Sheila Varian

Sheila Varian

1937 - 2016 | The Guiding Light of Varian Arabians

The Varian broodmare line is into its 9th generation, which started with the three Polish mares Sheila imported in 1961. Her stallion line is currently in its 5th generation tracing back to the original Varian stallion, Bay Abi++, who was purchased as a 2 year old in 1959 by Sheila. Starting with a Morgan/Percheron when she was 8 years old, Sheila has build Varian Arabians into the Nationally and Internationally known Arabian horse farm that it is.

Sheila was honored to receive the Arabian Breeders Association Breeder of the Year Award in 2005 at the US Nationals and was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, a rare and much deserved honor, in 2003. Sheila is one of the few people who is knowledgeable in the old time California Vaquero techniques of training a horse and is much sought after to share this knowledge. Sheila enjoys sharing her stories and anecdotes about her 50+ years of breeding during the annual open house events, the Varian Spring Fling and the Summer Jubilee.

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Farm Staff

  • Angela Alvarez
  • Ryah Alvarez
  • "Mike" Ismael Perez
  • Kristy Gillot



Angela Alvarez


Jaedyn with foal


Angela Alvarez
General Manager

In March of 1986, Angela came to Varian Arabians. Her medical background served her well when she started in the breeding department as a mare care technician.

Though the years, Angela has worn many hats out of her dedication to the farm and its mission. She was the breeding manager from 1987 - 2016, after Sheila's passing and the increased responsibility handed down to her she released that title to Kristy Gillot in 2017 who has been her assistant for several years. She also has been foaling out the mares at Varian Arabians since 1986, she has foaled over a 1000 mares & still feels it is important for her and the farm that she be there at every birth. 

Angela also is one responsible for the beautiful History Wall that wraps around the inside of the Show Barn and the new addition to the farm "Sheila Varian's Museum".

With Sheila passing the torch to her, Angela now resides as General Manager of Varian Arabians, overseeing all staff, breeding, foaling and training decisions, events, and more. Angela is wholeheartedly dedicated to continuing Sheila’s vision for The Varian Way, as it touches both horses and people.

Angela has been married to her husband Tony since 1974, they have lived across the street from the farm since 1987, raised their family there and have made it a very special place they call home.

They have two daughters, Ryah and Leah. Ryah made Angela and Tony proud grandparents on December 4, 2006 with a beautiful girl, Jaedyn, who can be seen helping at the farm if she is not out on the softball field.


 2017angela and tony arabian oaks breeders jamboree

ryah alvarez

Ryah Alvarez
Office Manager

Angela and Tony’s oldest daughter, Ryah was officially added to the Varian Arabians staff roster in 2015. She will likely be the voice the greets you when you call the ranch, and is in charge of records, office management, website and other marketing platforms, events coverage, and more. She shares the same warmth as her mom, and has been a loved figure in the background for many years.

Pictured is Ryah with her daughter Jaedyn. You may recognize Jaedyn as being Kristy and Angela’s shadow at Varian events, evening wearing a “staff” badge. She’s a pretty lucky 9-year-old, living at Varian Arabians and learning the ropes with the best of them.




Mike Perez

"Mike" Ismael Perez
Head Halter Trainer

Mike Perez has been a part of Varian Arabians in 1995 after Bob Battaglia suggested Sheila was looking for help. At the beginning, he helped Felix Hernandez getting the horses ready for sale. Sheila liked his attitude and the way he worked with the horses. He helped in the lab for a while and rode the horses with Jaime, but after going to the Scottsdale show with Sheila, it became his dream to work with the halter horses.

He recalls his first time in the show ring, in Paso Robles, with a horse named Brandy Jullyen, winning the Grand Championship. Next show was Pomona, where Sahara Jullyen won Grand Champion and Moon of Jullyen won Reserve Champion. His second year showing, he was in Scottsdale, with five horses. Of those five, four of them made the top ten.

“Sheila taught me that every class, at every show, even if you win the Champion every time, there is always more to learn. She was always right beside me always giving me more ideas, how to show, where to face.” She taught him to go slowly with these babies, to give them time to figure things out, she taught him a softer way with the horses and to always work at improving his technique.

Mike’s been training babies for fifteen years, halter breaking around thirty horses a year. He gives them their first introduction to how to behave and how things work for the rest of their lives. He works with them until they graduate up to Jaime and go under saddle.

View the embedded image gallery online at:


Kristy Gillette

Kristy Gillot
Breeding/Health Care Manager

Kristy has spent about half of her life at Varian Arabians, starting out when she was about sixteen, right after getting her driver’s license. She started with a summer job bathing and grooming the horses. She graduated from Cal Poly with her major in Animal Science, focusing on Equine Reproduction, and her minor in Agribusiness.  Soon she became Angela’s assistant in the breeding barn. “I went through a lot of phases at Varian Arabians, Angela was always willing to teach me everything and to be disciplined. She was very good to me.”

Kristy was born in Pittsburg, PA. When she was four years old, her Dad, a Chemical Engineer, came to California to work at the Diablo Power Plant. That same year, she started taking riding lessons at Sun King Farms in Arroyo Grande. When she was seven, on her birthday, she got her first horse, a little Arabian Mare named Rainbow’s End. She competed with “Bow” in everything from Hunter to Western Pleasure to Team Penning. 

It was at the Foal Festival in 2014, when she showed a couple foals for Sherry Conrads and Keith Krichke, that she and Sheila really started to get to know one another. “Sheila taught me to never give up on myself or what I believe in. She showed that over and over in her life with the horses and even more so through her illness. Almost every horse lesson she taught me could also be applied to a life lesson. She made me think outside the box.”

Today, she has stepped up to the role of Breeding manager at Varian Arabians and she loves her job. “You get to know all of the horses, they’re like family to me. If I’m having a rough day, I go visit the horses and they always make me feel better. I am so blessed to have grown up out here.”

2018 staff kristy gillot web



Veterinary Staff

  • Dr. David Jensen, DVM
  • Veterinary Reproduction Innovations, A.P.C. 

David Jensen DVM

Dr. David W. Jensen, DVM

Dr. Jensen is an equine practitioner and owner of the San Marcos Equine Practice.  He completed his doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida in 1982.  He then traveled to the San Luis Rey Equine Practice, a surgical and imaging referral practice in southern California.  After completing his internship he moved to the central coast with his family.  Dr. Jensen has been providing mobile veterinary care since 1985 for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Dr. Jensen will be our reproductive veterinarian and all around farm veterinarian.  We welcome Dr. Jensen and his enthusiasm for working with Varian Arabians.



Veterinary Reproduction Innovations, A.P.C. 

Utilizing the Varian Arabians lab facilities for many specialized equine breeding services.


Dr. Joy Altermatt, DVM, MS, DACT

Joy Altermatt

Dr. Joy is originally from Terry, Montana.  A graduate from Montana State University- Bozeman with a BS in Animal Science, she went on to Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine, obtaining her DVM in 2004. Pursuing her passion of large animal fertility, she completed a MS in Biomedical Sciences with emphasis in assisted reproduction technologies at CSU's Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory. Dr. Joy became board-certified in the American College of Theriogenologists (reproduction specialty) in 2008.
Since then, she has been serving her clients in private practice and sharing knowledge as lecturer at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo since 2012.  As a dedicated specialist in large animal fertility, she has performed thousands of transvaginal follicular aspirations in both mares and cows for oocyte transfer, ICSI and IVF cycles, helping to produce generations of legends. In addition to these procedures and embryo transfers, she enjoys addressing fertility issues and offers multi-faceted approaches and customized options for her clients from simple breeding to in vitro embryo production.  

Dr. Fernando Campos-Chillon, M.S., D.V.M., Ph.D., DACT

Retired from private practice

dr fernando campos

Fernando is originally from Bogota, Colombia and was involved in agriculture from an early age. Obtaining his BS and MS degrees from Cal Poly Pomona, he chose an emphasis in reproductive physiology. After receiving his DVM and PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University, he obtained board certification in the American College of Theriogenologists.

Fernando’s teaching and research emphasis has been in assisted reproduction technologies (ART) of cattle and horses. He currently leads the comparative ART program at Cal Poly involving technologies of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), embryo transfer and cryopreservation, genetic analysis and general reproductive management.


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