Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening: A New Vision

“I feel like I’m planning a wedding!” exclaimed Caprice Arkell as the final details and the vision of the Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening came together. Caprice was on her way to North County to pick up a sponsor’s raffle donation. “We’re expecting about 300 guests,” she said excitedly.

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Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening

The bright, sunny day was just perfect to set the scene for the Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening party on Sunday, November 15, 2023. As flags waved in the breeze new paint brought a sense of freshness, the tidy landscaping showed meticulous care, blooming roses invited guests to take in their fragrance and a pair of Appaloosa horses greeted 300 attendees as they walked down the main entrance. The opening demo put on by Mike Perez and Major Mac V and other horses in the front arena brought the days of Sheila Varian back to life.

This Grand Opening engaged the local equestrian community and demonstrated commitment to preserving this historic equestrian facility and property. In a time where land formerly used by equestrians is being forever lost to housing developments, the actions of the new owners, the Arkell family, are unique and deeply appreciated by the equestrian community at large.

The Vision for the Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening

Caprice shares her vision for the Grand Opening, “Simon and I wanted to introduce ourselves and our family, but more importantly, show off the incredible staff that has stayed on since Sheila Varian passed away. The property went dormant after her passing but the staff has always maintained their integrity of hard work, unbelievable care for the horses and the horse training which continues Sheila’s legacy.”

  • Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening: A New Vision
  • Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening: A New Vision
  • Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening: A New Vision

Every moment of the Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening was planned with purpose: to introduce the new owners and showcase the talents of the faithful employees. Planning the event put Caprice and daughter Sophie in touch with a variety of local business owners and fans of Sheila Varian. This opened relationships for the Arkell family.

Simon Arkell relates their experience, “It was fantastic. Caprice and Sophie were able to meet a lot of local people through different channels: becoming new Chamber of Commerce members, meeting owners of the other local businesses around town who supported the raffle gift portion of the Grand Opening and meeting the new neighbors.”

Engaging the Equestrian Community

Over and over, the Arkells are humbled by the positive response of the local equestrian community. An intense gratitude has welled up with thankfulness for keeping Sheila’s legacy alive. At the event, Caprice talked with six women whom Sheila impacted so much. Each woman started crying, much to their own surprise, as they related their experiences regarding Sheila. This really brought home the realization that Sheila had a massive emotional impact on many, many people. “We are even more humbled now to be a part of Sheila’s legacy,” say the Arkells.

Putting a Bounce in the Step of the Faithful Employees

Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening: A New Vision
Honoring the loyal Varian Equestrian Center Employees

Each staff member stepped up to the challenge of making the historic property ready for a wave of guests. Yet, the lasting impact of the day was massive. When asked about the impact Simon responded with, “Massive positivity!! These are incredible people and they take incredible pride in the grounds, the horses and their work. They love this property and they loved Sheila. We see a new spring in their step around the property!”

Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening Memories to Propel the Vision Forward

Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening: A New Vision

As attendees parked their cars in the sandlot they walked along the site of the new arena. The vision here is to host barrel racing, other competitions, and clinics – keeping the visiting horses on one side of the property.

Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening: A New Vision
The Arkell Family

What a thrill it was for the Arkell family to officially declare the Varian Equestrian Center open for business with the cutting the red ribbon. In addition, meeting all of the new neighbors, learning the emotional impact of Sheila Varian, the outpouring of support for Simon and Caprice, and the show Major Mac V put on (what a performer!!) all combined to propel the new vision for the historic property forwar

Many Thanks to the Following Grand Opening Sponsors and Raffle Donors

Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening: A New Vision
Raffling off the gift baskets ended the Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening Event

Many SLO County businesses came along side the Arkell family and caught the vision for the event and the future of Varian Equestrian Center. These businesses were represented at the event through a gift basket raffle and other sponsorships.


Elisabeth Haug Photo Art

Nipomo Ranch & Feed

Firestone Walker Brewing Company 805 Beer

Peacock Cellars

Varian Arabians

Platinum Performance 

RockingStar First Aid Class

Aesthera Med Spa

Paicines Wild One Art Works

Galactic Gypsy

Varian Equestrian Center Grand Opening: A New Vision
The future looks bright at Varian Equestrian Center in Arroyo Grande, CA

Photo credit: Sharon Jantzen Photos

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