Sheila Varian

Horse trainer and breeder Sheila Varian

Sheila Varian is a breeder of Arabian horses who lives and works at the Varian Arabians Ranch near Arroyo Grande, California. She grew up with a strong interest in horses, and was mentored in horsemanship by Mary "Sid" Spencer, a local rancher and Morgan horse breeder who also introduced Varian to the vaquero tradition of western riding. She started her horse ranch, Varian Arabians, in 1954 with the assistance of her parents.
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  • 2016
    Varian died on March 6, 2016 at age 78.
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  • 2015
    In November 2015, Varian announced that she would be working with the California Rangeland Trust to place her ranch into a conservation easement to protect it from development.
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  • 2013
    Varian was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013 and died on March 6, 2016, at the age of 78.
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    In 2013, the Varian breeding program was ranked by Arabian Horse World magazine as the all time number one breeder of both English-type and Western-type Arabian horses.
    After she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013, she sought to place the 230-acre Varian Ranch into a conservation easement to protect the land from development, and in 2015 announced that the California Rangeland Trust would partner with her to purchase the development rights and to allow her long-time ranch manager, Angela Alverez, to operate the horse breeding program after Varian.
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  • 2005
    Within the Arabian industry itself, Varian was honored in 2005 with the Arabian Breeders Association's lifetime achievement award, and was the Arabian Professional & Amateur Horseman's Association 2009 Breeder of the Year.
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  • 2002
    In 2002, requiring an outcross stallion not closely related to her own horses, she purchased the Brazilian-foaled Jullyen El Jamaal, who has bloodlines not previously incorporated into the Varian program, as well as a line tracing back to Bay el Bey via Bey Shah.
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  • 1979
    Subsequent generations of Varian stallions continued the pattern of winning in the show ring and then producing champion show horses across multiple disciplines. Huckleberry Bey was 1979 U.S. National Reserve Champion Futurity Stallion, 1981 U.S. National Top Ten Stallion, and 1984 U.S. National Reserve Champion English Pleasure. He then became the leading sire of US National Champions for five years, and in 1999 his likeness was reproduced as a Breyer horse model.
  • 1969
    She leased the young, then unproven stallion Khemosabi for his first breeding season in 1969.
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    The cross produced, among other champions, Varian's successor to Bay-Abi, the 1969 colt Bay el Bey (Bay Abi × Naganka), who was U.S. Reserve National Champion stallion twice, 1977 Canadian National Champion stallion, and a regional champion in English pleasure.
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  • 1962
    Trained and shown by Varian, he was the judges' unanimous choice for U.S. National Champion Arabian Stallion in 1962, later won U.S. National Top Ten awards in both Arabian English pleasure and Western pleasure, and thereafter was awarded the Legion of Merit.
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  • 1961
    By 1961, Varian Arabians had a small number of mares. The most notable of her early champions was Ronteza, a daughter of the stallion Witez II out of the mare Ronna. Ronteza was the second Arabian Varian purchased, and she trained the mare herself. The pair, undefeated in competition against other Arabian horses, went on to beat 50 horses of all breeds to win the 1961 Reined Cow Horse championship at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California.
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  • 1959
    In 1959, Varian and her mother Wenonah purchased a two-year-old bay stallion named Bay-Abi (Errabi × Angyl).
  • 1954
    Varian and her parents began using the farm name "Varian Arabians" in 1954.
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    She started her horse ranch, Varian Arabians, in 1954 with the assistance of her parents.
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  • 1937
    Born on August 8, 1937.
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