Over 60 years ago, a young girl read Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion and dreamed of finding the “perfect” horse. That dream eventually culminated in the breeding and training of horses that “changed the Arabian horse in America and then in the rest of the world.” The girl was Sheila Varian and today over 70% of registered Arabian horses in North America carry the blood of Varian Arabians.
I could not bear the thought of this place being broken up… There would be houses all over it and the animals would have no place to go.
Arabian-horse-world icon & Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee
You will find some of these remarkable horses grazing in the hills off Highway 101, near the town of Arroyo Grande, CA – as their ancestors did before them. But as nine generations of Varian Arabians blossomed in these hills, so did property values.
Land in the prime location of Varian Arabians Ranch is at significant risk of development. Without intervention the hills will eventually be cut into, houses built, vineyards planted, and the grasses that sustain horse and wildlife gone forever.
Even before she became ill with ovarian cancer, Sheila Varian reached out to California Rangeland Trust with yet another dream: to form a land conservation agreement that would not only protect Varian Arabians Ranch for the people, the horses, and the wildlife in the near future, but would also ensure that her land, and eventually other working ranches, would be protected forever
Sheila found the perfect partner in California Rangeland Trust, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to conserve California’s working ranches that provide stewardship, open space and natural habitat for future generations. Together, they formed an innovative four step plan:
- California Rangeland Trust will immediately begin raising funds to purchase the Varian Arabians Ranch development rights, appraised at $2.5 million, in order to permanently protect the entire ranch through a conservation easement. The Rangeland Trust will continue to monitor the ranch yearly to ensure that it will never be subdivided or subject to growing development pressures from houses and vineyards.
- Varian Arabians Ranch manager Angela Alvarez will assume full operation of the ranch when Sheila becomes unable to run it. Under her leadership, Varian Arabians will not only continue training, breeding, selling and showing world-class Arabian horses but will also extend Sheila’s profound legacy as a teacher, leader and storyteller by utilizing the ranch as an educational and historical event center for the Arabian horse.
- California Rangeland Trust will place a conservation easement to protect Varian Arabians Ranch as soon as the conservation funds for Sheila’s estate are raised so it will never be developed. When Angela retires, the estate trustees will then donate the estate’s remaining assets including the entire conserved ranch to the Rangeland Trust as directed by the terms of Sheila’s planned gift.
- California Rangeland Trust will then sell the ranch and use the proceeds to conserve other working ranches. While the Rangeland Trust hopes to find a buyer who shares a passion for Arabian horses and who will continue the Varian legacy, rest assured that the conservation easement runs with the title of the land guaranteeing this historic ranch remains entirely intact forever, no matter what.
Please act now and make your donation to the ranch’s conservation fund by filling out the information below. Every contribution will be used to make certain Sheila’s dream will live on and her historic, iconic ranch will be preserved forever with a conservation easement. 2017 represents an important milestone for the campaign’s success, so we encourage donations of appreciated stock, charitable planned and major gifts or intentions of future financial support to help reach our goal. If you would like more detailed information about the campaign to Preserve Varian Arabians Ranch, contact Cecilia Tonsing, Chief Development Officer, at (916)444-2096.