You’ll find inspirational women everywhere. Open your eyes and you’ll see the heroism in everyday acts of courage. Sometimes, though, you meet someone who is truly amazing. Sheila Varian is one of these exceptional women. She is probably the top Arabian horse breeder in the country. The Varian Way (Sheila’s way) has become a symbol of both the highest quality of horses and the highest standard for soft training practices. Among decades of awards is one outstanding statistic: 70% of the show horses winning today carry blood from Varian horses. “Arabian Horse World” magazine’s statistics show that Sheila is the all time leading breeder of both English and Western horses.
From Childhood Imaginings to Living Legend
Sheila’s story begins on a familiar note. She wanted a horse and annoyed her parents until she got one at age 8. She recalls years of lying on her horse’s back reading The Black Stallion and other Walter Farley books and dreaming of riding beautiful Arabian horses. She was tall and awkward and riding a horse gave her confidence she couldn’t find anywhere else. She felt a closer connection with animals––and especially horses––than she felt with people.
She feels fortunate that her parents didn’t have the money to buy a superstar horse to start the breeding program, Sheila says. They gave her love and support that was more valuable to her long-term success. Sheila learned about conformation and other things about the business from the ground up. She cleaned out stalls, trimmed horses’ feet, drove the big trucks and even did her own advertising. She’s glad that she had to do it all and says that you can surprise yourself by growing into something beyond your expectations.
People and Horses Must Be Trained
Sheila says training extraordinary horses starts with choosing the right horses. The Varian blood line is selected for character as well as beauty. She chose Arabians, not only because of the Farley books, but also because they have the closest relationship with people. They were bred to live with Bedouin families in the desert and those traits remain strong today. Domesticated horses intuit our needs. While the Arabian breed may be hot blooded, Sheila says it’s the only horse that will leave its food to greet you.
Still, they are horses, so at Sheila’s barn, young Arabians spend a lot of time with other horses to understand how to behave in the herd. Then they are trained with soft techniques and clear instructions so they won’t be confused in the process. She compares it to teaching a child good manners. When she sells one of her Arabians, the new owners are taught the process: gentle treatment, trust and confidence, boundaries and rules.
Success for a Woman in a Man’s Profession
Sheila’s story is full of patience, waiting, love and understanding, all classic feminine characteristics that build relationships and support for long-term success. She has developed techniques that go beyond “Horse Whisperer” love to include educating people about what their horses need from them.
And Sheila is writing a book. But until it gets published, check out her website. See the beautiful Arabians at Varian Arabians’ dreamy Never-Never Land Ranch in California.
Listen to hear more about Dr. Nancy’s horses and how relationships with horses can build a woman’s confidence.
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