Sheila Varian was a remarkable woman, not just for her knowledge of the Arabian breed, but because of her kindness and willingness to spend time and educate just about anyone who crossed her path. I have always liked, admired and respected her, not something I say about many I've met in that breed.
When I was first introduced to Arabians by being given Lady Barbieri, a Barbary daughter, I was trying to learn about the breed. I called the ranch expecting to speak with a secretary and to my surprise and pleasure, Sheila answered the phone herself. She not only sent me videos and books and pamphlets, she spoke with me for several hours and told me so much about her program and invited me to come up. You can bet I went up as soon as I could arrange it.
What a trip that was! And what a beautiful place...my goodness it is a gorgeous and well thought out place. Sheila always made you feel at home and you could tell, she really enjoyed taking people around and talking to them about her horses and her plans. She has the most awesome old barn, has HUGE wide aisles and on all of the walls is a pictorial history of her breeding and their competitions. LOVELY doesn't begin to cover it.
One of the things I admired most about Sheila was her honesty. She had heard that Lady B had some problems carrying to term, and ET was still pretty new then and very expensive. She talked about who she would breed her to, but encouraged me to use my own stallion to see if I could successfully get a foal from her before I broke the bank trying with shipped semen and stud fees. Well, she was right, Lady never did carry a foal for me, but that was the start of my interest in breeding and showing Arabians.
When I was first starting to study, a friend gave me an Arabian Horse World magazine and told me to look through and pick the horses that particularly caught my eye, so I could learn what I liked. Every single month was the same, I unerringly picked Varian horses as the ones I liked and wanted to breed to.
In addition to her win at the Cow Palace and her very successful breeding program, don't forget that Sheila was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Nov. 2003. That was one of the highlights of her long, adventuresome and interesting life, and she had many. I wish she could be here to earn so many more.
I'm so grateful I flew back last spring to visit and say good bye, I knew it couldn't be long by the diagnosis and the treatments they gave and the ones they withheld.
Ride free Sheila, I know all your old favorite mounts are waiting for you across the bridge. RIP