training horses the v way

"We believe all horses should be able to do something well.
It is our job to recognize that talent, and train for it."  ~ Sheila Varian

Jaime and Ball

Trainer Andres Castaño now at Varian Arabians

Andres CastanoAndres brings yet another dimension of color to the deep, rich Varian philosophy through providing training services for young horses, desensitization, trail, and the show ring alongside Jaime Hernandez, as well as continuing to host horsemanship clinics under the Varian banner. View his bio below.

Accepting horses per waiting list.


Do you have a horse that needs training "The Varian Way"? Occassionally, Varian Arabians has openings for outside horses. This is a perfect opportunity to give your horse the training touch that only can be found at Varian Arabians. Mike Perez offers in-hand and ground manners services that are perfect for young horses, but also great for mature horses who need a brush up as well. Jaime Hernandez is a decorated national-level trainer offers under saddle services, from starting to show finishing in a variety of disciplines. Starting in October 2019, Andres Castaño will join Varian Arabians working with young horses, desensitization, trail, and the show ring alongside Jaime Hernandez.

All breeds welcome

Training is offered in the following areas:

  • Ground Training
  • Ground Manners
  • Starting Under Saddle
  • English Pleasure
  • Hunter Pleasure
  • Western Pleasure
  • Trail Training (desensitizing, obstacles)
  • Trailer Loading

For openings and questions, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. here!

Contact us for more information and contracts

Training Staff

  • "Mike" Ismael Perez
  • Jaime Hernandez
  • Andres Castaño


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.


Jaime Hernandez

Jaime Hernandez
Head Performance Trainer

Jaime Hernandez came to Varian Arabians in 1991. He started out cleaning stalls and grooming horses. Bill Flemion’s wife Karen had given him a good referral and he’d had some experience working at a few other horse farms. He’d come to the farm with Greg Gallun. Sheila asked him when he could start. “Right away,” he said, and he’s since been an integral part of the Varian horses.

He was born in a small village near lake Chapala in Jalisco, Mexico. He remembers riding his little donkey to school every day with his brother Felix. He also remembers riding the same little donkey miles away, alone, to take food to his Dad while he was working when he was about six years old.

After cleaning stalls for a while, Sheila had him help Phillip Keisner, who was her assistant trainer at the time. She must have seen something special in Jaime, and soon she had him up on a horse in the round pen, bareback. She had the horse on a lunge line and had him walking in a circle.

“Now hold your arms out to the side.” She told him. “no hands, just your legs.”
Then she clucked the horse up to a trot, then up to a lope.
“You’re pretty good” she said, “now, close your eyes.”   
“No.” Jaime said, “my eyes are my balance, if I close my eyes, I fall off!”

She started giving him horses to ride at that point. His first horse show was in Paso Robles on a horse named Cadizjaberry V. Jaime’s English was very limited. He’d never shown before and he was nervous. Sheila told him that every time the announcer said something, for him to look up and find her in the stands. She would make hand signals to tell him what he said, walk, trot, lope, canter, turn around. After the class, they called out the top ten. Then they called out the winner. Jaime didn’t understand the number they called out, but he knew when they called out “Cadizjaberry V, Grand Champion!” Looking up in the stands, he saw Sheila, jumping for joy and clapping her hands, laughing.

“Don’t be afraid of the big trainers or the big horses, just do your best.” Sheila taught him. “Go sit in the stands and imagine your ride. Go through it in your head, how you’ll move, how you’ll show. Keep yourself where the judges can see you.”

 After gaining some recognition in the horse world, Jaime was approached by  other farms, offering him to come work for them. He told them no, Sheila gave him a chance when no one else would. For twenty-five years, he learned from Sheila and combined that with his own instincts, how to help a horse to understand his place in the world and to be a trusting partner.

He is a U.S. citizen today and lives in Arroyo Grande with his wife and four children.

Andres Castaño

Andres Castaño
Performance Trainer

Andres will be joining Varian Arabians October 2019

Andres Castaño has been described as ‘an astoundingly naturally gifted trainer.’ With an approach of softness and sensitivity, Andres is perfectly suited for the intelligence of the Arabian horse.

Andres grew up in Medellin, Colombia, and can remember riding and handling horses since the tender age of three. He fondly recalls all-day trail rides with his parents and siblings across the mountains of Colombia nearly every weekend of his childhood.

It wasn’t until age 18 that Andres decided to work with horses professionally. His first job? Working with Arabians for the first time – Polish Arabian endurance horses, to be specific. Since that time, he has lived in the United States training Arabian horses, hosting natural horsemanship clinics, and entertaining through live performances that showcase the versatility of the Arabian breed… anything from tricks, liberty work and bareback jumping to bridleless mounted shooting, roping and more.

You can likely see, by now, how effortlessly Andres Castaño’s philosophy fuses with that of Sheila Varian.

Andres brings yet another dimension of color to the deep, rich Varian philosophy through providing training services for young horses, desensitization, trail, and the show ring alongside Jaime Hernandez, as well as continuing to host horsemanship clinics under the Varian banner.


Training Testimonials

    Hi Angela, 
    Noble Afire in 2017Just a quick note to say hello and to let you know that Noble Afire, nicknamed "Henry", now, is going to be one of the Arabian horse breed representatives at the Washington Horse Expo, March 1-3. We're also entered in the In-hand and Under Saddle Obstacle course.  Please pass on to Jaime that I am very grateful for the hours he put in training Henry and re-schooling him for regular (i.e. non-EP) work. Henry is turning out to be one heck of a trail horse. He is adventurous, sensible and fun to ride, and that has a lot to do with Jaime's training. I read on the website that Jaime is recovering, so I hope he is well and mending quickly. 
    On another note, my husband and I might end up being on the ocean this summer again. If so, we'd like to send Henry to Varian for that time (June-mid-August). Ideally, I'd plan to back just before the September clinic you're hosting and enter it with Henry.  
    Anyway, best to you and the Varian staff. Congrats by the way on the new arrival in your family! 
  • I have to tell you that the yearling gelding, Blues Dancer V, I bought from Varian Arabians in August 2002 was such a wonderful horse to handle. He would do anything I asked and when it was time to break him, he trusted me 100% and gave me absolutely no problems. When I got divorced in 2007, I sadly had to sell him. However the lady who purchased him told me many times that I did a great job of breaking and training him, but I always told her that he was so easy because of the wonderful job of starting him that was done by the trainers at Varian Arabians. Your methods are so good, kind and patient that the horses who come from there are very trusting and easy to handle.
    The Varian Way is really something.

    ~ Sandy Duffin

  • Calendar Sun V at the 2017 The Varian Way Weekend

    We want to express our sincere thanks to Varian Arabians and staff’s dedicated and outstanding care and training of Calendar Sun V that has allowed Donna’s dream of showing him in the futurity class at the Santa Barbara show.  Donna is high as a kite and really happy to be able to come and see him perform.

    Donna and I want to make sure that, as far as we are concerned, only ONE person has to be happy with how Calendar Sun V does; Jamie, just to go in and be happy with how he does will make the trip a success for Donna and myself. 

    If there is something Donna can do to help out, be sure and let her know; otherwise she will try and not be a pest.

    Tom and Donna Lynch


  • M. Gee Lotus MEA1Lotus MEA was started poorly by another individual. So I sent her to Jaime to correct. Jaime took that grey mare and restarted her beautifully. In fact, I will be showing that same horse at my first Nationals this October in the Country English Maturity and the Open Country Jr. Horse class! I attached a photo in this email that National Horseman-Arabian took of me winning the Open Country Jr. Horse class at Region 1 in Del Mar this year on that same mare. I highly recommend the training program at Varian Arabians. Sheila taught them well, and it has born me huge results.

    ~ Matt Gee (Sylmar, CA)

  • I’ve purchased four Varian arabians and all of them have been trained by Mike Perez and Jaime Hernandez.  Indeed, I purchased them in large part because they were started and trained at Varian Arabians.  My horses are well schooled, respectful and loving... what all horses should be, in my opinion. When they see me enter the field, they walk toward me, and are happy to be with me and do their job.  This does not involve carrots; rather they have been taught that humans are their friends.  They are a respected partner because from the beginning they have enjoyed consistent, fair training.  Do yourself a favor and make use of this world class opportunity to have Varian Arabians train your partner.

    In addition to the horses I've purchased, I've also bred three foals at Varian Arabians out of Breathless V and by Audacious ps.  I live in Tahoe and regularly drive 7 hours to the ranch.  My non-horse friends think I'm crazy, but horse people know that there is no substitute for beginning foals in a healthy, safe and professional environment.  My foals, each better than the last, have found homes with new owners who are delighted with their strong bodies and minds.  Seven hours in the car is nothing compared to that.

    ~ Sherry Conrads (Tahoe, CA)
    Breathless V, Sweet Cherry Wine V, Rawhide V and Zips Amerigold
  • We have been thrilled watching Jadyn, our Jullyen son, in training with Jaime. Jaime started him, and he is now a happy and willing guy under saddle. We could not have gone anywhere else and received this kind of training for him. We also know for certain there is nowhere else in the world you can  deal with such wonderful people as Sheila, Angela and last but not least, Jaime. 

    ~ Vici Provo

  • Jaime and Jullyen El Jamaal

    Having the opportunity for my mare to experience training at Varian Arabians was beyond a dream come true. Head trainer Jaime Hernandez incorporated Sheila Varian's philosophy of gentle hands and trusting partnership in crafting his interactions with my mare. From the start, she was in good hands. The resulting transformation in her was rewarding to see and experience. She has more confidence, balance, and refinement, and will be able to help transform me into that better rider I aspire to be.

    ~ Mary Hartman (Soledad, CA)

  • Jaime HernandezJaime Hernandez has only had my 3- year-old filly in training for a little over a month, and her transformation is nothing short of amazing. My filly lacked confidence and was nervous under saddle when she came to Varian Arabians. Jaime began working with that confidence issue when he unloaded her from the trailer.

    Jaime took his time just backing her slowly out of the step-up trailer, and gave her time to be comfortable with the situation and with him. Jaime has continued this training process with her under saddle by building her confidence with calm and measured commands. My filly was being ridden as a hunter, but her upright neck and structure suggested she would be an English Pleasure horse. Jaime allows her to frame in a more upright position, at the same time giving her more rein to keep her relaxed while moving forward in a fluid fashion. My filly is moving now as an English Pleasure horse and looks to be loving her new job. Her future appears very promising. I cannot thank Jaime and Varian Arabians enough for giving my filly a bright future in the Arabian performance world. Putting a horse in training with Varian Arabians will provide that horse a very successful opportunity to see its talents flourish.

    ~ Dianne Peltak (San Ramon, CA)


  • Santino V 69.SMHaving attended every event at the Varian farm for years I had watched many of their beautiful horses in various training situations—in hand, under saddle, trailer loading-- and I longed for my horse to be that well-mannered and responsive.

     Knight was at the farm for only one month but when I brought him home I couldn’t believe the difference. He now stands still when I mount him, is responsive under saddle and is calmer on the trail when ridden with his buddies. 

    Thank you, Varian Arabians, for transforming my horse!

    ~ Mollie Hogan


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