“The ‘V’ stays!” exclaims Simon Arkell as he stands with his wife Caprice, daughter Sophie and her horse Rebel at the entrance to the main barn of the new Varian Equestrian Center. Escrow closed on the property and the Arkell family are now the new owners.
Come ride along with me! Get your riding the SLO County Trails Hotsheet to get started and join the SLO Horse News Herd!
“We fell in love with Sheila’s story,” relates Caprice. “We’re keeping the presence of Sheila’s legacy running under the new name: Varian Equestrian Center. The honor wall showcasing all Sheila accomplished will remain in the show barn.”
Sheila Varian founded Varian Arabians and became a world-renown name in the Arabian horse world. In October 1961 Sheila became the first woman to win the Open Reined Cow Horse Championship at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Not only was she the first woman to win this, she was the first amateur and Ronteza, her mare, was the first Arabian. Sheila passed away in March of 2016.
What will Stay the Same at Varian Equestrian Center?
“Varian will remain in the name,” explains Simon. “We want to pay homage to the history of this special place.”
Varian Arabian bloodlines will be maintained through Major Mac V and Windy Bey V. These two stallions will remain on-site and the breeding program will be maintained by Angela Alvarez.
The dedicated and hard-working staff will remain with Kristy Gillout-Hogue as the ranch manager and Mike Perez as the ground trainer. Kristy, who has been managing the facility for 10 years will continue to live on-site.
Mike is a gifted trainer who focuses mainly on the youngstock: foals, weanlings and getting younger horses ready to ride. In addition, the maintenance staff and the barn staff will continue in their roles of top-notch service for boarding horses and maintaining this iconic property.
The Boarding Facility
The boarding facility with pasture, paddock, box stalls and main barn options will remain and be expanded. “We want to see more horses here, of any breed” expressed Simon.
The boarding options can be customized, students get a 10% discount, and it is easy to explore options and pick the perfect boarding situation on the Varian Equestrian Center website.
What New Ideas do the Arkells Bring to Varian Equestrian Center?
To start with, their daughter Sophie and her horse Rebel (Arab/Quarter horse) will be a constant presence here. Sophie is currently a student at Cuesta and is an avid barrel racer. Eventually she will get some lesson horses to introduce anyone to horses, especially focusing on youth.
Expanding the Riding Facility
The Arkell family envisions expanding the riding facility, located in Arroyo Grande, CA, with another arena in the sandlot. This space will house most of the temporary events so that visiting horses can stay separate from the long-term boarders across Corbett Canyon Road to reduce disease risk. This will open up the opportunities for barrel racing events, clinics, and educational workshops. The Arkells are also welcoming resident trainers who might like to make Varian Equestrian Center their homebase.
Caprice plans to develop opportunities for mature riders to dust off their boots – or break in brand new boots – with opportunities to get back into riding or get introduced to the sport.
With over 200 acres to explore, a trail system will be developed in the rolling hills that are part of this special place, including the conservation easement set forth in the Rangeland Trust. The vision here is to offer guided trail rides for visitors and Varian fans alike.
Renovating the Main Home
Renovation of the main home will enable housing eight people. This provides current boarders visiting their horses, and traveling horse owners who need a beautiful place (for themselves and their horses) a convenient place to stay on the Central Coast. Other housing options include dry camping in the sandlot. Those guests can also bring their horses to stay and explore the ranch and have easy access to the beautiful San Luis Obispo County trails.
“We want to attract more horses and people here to enjoy this spectacular facility,” restates Simon. “All profits generated by this amazing facility will be invested back into maintaining and developing the facility.”
A Culmination of Dreams
“This is a culmination of our dreams,” expressed Caprice. “To be in a position to preserve something like this – a peaceful place for animals and humans where you can breathe – is truly a dream come true.”
“On top of that we can continue the livelihood of the staff here,” remarks Simon. “While giving our daughter a place to be a torch bearer and be a successful horsewoman, with Sheila as her inspiration.”
“We are honored and blessed to be chosen to be stewards of this land,” remarks Caprice.
Plan your own visit to the NEW Varian Equestrian Center with a guided tour.
Photo credit: Sharon Jantzen Photos
Get going! Looking for trails to ride in SLO County? This hotsheet will get you going on a few of the top rides. Get this delivered to your e-mail and join the SLO Horse News herd to stay up-to-date on herd happenings. Click here > SLO County Trails Hot Sheet to get going!