Varian Arabians


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Early Memories of Bay-Abi

I helped my Dad farm our leased 160 acres with draft horses; now the Palouse is farmed with machines and the units are in two thousand acres.

For years I made house calls in my Chevy with a black bag; now an emergency house call results in four EMTs, three firemen and two big rigs with flashing lights.

I knew Sheila Varian when she had two Arabian horses and a sandy pasture. Now we see a hundred Arabians and acres of green pastures, barns, arenas, and flowers.

One thing hat never changed was Sheila's determination to breed and train correct Arabian horses with soundness, good temperaments, attractiveness, and consistent reproduction as she sought ever and ever to improve each generation's quality.

The Arabian industry was much different in 1962 when Bay Abi was named National Champion Arabian Stallion at Estes Park, Colorado. The publications were limited to The Arabian News, published by Anna Betts Joder in Colorado. Most Arabian owners were reluctant to haul their mares any distance for breeding as all breeding had to be done by natural cover, as is still the case with Thoroughbreds, and the mare was generally at the stud farm for weeks as she was teased, bred, and kept until she was in foal. This was ascertained by the veterinarian palpating the swollen uterus about forty days. Consequently, the owners of a stallion had to furnish safe places for the visiting mares. There was concern about transmission of diseases, and quality of car while at the stud farm. As a consequence, most of the breeding was done with a stallion in the owner's back yard.

Bay Abi was an outstanding Arabian. Very correct with excellent legs and hooves, good size, big beautiful eyes, and a good mitbah. He did not have a particularly long neck, but it was well set and he could flex at the poll easily. The primary reason hew on the National Champion class as a five year old was the fact that Sheila had been using him pretty strenuously on Syd Spencer's mountain ranch. He was muscled and fit, whereas his competition was more likely to be a bit fat, not muscled and untrained. Sheila ws away before her time as a halter trainer. In that era, and even today, stallions were abused and are in a battle with the trainer. Sheila had taught Bay Abi to play with her, so he could relax during a class and then abruptly become animated as he watched her to see what entertaining thing she might do to get him to pose. The National Class he won lasted about four hours!

Because Sheila lived in Arroyo Grande/ Halcyon and the majority of the Arabian mares in the West were around Greater Los Angeles/ San Diego or in Northern California's triangle of Stockton- Marin- San Jose, there was a reluctance of owners to haul a mare to the in-between barn of Sheila when Fadjur, Serafix, or Witez II, Abu Farwa or Ferseyn were geographically closer. (As an aside, when *Bask arrived in Scottsdale, he attracted visiting mares from everywhere.) Additionally, Bay Abi won his qualifying classes for the National Stallion Halter so readily as a four-year-old that he did not have a long history of championships in the multiple shows to acquaint the breeders with his greatness. As a result, Bay Abi didn't get a lot of mares who would have benefited from his quality and correctness. Sheila showed Bay Abi in Western Pleasure and English Pleasure after his national champion halter win which helped to get him recognized. (At that time, all Arabian show horses were limited to a four-inch toe and ten-ounce shoe. English Pleasure classes didn't require elevated trot.)

Fortunately, Sheila had Patricia Lindsay in England choose three mares from Poland for her. I think Wenonah, Sheila's Mom, was the person who first recognized the opportunity that the Polish bloodlines offered. Americans could not trade with Poland at that time during the Cold War, but the English could do so. Sheila specifically told Patricia that she was interested in quality breeding mares, less so in show fillies. Those three mares crossed wonderfully well with Bay Abi and truly established her position as a breeder as well as a trainer. The rest, as they say, is history. Bay Abi sired numerous champions from several bloodlines. He was truly a world-class stallion...

A Journey Begins

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