Not too long ago a fellow horse loving friend loaned me the DVD, “The Legacy of Sheila Varian”. He said, “You’ll love this because it’s all about Arabians,” or something along those lines. I didn’t watch it right away because I figured it was a boring documentary about some rich lady and her horse farm. I finally popped it in a week or two later and found myself drawn in by this woman, who was the quintessential dreamer of dreams!
Sheila Varian did not come from a rich family. She fell in love with Arabians the same way I did, through reading the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. Her parents weren’t horse people but supported her dreams and at the age of eight she started riding her first horse, a Morgan/Percheron mix and because money was tight, learned to ride bareback. She didn’t acquire her first saddle until the age of twelve.
Horses were in Sheila’s blood, heart and soul from the start and while working as a high school physical education teacher, she worked toward her dream. Farlotta was her first Arabian and most beloved of all. When Farlotta passed on to the rainbow bridge at the young age of seven due to health problems, Sheila was holding her cherished mare’s head in her arms.
Sheila later acquired the mare Ronteza, who would set Sheila on her way toward creating her legacy. In 1961 Sheila and Ronteza won the Open Reined Cow Horse Championship at The Cow Palace in San Francisco, California. She was the first amateur, the first woman and had the first Arabian to take the title.
Through acquiring mares from Poland and careful breeding over the years, Sheila Varian created the dynasty that is now known as Varian Arabians. Her is a link for the video that tells the story of this great lady and her legacy:
At one point in the documentary Sheila talked about following your dreams. I can’t remember the exact quote, but what she said really made an impression on me. This woman was not rich, or beautiful (in the traditional sense), but she was driven. I’m sure she encountered pain and roadblocks along the way, but she didn’t let that stop her. She lived the life she wanted and that is inspiring!