Sheila Varian, Arabian Breeder and Trainer, Inducted into the 2014 Western States Horse Expo® Hall of Fame

July 28th, 2014 11:00 AM | No Comments

Press Release


Image courtesy of Varian Arabian Ranch.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.- In honor of Sheila Varian’s lifetime achievements as a Arabian breeder and trainer, Horse Expo Events today announced that she has been inducted into the Western States Horse Expo Hall of Fame for 2014.

 Miki Nelsen, President of Horse Expo Events, stated, “Sheila Varian is a world-class leader in the Arabian Horse breed.  She has accomplished so much in a male dominated field.  We are very are proud to honor her as our 2014 Hall of Fame inductee.”
Varian has won hundreds of national titles and awards in halter, stock horse, English pleasure and park.  She was the first woman and first amateur, and her mare “Ronteza” was the first Arabian, to win the prestigious Open Reined Cow Horse Championship at San Francisco’s Cow Palace during the Grand National Rodeo in 1961.  Her other awards have included the 2003 induction into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, a 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arabian Breeders Association and the 2009 Arabian Professional & Amateur Horseman’s Association Breeder of the Year,.  The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has ranked Varian multiple times as one of the leading Arabian breeders of winning horses.  In 2001, she was honored by the USEF with the Ellen Scripps Davis Memorial Breeders’ Cup.
Sheila Varian came from a family that did not own any horses.  But from an early age she rode and got her first horse “Judy”, after much pleading, at the age of eight.  She was also an avid reader of Walter Farley’s famed books, that included The Black Stallion, and she always dreamed of riding Arabian horses. Varian grew to be six feet tall and she believes that riding gave her self-confidence.   She felt more of a connection with animals, especially horses, than she felt with people.   Varian was mentored by Mary “Sid” Spencer, a local rancher who introduced her to the California Vaquero method.  This method of training originated in Mexico was brought to California ranches in the late 1700’s. Over the years, she has refined her Vaquero approach to fit today’s horses and become softer with her training. Varian is one of the few experts that teach the Vaquero equipment, methods and history.
Varian is also credited for producing over 900 top quality Arabian horses.  Her foundation bloodstock was formed in 1961 by a small number of mares from Arabian farms in Poland and her national champion stallion Bay Abi.  Her stallions represent five generations of her breeding, along with ninth and tenth generations Varian-bred mares in pasture.  According to statistics from Arabian Horse World Magazine, 70% of the show horses winning today carry blood from Varian horses and also shows that Varian is the all time leading breeder of both English and Western Horses.   
Today, Varian lives and works with her Arabian horse breeding and training at her 230-acre ranch “Varian Arabian Ranch” in Arroyo Grande, California.
The Western States Horse Expo Hall of Fame Award was first established in 2002 to recognize an individual or organization that has made a substantial contribution to the equine industry in the United States.  The 2014 edition of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive horse expo,Western States Horse Expo, was held on June 13 -15 at the Cal Expo Fairgrounds in Sacramento.
Other inductees have included Frank Vessel, Ray Hunt, R.M. Miller DVM, Pat Parelli, Linda Tellington-Jones, Richard Shrake, John Lyons, Bob Avila, Western States Trail Foundation and Dick Pieper.
Next year’s Western States Horse Expo is scheduled for June 5-7, 2015.  For more information on the Western States Horse Expo ticketing, exhibiting or sponsorship opportunities call (800) 352-2411 or visit
Western States Horse Expo is produced by Horse Expo Events. Sponsors included: RAM Trucks, Farnam, Platinum Performance, Smartpak, Pyranha, and West Coast Equine Foundation.  Media sponsors include Western Horseman, California Horsetrader, and Young Rider Magazine.

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