and that he is bringing over several trainers to help him.
Schroer's stables have trained several champion horses, including one named Madrigal, which won a gold medal in the dressage event and a bronze in jumping in the 1076 Olympics.
At Chestnut Lawn Farm, Schroer just completed a new 40-stall barn and is building an indoor training ring for his horses.
The house, a restored five-bedroom, stone Georgian house with five baths, was built in 1815 for descendents of Col. Robert "King" Carter, who was land agent to Lord Fairfax and one of the most wealthy men in the colonies.
Its previous owner was the late John H. Wilkins of Washington, owner of the Wilkins Coffee Co. according to Seilheimer.
Seilheimer, who last year sold almost $7 million in property, much of it in Virginia, said he has two possible large sales in the hunt country still pending, plus an Englishman who made a $1 million offer on an estate there but has not yet obtained permission from the Bank of England.
Under British regulations, a person buying a farm in the United States must derive half his British income from farming, something difficult for most millionaires to prove.