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sheila varian and lightly bey vSheila Varian, what more can be said that hasn’t been over the past six decades? I first fell under the Varian spell in the early 70’s, as a young teenager with my first exposure to Arabian horses. Bay-Abi++ was already an established sire of national winners in both halter and performance, her brood-mare band was second to none and Sheila was already established as one of the up and coming great breeders and horsewomen in our breed. She single handedly “broke the glass ceiling” in the Arabian halter arena at Scottsdale, US and Canadian Nationals for women showing halter horses, paving the way for those that would follow her, including; Eileen Verdick, Kim Morgan, Shawn Crews, Robin Hopkinson and countless others. Sheila had a supportive, but not wealthy, family that helped in anyway they could for her to realize and live her dream of breeding, training and showing the beautiful athletes that Varian Arabians would become synonymous with. With each successive generation of show, breeding and pleasure horses Sheila bred and trained, the bar was raised a little higher and these traditions are carried on at Varian’s today.
 
This interview with Sheila occurred in the early spring of 1994, a different time and place in the world of both horses and technology. Afire Bey V and Hucklebey Berry+/ were just “coming on” as a show horses and young sires. Jullyen El Jamaal, Audacious PS and Sundance Kid V hadn’t been foaled yet. And, the “Internet” was something that was still in it’s infantile stages of becoming popular. I did this interview with her before I had a computer. We did several very lengthy phone calls and I hand wrote the responses to the questions. I researched her horses and breeding program using the stud books, micro-fiche, old Arabian Horse News, Worlds and Times magazine to put together the back story on it. We had to break up the phone calls and do one a day, because my hand would cramp from writing her responses and I’d have to take a break. Yes, we were dinosaurs then, but Sheila was more then happy to throw me a bone with the interview. And, as a follow up, one of my my cherished letters is a lengthy thank-you from Sheila, on Varian stationary, for the lovely and thoughtful interview.
 
One thing that didn’t make it into the story/interview at the time, was how Sheila and her mother learned about the Arabian show and breeding world. Sheila was just a girl, she wouldn’t be driving for several more years, so her mother, Wenonah, would take her to Arabian horse shows in Southern California. There they met the “God Mother” of *Raffles bred Arabian horses, Alice Payne of Chino, who took the mother and daughter under her wing to help them start their fledgling breeding program. For several show seasons, Alice, Sheila and Wenonah, religiously went to any Arabian show they could together, totting along the handful of Arabian Stud Books that had been printed, and looked up virtually ever horse being shown to see what their bloodlines were and how these lines bred on to the qualities they wanted or the faults they didn’t. In retrospect, they two breeding programs had very, very little in common bloodline wise and everything in common conformation and type wise. Alice, who owned both *Raffles and *Raseyn at the end of their lives, never bred outside of her Raffles/Skowronek/*Raseyn bloodlines. Sheila bred for a more athletic American/Polish cross horse. Interestingly enough, after Alice’s death in the late 60’s, Sheila bred one mare, Mignonette (the full sister to Bay El Bey++) to Asil Diletant (Mars x Destynee by Rasraff) who had been purchased out of the Payne estate by her friend Jeff Wonnell. The resulting foal, a chestnut filly named Princess Cher, who brought the Payne/Varian friendship full circle.
 
I tried to find interesting and unusual photos to go with this reprint of the interview. View gallery below. On purpose, I didn’t include photos of Bay-Abi++, Bay El Bey++, Huckleberry Bey++ or Desperado V as everyone knows and has seen literally dozens and dozens of shots of them over the years. I ferreted out some old, vintage photos of Sheila, her parents, and horses bred by her that went on in many cases to found breeding programs and dynasties of their own. Varian Arabians continues today, nearly 4 years after Sheila’s passing, due to the hard work, devotion and tenacity of her long time friend and manager, Angela Alverez and the whole crew who’s devoted their skills and energy to keeping the “V” alive. Thank you SO much to my editor and dear friend, Georgia Cheer, who had the Western Arabian News, for allowing the reprint of this interview. In my own small way, I hope this helps educate and pay homage to a breeder and horsewoman, as well as a breeding program, that has shaped and re-shaped show rings and breeding barns around the world. Here’s to you Sheila, you’re still teaching and inspiring us daily with your beautiful athletes!

 

 Sheila Varian and those Beautiful Athletes

by Jim Robbins

 
Few breeders have enjoyed both the longevity and success of Sheila Varian. For 35 years, Varian Arabians has held a dominant place in both the show rings and breeding barns, and still remains on top today. Perceptive, goal-oreinted and a true horse-woman in the highest sense of the word, Sheila Varian continues to be a driving force in a sometimes fickle breed.
As an outsider looking in, it appears that the Varian program can be broken down into four overlapping decades. The 1960’s brought the first of the four major breeding stallions, Bay-Abi++ (Errabi x Angyl by *Raseyn). A striking bay horse of primarily Polish/Crabbet breeding, he was named National Champion Stallion in 1962 and returned to the show ring to garner top tens in both English and Western Pleasure. His is the name that is synonymous with Varian to this day.
The Varian broodmare band had been partially assembled by the time of Bay-Abi’s Nationals win and it included the three Polish imports: *Naganka (Bad Afas x Najada by Fetysz), *Ostroga (Duch x Orda by Omar II) and *Bachantka (Wielki Szlem x Balalajka by Amurath-Sahib). To say that the impact of these mares was important would be an understatement, as they all produced Nationals winners, and most of their daughters and granddaughters did the same.
The mare that “won the world” at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Ronteza (*Witez II x Ronna by Faronek), also started her production career in the early 1960’s. She produced three Nationals winners alone, all by Bay-Abi++. In addition, Ronteza won countless admirer’s for the Arabian breed from the working horse people.
Other mares that figured prominently in Bay-Abi’s, and Sheila’s, success at this time included the predominantly CMK-bred mares: Gayfaba (Kufaba x Sargay by Gayr), Bindraffa (Indraff x Binhara by Sahar), Sunny Acres Gigi (Rapture x Sunny Acres Katydid by Ibn Hanad) and Zohrina (Bin Bashi x Zohra by El Kumait). To the best of my knowledge, all of these mares produced at least one, if not more, Nationals winners. By the end of the 1960’s, it was obvious that the Polish/American cross worked to produce the “beautiful athletes” that Sheila envisioned. In 1969, the last major event for Varian Arabians that decade, was the birth of a tall, stretchy colt by Bay-Abi++ and out of *Naganka, named Bay El Bey++. More about him in the 1970’s.
There was no doubt about it, Sheila had an eye for a horse, and in 1970 she leased a flashy 2 year old colt for his first year at stud. His name was Khemosabi++++// (Amerigo x Jurneeka++ by Fadjur). Khemosabi++++// covered some of the best Varian mares that year. Two of his foals to flourish the next year included the multiple Top-Ten stallion Kaiyoum++ (out of Bayanka by Bay-Abi++) and the dynastic producer, Moska (out of Baychatka++ by Bay-Abi++), who is still one of their leading broodmares today. In the mid-1970’s, Bay El Bey++ started to emerge as a sire of show horses. Gene Turner of Sagamore Park, but the sale didn’t go through because of an accidental lameness. God was smiling on Sheila once again. Bay El Bey++ sired both Barbary+++ (out of Balalinka by *Bask++) and Huckleberry Bey++ (out of Taffona by Raffon++) in the mid-70’s, with both of these stallions going on to win honors in both halter and performance through the Nationals level. Barbary+++ went to Mike Nichols, while “Huck” stayed at Varians.
In 1975, Lester and jennie Walton pulled in the farm to breed their *Bask++ daughter, Star of Ofir (out of Llana++ by Ga’Zi) to Bay El Bey++. The resulting foal, just in case you’ve been living in a foreign country for the last 15 years was Bey Shah+, whose offspring have dominated the halter ring since the early 80’s. Important mares that joined the Varian broodmare band during the 70’s, included the Bay-Abi++ daughters: Lisa Lu (x *Ostroga by Duch), Bay-Teza++ (x Ronteza by *Witez II) and the full sisters Baychatka++ and Bayanka, both out of *Bachatka by Wielki Szlem. Balalinka, a 15/16 brother/sister mating by *Bask++ and out of *Bachantka, and the two Khemosabi++++// daughters Moska (x Baychatka++ by Bay-Abi++) and Khemadera (x Madera by Rey De Esperanzo) also started their production careers about this time. On a personal note, Sheila nursed her beloved Bey-Event (Bay-Abi++ x Ronteza) back from a near crippling accident to win the 1976 US National Champion Stock Horse for the second time. Both of the wins were unanimous!
The 1980’s saw the emergence of the third major breeding horse, and a third generation Varian-bred stallion, Huckleberry Bey++. Huck, as he was known, picked up multiple Top-Tens in both English Pleasure and halter. In addition, he was voted the United Professional Horseman Association’s “Arabian Horse of the Year” twice, in 1983 and 1984. All of this was accomplished under Sheila’s tutelage. As a sire, Huck started siring those lovely mares with their long, fine necks who not only looked pretty but could trot as well. The broodmare band grew with the addition of 3 great *Bask++ daughters: Spinning Song (x Moska by Khemosabi++++//), Autumn Fire (x SparklingBurgundy by Fadjur) and Halali Wind Kite (x Halali Winonah by *Lotnik). Also joining this elite group of mares was the outstanding Park Horse, Rawar (Gwar x Rafhara by Rafhar), who consistently passed on her motion.
The late 1980’s saw the Huck daughters go into production. Among them were Mosquerade V (x Moska by Khemosabi++++//), Berryankta V (x Balalink by *Bask++) and the exquisite black full sisters (who also represented 5 generations of Varian breeding) Sweet Illusion V and Sweet Inspiration V, both out of the black *Bask++ daughter, Spinning Song. A new kid on the block was also introduced to the Varian breeding program. He was the Spanish/Egyptian import Sanadik El Shaklan (El Shaklan x Mohena by Hadban Enzahi), who is proving a worthy broodmare sire. And last, but not least, another superstar breeding horse covered his first mares in 1988, Desperado V (Huckleberry Bey++ x Daraska by *Dar), who represented 4 generations of Bay-Abi’s sire line. 
The 1990’s started off with a bang for Sheila, with awards for both Breeder and Horsewoman of the Year from the Professional Horseman’s Association. Desperado V was proving himself to be an exceptional sire of young halter and performance winners. The three top sports on the leading sires lists at both the Nationals and Scottsdale were usually occupied by Barbary+++, Huckleberry Bey++ and Bey Shah+. Then tragedy struck with the untimely death of Huck, a great personal loss for Sheila and the farm. She will move forward with the promising young Huck son’s Autumn Blaze V+ and Windstorm V, both out of two of her great *Bask++ daughters. The mares who joined the broodmare band in the 90’s included: Marigold V (Bay El Bey++ x Moska by Khemosabi++++//), Bachista V (Ariston x Bachantka), Pavane V (Khemosabi++++// x Baychatka++ by Bay-Abi++) and Balashaklana V (Sanadik El Shaklan x Balalinka by *Bask++), most of whom have already produced junior champions.
The first time I met Sheila in person was manyears ago at Scottsdale, when she was having a lunch break open house at her barn. She spoke honestly, and with humor, about her horses and breeding program. This was the open house where I learned that her hosres were not of “domestic” breeding (they don’t do windows), but rather of American breeding. Several years later, when I was doing this interview, she readily admitted that she had “far more then her share of great horses and success.” Keep up the good work, Sheila, by continuing to breed all of those amazing beautiful athletes.

 
Varian Interview:
 
Jim: Let’s start with some of the earlier Varian horses. Could you talk a little about Ronteza and Bey-Event?
 

Sheila: Ronteza was my second Arabian, my first being Farlotta (*Lotnik x Farza by Sahar). Ronteza was very much like her mother, Ronna; she looked much more like her mother then her sire, *Witez II. Ronteza looked quite different then Farlotta, who was a tall, stretchy, long-necked mare. She was much more compact and very well balanced. I bought her to make a stock horse out of her and I was lucky to have it all work out. I was able to have a mare who was pretty nearly a genius. Ronteza was one of those once in a lifetime horses, who I have had way more then my fair share of. I had schooled Farlotta in a spade bit and had finished her as a stock horse. I started Ronteza with the foal of making her a stock horse, and had worked directly towards that goal. I had my goals set on what I wanted to accomplish. Although, they were personal goals, I never talked to anyone about them and never had anyone to help me with them. I did work her on a neighbor’s ranch, so she did have ranch experience as a young mare. I had decided as a youngster that I wanted a stock horse, finished in a pade bit, and that I what I worked towards. Ronteza just happened to be one of those extraordinary mares who had the mental capability and the sensitivity to be great. I had not schooled many horses in my life then, so I give credit to her. To myself, I give credit for knowing what I wanted to accomplish and for being goal oriented as to what I wanted. Ronteza produced Bey-Event, and he was a big event, as he was the first foal of hers by Bay-Abi++. I gelded him and did exactly what I wanted to do, make him a stock horse. I started him the day he turned three. He went on to win the Nationals, had a very serious injury, then came back from that to win the Nationals again. Unanimously. He was also shown in open competition, as was Ronteza, and won a couple of saddle for me. Bay-Event never had the chance to go as far as Ronteza in the open world.

 
Jim: Tell us a little about Bay-Abi++.
 
Sheila: Bay-Abi++ had the qualities that were really necessary in our breed. He was an extraordinarily well balanced horse, had a real gaiety to him, yet he could go to work with the seriousness of a serious horse. Yet, with all of the fun that little girls dream of having with a horse, I had with Bay-Abi++. I could do all the fun things in life with him, and yet, work him hard up on my cousin’s ranch. I can remember when Bay-Abi++ was 12 years old, I was running off one of those mountains at the ranch. I remember that I was running hard enough that the wind was blowing and it made my eyes sting, chasing Mexican steers out of thistle patches. It struck me that he could fall and break a leg, was a National Champion and my whole breeding program, and maybe I was taking this a little too lightheartedly. After that, I never took him up there again.
 
Jim: Do you still see a lot of that Bay-Abi++ attitude in the foals today?
 
Sheila: Yes, probably the attitude the most, and then the balance. We always thought that Bay-Abi++ was the yeast. You could mix him with anything and get something better. He could take the good qualities of the mare and improve on them. He was a horse who didn’t have a great deal of faults, so you didn’t have to worry about getting a crooked ankle, or a long back, or a lot of other faults. You didn’t really have to breed away from anything. He was a strong breeding stallion who could let the good qualities of the mare come through. That’s how a horse like Bay El Bey++ could come along, who had a lot of the good qualities of his mother, but also had the best of Bay-Abi++.
 
Jim: Did you use the Polish mares you brought over with Bay-Abi++?
 
Sheila: Yes, I did, over everybody’s dead bodies.
 
Jim: That was back when you could have bred those mares to *Bask++ year after year and probably made more money off the foals?
 
Sheila: Not only that, I was told by everyone who I was misusing the blood and how scurrilous it was that I should breed those mares to Bay-Abi++.
 
Jim: You’ve always been most successful with the Polish/American cross, what qualities do you like to see come through from each one ideally?
 
Sheila: The Poles had done what I did, but first, and I stepped in on their program. Their desire was to breed good horses. They raced them, but speed was not everything. How sound they stayed and how well they did in conditioning were just as important. The Poles had very good horse husbandry to my way of thinking, and they produced wonderful athletes. And, they were beautiful horses, some of the most beautiful mares to be seen were in the Polish broodmare band. When we got our three, the objective was to continue to breed the beautiful athlete which we have been talking about for a number of years. Everybody talked about breeding the beautiful athlete, but we were serious about it and had seen that it had already been done by the Poles. We found that when we added Bay-Abi++ to it, and don’t forget that Bay-Abi’s dam was more then ¾ Polish, we got the more consistent foals out of those mares. There was a softness that came from the American breeding, which came from the Crabbet Lines, that I really liked a lot. The Polish horses and Bay-Abi++ began to make a very nice marriage.
 
Jim: You Used Khemosabi++++// his first year at stud, why?
 
Sheila: He was interestingly bred to me, being by Amerigo (Ferseyn x *Szarza by Ali Said) and out of Jurneeka++ (Fadjur x Fadneeka by Fadheilan). I felt that Khemosabi++++// was extremely different from either his mother or his father, which left a good possibility that he would be a very strong breeding horse. I know that a lot of people don’t see that in the same viewpoint that I do, but I’ve found that sometimes a stallion that is really a good horse, who is off type from either his sire or dam, will be a really good breeding horse. You can take, for example, Desperado V, who is certainly an off type from his sire, Huckleberry Bey++, who is one of the strongest breeding stallions that I have ever been around. 
 
Jim: So is he pretty much a replacement for Huck?
 
Sheila: No. I don’t really try to replace horses. I don’t see Huckleberry Bey++ as a replacement for Bay El Bey++ either. I think that you move on, continue to breed, keep moving, but I don’t try to replace.
 
Jim: Today at Varian’s, do you do outside training or just horses of your breeding?
 
Sheila: We’ll do horses of our breeding, but we don’t take horses of other bloodlines in. This is nothing against horses of other breeding, but we can only do so many. We have 40 to 45 mares a year foaling, so I just don’t have the capabilities to work with a lot of other horses now.
 
Jim: Have you had good luck with shipped semen?
 
Sheila: Yes, we have had very good luck with it. Shipped semen is both a bonanza for the owner and for us. It makes stallions available while taking off this extreme pressure of having horses come to the farm. Plus, I don’t have to take on the worry and responsibility of everyone else’s horses.
 
Jim: You have judged quite a bit over the years, including Polish Nationals and at Ascot.
 
Sheila: I have judged the Polish Nationals twice, and Ascot. I have also judged in Australia. I don’t do a lot of judging today because I am busy doing a lot of the things that I want to do (more).
 
Jim: How do you think that judging has changed over the years?
 
Sheila: I think that judging in the old days was sometimes as obviously out of line as it is today. I think that with everything, if you’re going to complain about the judging, which we all do, that is makes it really difficult for somebody who is doing a good ob because we already have a negative opinion of the profession. I don’t think you can tell people that you have to have a positive approach about something, when they don’t feel positive about it. Michael brown, our commissioner, is certainly working harder at it then anybody else has ever had the chance to. Education is the key. 
 
Jim: Is there too much emphasis on showing today?
 
Sheila: No. What I see now is tremendous emphasis coming from people who just want to ride. The day of selling a broodmare who is untrained is practically over. They want a broodmare they can ride also, which I think is wonderful. Our shows have been a tremendous asset in that they have added these 40 and over classes. A lot of mature people thought they couldn’t participate, it wouldn’t be couth, that it should be left ot the youngsters. Now they are climbing on with great enthusiasm, and they should, as they are the people who can afford to show. 
 
Jim: Did you ever go to the Kellogg Ranch?
 
Sheila: Sure, way back when they were really leaders. They put on that wonderful Sunday Show! It was a beautiful place, the horses looked really good and it was a thrilling event. Everybody who was getting into Arabian horses went to Kelloggs. That was a part of your primer class.
 
Jim: Who are your best producig mares today?
 
Sheila: Well, you have to get to the old mares, because you don’t know until a mare is 12 years old if she can produce time after time. One great foal does not a great broodmare make. I would have to say Balalinka (*Bask++ x Bachantka by Wielki Szlem) and the full sisters Moska and Pavane V (Khemosabi++++// x Baychatka++ by Bay-Abi++). One of the superstar young mares is Marigold V (Bay El Bey++ x Moska by Khemosabi++++//). Certainly Rawar (*Gwar x Rafhara by Rafhar), though she hasn’t had that many foals it certainly looks like her babies will be good. Autumn Fire (*Bask++ x Sparklingburgundy by Fadjur) has been an extraordinary producer. I fortunately have a lot of them (great producers). Bachista V, by Ariston and out of *Bachantka, is doing very well for us. Sweet Inspiration V and Sweet Illusion V are full sisters (Huckleberry Bey++ x Spinning Song by *Bask++), though younger they are both doing very well.
 
Jim: What qualities to you look for in a performance horse, say an English horse?
 
Sheila: On young horses, first of all I look to their mother and father. If I have a trotting mare for a mother, I look to see if the baby can trot. Then I look for a baby that can trot real loose, they don’t have to trot big as lot’s of them don’t, but they have to have a lot of looseness about them. This is especially true when they come out of a corner and work off their rear end. If he is feeling good, and not too hot, I can really get a good look at him. I don’t think I could look at other peoples (horses) and tell this, unless they had breeding similar to mine. But, with my own I can.
 
Jim: Does the attitude figure in?
 
Sheila: Yes, they don’t have to be hot horses at all. Real easy going horses can make great English horses. If they are a horse that is lazy, then those horses don’t make good English horses. 
I really like English horses that are quiet and that you can also ride out on the trail. Then when you start getting them conditioned, they really start getting with the program. Comment+/ (Mikado++ x *Ostroga by Duch) was a very interesting horse. He was a horse that I would bring in from the field, and he would come in very quiet and let down. Then, I would get on him and let him canter, anyway he wanted with his head down. I didn’t make any effort to get his head up. I would just gallop him everyday, and pretty soon he would start snorting when he was galloping. All I had to do was work on keeping him soft in the bridle. He would build up to National Champion level, just like that. The last time that he was Reserve National Champion Park Horse, I didn’t trot him. I didn’t trot him until I got to the Nationals, but I knew him like a book. I think with a lot of horses people feel that if it is going to be an English hosre, it has to be hot. If it has some ambition, but is quiet, that’s the best kind.
 
Jim: What about halter horses?
 
Sheila: I can look at a foal and say it has the qualities I think a halter horse should have, but I can’t tell you what level until I bring it to the barn and do some conditioning on it. Tim Shea put it just perfectly when he said, “They are breeding halter hosres to be helpless.” I had to laugh, and this is nothing against the people who are breeding halter horses. But, if halter becomes the paramount thing that one is trying to breed for, then it is very easy to forget that the horse is to be ridden. That is what they have been bred for for centuries. I am not a lover of the perfectly horizontal croup, which in fact sometimes goes uphill, or the very horizontal neck, of the very, very tight loin. These are horses that we often give our ribbons and championships to, ignoring the fact that they may be crooked legged or not a very bendable horse. We have to be careful because we are looking at a horse that we see as a silhouette when he walks on that wall. So we want everything to be tight, and when we get it all too tight the horse has trouble when you get on him. His back gets sore, because of a loin that is too tight. He isn’t able to bend with his neck and gets sore when he can’t bend properly. This horse also has more soundness problems because he isn’t free in his shoulder. I like the three dimentional look, with the shoulder standing out form the body and the hip to be obvious where it starts and stops. I like the muscling to be defined, not so smooth that I can’t see the definition.
 
Jim: You can’t ride a perfectly level croup, can you?
 
Sheila: Not very easily. I don’t think anybody cares to much, but you’ll have some trouble later on breeding them. Normally they’ll pool urine as they get older, which mares them harder to get in foal. My objective is to breed good minded, sound horses and I have said this for years. A sound minded, sound horse that is really beautiful, than can perform.
 
Jim: If you have a family coming on the place, with average funds, what advice do you give them?
 
Sheila: I would think that was wonderful and ask them what they would like to see. A gelding is ging to be less expensive than a mare, on the whole. If you are getting an inexpensive mare, you’re probably not buying a good one, then you’re better off to buy a good gelding. Always go to quality, never deny quality.
 
Jim: Are there any views that you would like to give on anything, sort of a soap-box forum?
 
Sheila: Oh, sure! I have a few soap-box forums. Right not they have to do with a couple of things that I would like to see. I would like to see the Junior English and Western horses age extended to include five year olds. We are starting them at two, when we could start them at three if they would give us that extra year. That would be so much better for many horses. When we used to show an English horse at 15 years of age, now at six or seven years they are considered down the road, too long and too far. There are soundness problems from this as well. To get a horse to Scottsdale as a four-year-old, you are startling them as a three-year-old, when technically they are only two. They go to Scottsdale when they are three, and not four. There is no time to rest, or take a year off if they need to mature, both mentally and physically.
I’ve been on this soap box for several years. I strongly feel that they have to give more information at the horse shows, to all the people coming in to see the show. They also need to get over worrying that some judge is going to know who that horse or trainer is, if they announce them. If they have a problem with announcing the horse’s sire, dam, owner and handler when they are being led up to the judge(s), that’s Okay. They can announce them as they are being taken away from the judge. This helps the people in the stand who are trying to learn. Our announcers have a wonderful opportunity to really begin to use their craft and help newcomers learn about our breed.
I was just looking at my rule book yesterday, wondering why we don’t make the little short announcement (saying) what the judge is to judge for and what the primary points of the class are. They could put this into a class so an audience could participate along with the judging. Certainly in amateur and junior classes, to announce interesting things about each horse and rider to keep the audience in the stands interested. Why can’t they do that when they are lined up, why can’t they say who each horse and rider are and the age of the horse? There is never an announcement of a breeder given for any horse. In the yearling and two-year-old colts, they announce the sires and the dams of the top ten. As far as our horses are concerned, it is certainly time for us to begin to put some guidelines together to follow. Let’s say in halter horses, who have the least amount of guidelines to follow. If judges are going to put up horses that have breed-able defects, especially serious breed-able defects, I think they need to stand up and be accountable for their placings. 
 
Jim: Personally, the legs on horses that win bother me the most.
 
Sheila: Well, if we have a sire, a really dynamic sire, who happens to breed a lot of really wonderful things and he also breeds some strong faults, he is going to have to atone for his qualities and lack of qualities. Remember, and I know people are going to argue with me on this, it was never healthy for us when we called the Arabian “a piece of living artwork.” It sounded great and had a beautiful ring to it, but it wasn’t good for our breed.
 
Jim: Also, sires that sire bad front legs, and their foals, are rarely shown in performance.
 
Sheila: They aren’t shown for a number of reasons, and that’s where performance comes into view. With a performance horse, there has to be a disposition that goes with trainability, or that horse has trouble in the performance arena. Again, remember what the Arabian is all about, that is a major part of our breed. Disposition and trainability.
 
Jim: There are sires out there who do equally well at both halter and performance, Huckleberry Bey++ being one of them.
 
Sheila: Interestingly, when they would write up in a magazine, usually a horse that could sire at halter took precedence over a horse that could sire at both halter and performance. In truth, it should be the other way around! Here’s something that would cause a little controversy, and I’d be interested to see what people think about it. I’d like to see them change the name of the halter classes to breeding classes. Then I would like to see the National Championships run in the morning, as we did a number of years ago. Then, after the stallion and mare championships are over, allow the audience to go down into the ring and spend an hour or so with the horses. This gives the people a chance to get a real look at the horses, instead of a lot of flash and glitz.
 
Jim: There are several horses out there I wouldn’t want to go into the arena with.
 
Sheila: You would find that would not be as difficult as you think. All of the horses are used to having grooms around them. This would be such an uplifting experience for all of the new people in the Arabian breed that are trying to learn about them. I think this would be a great, healthy move for our breed.
 
I think that we are breeding very good horses, and disagree with some who think that it is such an unhealthy time for the breed. I think that people are coming into horses now for the right reasons, which are to participate rather then just invest in them. Good horses still go.
 
 
Credits:

Georgia Cheer, the publisher of the Western Arabian News, where the interview first appeared.

Jim Robbins R-Farm Arabians, Portland, OR  Interviewer and prologue.

A big thank you to Jim for sharing the story and photos with us ~ Angela