Jullyen El Jamaal – The Passing of a Legend

The Arabian horse world, though large by many standards, is quite close knit, and when the news of Jullyen El Jamaal’s death began to spread, there was an obvious and palpable sense of sadness among nearly everyone that I spoke to. 

I remember receiving a call from a friend in Scottsdale, and seeing her name on Caller ID coupled with hearing the words, “Did you hear”, I didn’t have to ask what she was talking about.  We both got a little teary as we discussed the situation and my friend’s beautiful Jullyen El Jamaal daughter, who she shows very successfully in Western Pleasure.  “I wonder if there will ever be another one like him?” was the last question that my friend asked me before hanging up the phone…my answer was a quiet and heartfelt “No”.

He played with his tail up, snorting, but with a gentleness that was also engaging.


Sheila Varian is a legend in the Arabian Horse world, and I consider myself lucky to live in such close proximity to her beautiful facility. I have toured the ranch many times; attended open houses, visited babies just after their birth, considered stallions with friends who were looking to breed their mares, and even had the opportunity to get a couple halter lessons the “Varian Way” with one of Sheila’s best trainers.

I can vividly remember seeing Jullyen in his home environment, and even next to the amazing Desperado V and Maclintock V, there was just something extra special about him. A friend of mine once asked my opinion, as we were pulling out of Sheila’s driveway after a breeding consultation, on which of Varian’s stallions I thought was the best (a loaded question in my mind, as they are all “the best” in their own ways), but I told her that I like Jullyen because he had “kind eyes and a youthful soul”. I’ve heard this same sentiment echoed over the years by countless people who also fell in love with this horse and happily bred their mares to him.

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Kind eyes and a youthful soul.

Jullyen’s life began in Brazil, but his story really began in 2002. Sheila was on the hunt for an outcross stallion to add to her breeding program. Over the years, she had leased and stood several incredible stallions that were crossed with her mares, but it was time to add a permanent fixture to the ranch. It was a big decision, and the selected stallion would have enormous shoes to fill in order to fit in and produce in a breeding environment that is legendary on its own.

Sheila wasn’t going to settle for just any horse, she had a list of criteria that the new kid on the block had to meet before he would even be considered. She searched the show circuit, spent time in the barns in Scottsdale, and just wasn’t finding exactly what she was looking for. A trip to Gallun Farms in Santa Ynez, actually almost by chance, was fate’s way of answering Sheila’s search; though Jullyen was not actually on the list as a potential addition to the program, Sheila asked to see him and Greg obliged. He was shown in his halter stance, moved around a few times, and then Sheila asked to see him “relaxed”…Greg dropped the lead, and Jullyen stood quietly and contently. He was just as lovely, or more so, than when we was in his “show horse pose”.


All Natural Showing

Sheila Varian has always been one to set at tone in the industry, and this was certainly the case with Jullyen. He was shown without a bridle path cut and without the overly shaved and greased face that most of us in the industry are used to. “He didn’t need it,” Bonnie Simmons, a breeder and Jullyen lover, says. “ A good horse doesn’t. When we have to start faking the big eyes, small ears, tail carriage, and everything else through creative clipping and other practices we’re doing a disservice to the breed.”

In 2013 at the International Stallion Presentation during the Arabian Breeders World Cup, Jullyen came into the ring looking as natural as nearly any “halter stallion” that I have ever seen, and yet he was mesmerizing. Melanie Gorth, who was sitting ringside during his presentation, recalls, “There was just something about that horse that made you look at him. It wasn’t one thing in particular, it was the whole package put together…and that’s what makes a great breeding stallion, and really, a great show horse in general.”


There was just something about that horse that made you look at him. It wasn’t one thing in particular, it was the whole package put together.

The Whole Package

Jullyen El Jamaal was the leading son of the legendary Ali Jamaal in number of National winning get. As of 2013, he had sired over 350 purebred get, and at that time 129 of those horses were champions.  He himself had an impressive show record, only being shown twice and was a champion both times. He passed along his athleticism to his get, which continue to dominate in the Western and Hunter divisions, as well as in Halter.

Sheila and Varian Breeding

One cannot write an article about one of Sheila Varian’s horses without saying something about the woman herself. Sheila started her ranch in Arroyo Grande, CA in 1954, and by 1963, she had made breeding and training her full-time job. She still employs the “vaquero” methods of training, which she learned as a girl from Mary Spencer, a renowned breeder of Morgan horses, though she has adapted her techniques to fit the Arabian. She is a Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee, and has produced some of the most influential Arabian bloodlines in the world.

Her intent is clear…she wants to breed a horse with a strong body, a good mind, an athletic and trainable temperament, and she doesn’t cut corners in order to “stay in fashion”, instead, she creates the fashion; this is probably the main reason that I look up to Sheila as a horsewoman and ambassador of the Arabian Horse breed that I have loved since I was 10 years old.

Losing Jullyen El Jamaal

Losing Jullyen El Jamaal so suddenly at only 18 years of age – a horse that everyone expected to keep breeding well into his 20’s – always makes one take personal stock of their own horse lives. I know that I hugged my own little Arabian mare a bit tighter the day that I heard the news, and dropped a few extra carrots into her grain bucket.

It also makes one consider all of the Arabians across the United States, and even throughout the world, with ties to this incredible bloodline breathing softly in their stalls and pastures, not knowing that they carry a legacy that will never be broken or forgotten. The sadness is global, but most personal to the woman who searched for and found this incredible horse, and for that, my heart goes out to Sheila Varian. In closing, it is perhaps most fitting to end with a quote from Sheila about her beloved stallion, “ He played with his tail up, snorting, but with a gentleness that was also engaging.” And so we will all remember the infamous Jullyen El Jamaal in this way…playing in a green pasture with his tail up, somewhere across that rainbow bridge in the sky.


** Originally published in 2014

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