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(Bay Abi++ x *Naganka)

1969-1996 bay stallion

Sire of Significance
1973 Scottsdale Champion Stallion
1974 US National Reserve Champion Stallion
1976 US National Reserve Champion Stallion
1977 Canadian National Champion Stallion

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by Mary Kirkman

"What would the Arabian breed be like today without Bay El Bey? Take away Huckleberry Bey, Barbary and Bey Shah, and then their sons and daughters ... what a staggering thought!"

-- Eri Hook, Foxfire Arabians, California


When a stallion sires talented show horses, he is declared a success. When some of those animals, in turn, produce brilliant offspring, the sire is revered as "important." When a stallion sires a line of beautiful, athletic horses who not only taste victory in every segment of the competitive arena, but also consistently reproduce their own talent and willing dispositions -- through not just one generation, but strongly, clearly, through many -- that is historic. Bay El Bey was one of the rare individuals who reached that plane. So undeniable has been his influence that now, 26 years after he sired his first foal, his blood runs in the majority of halter and performance champions in the Arabian breed in America.

Just how pervasive is Bay El Bey? Check out the list of leading halter and performance sires at the U.S. and Canadian Nationals. The names of the top sires in the various categories read like a who's who of Bay El Bey sons and grandsons: Huckleberry Bey, Barbary, Bey Shah, Desperado V, Fame VF, Afire Bey V, Hucklebey Berry, AA Apollo Bey, JK Amadeus, Kouvay Bey and others, often in first place, sometimes nearly sweeping the lists. At Scottsdale in 1998, the story was the same, with Bay El Bey descendants owning the first five places on the tally of halter and performance sires by number of winners, and furnishing six out of the top seven sires when calculated by points.

A product of the Varian Arabians breeding program, which is nearing its eighth generation of champions, it might seem as if Bay El Bey's success was to be expected -- until you remember that when the eye-catching bay was foaled, the Varian program was merely a collection of promising theories. From foundation stock, he was the first generation bred at the ranch in the mountains near Arroyo Grande, Calif. In one great grand-slam effort, with Bay El Bey, Varian Arabians changed the face of the Arabian industry.

Just as it will continue to be written in years to come, the story of Bay El Bey begins 10 years before his birth.


It was 1959, just 14 years after the close of World War II. Arabian horses, formally introduced to the United States in 1893, had been growing slowly but steadily since the turn of the century, and after the war, the exotic horses of the desert were becoming very popular. There were
well-known breeding programs in virtually all parts of the country, names of national significance. At the time, no one thought about a slim, young schoolteacher from the central coast of California.

Sheila Varian and her parents had been intrigued by the Polish Arabians rescued in Europe by General George Patton and transported to the United States after World War II. The Varians also had come to appreciate the cross of these Polish horses on American stock, and acquired mares reflecting those bloodlines.

By the close of the decade, they were ready for their first stallion, and attended an Arabian horse club auction at San Francisco's Cow Palace, bidding $1,200 for the 2-year-old Bay Abi, bred by Lloyd Silva and consigned by owner Wes Hoskins.

This first stallion pedigree in the Varian Arabians program reflected the judicious mix of Polish and the Crabbet-based American blood -- but because many Crabbet horses traced to Skowronek, who was foaled at Antonini Stud in Poland, the Polish contribution actually was stronger than most bidders would have considered it at the time.

Bay Abi, a compact, 15-hand bay with a beautiful, expressive face, a laid-back shoulder and sound, correct legs, was by Errabi, a son of the handsome chestnut Arabi Kabir, a winner in both halter and park, and a son of Image, who was by the desert-bred *Mirage.

Errabi's dam, Ferdirah, was a sizeable mare by Rustem, a son of *Berk, the big-trotting Crabbet stallion imported by Maynesboro Stud of New Hampshire in 1918. Ferdirah was out of the great matron Ferda, a 1926 Crabbet import to W. K. Kellogg Arabians in Pomona, Calif., and a mare of faultless conformation who also produced Ferseyn.

Bay Abi's dam was Angyl, who was by Raseyn, also a 1926 Crabbet import to Kellogg Ranch, and one of the early big names on the West Coast. Angyl was out of the Polish mare *Wierna, from the Army's post-war importation. *Wierna was a daughter of Ofir, considered the most important stallion in Poland between the wars, and the sire of Witraz and Wielki Szlem, who were extremely instrumental in rebuilding the Polish program after the war, and *Witez II, whose transfer to the United States by the Army helped spark American interest in Polish horses.

Bay Abi became one of Sheila's closest friends, learning not only to pose majestically as a show horse, but also to work cattle. Sensitive and intelligent, he was a good soldier from the beginning, willing to perform whatever was asked of him, and interested in doing the right thing.

The year 1961 was a turning point for the Varian operation, which consisted of Sheila, her mother, Wenonah, and her father, Eric. When the first importation of Arabians directly from Poland occurred in January, the Varians were quick to observe and approve of the horses. It would take nearly the entire year, working through British breeder Patricia Lindsay, to secure mares for themselves. Lindsay, who had spent four years teaching herself Polish so that she might negotiate the purchase of Arabians, charged $50 per horse to perform the service for others, viewing likely candidates and forwarding photos, films and recommendations. At first, the Varians wanted only one good mare; for approximately $1,200 each, delivered to New York, they were able to purchase three.

Lindsay first suggested *Ostroga, a 6-year-old bay mare by Duch, out of the Omar II daughter Orda. Her second recommendation was the 4-year-old *Bachantka, by Wielki Szlem, out of Balalajka, by Amurath Sahib. The selection would be validated just a few years later: *Bachantka was a fifteen-sixteenths sister to *Bask.

And finally, the third recommendation was the 9-year-old *Naganka, by Bad Afas, out of Najada, by Fetysz. Miss Lindsay told them how she had visited Nowy Dwor Stud just as it was being disbanded, and found a few high-class horses for sale. She was evaluating another candidate when a large grey mare leaped a 4-foot stall door and trotted toward her with such style that Lindsay immediately thought of the fledgling Varian program and its emphasis on both beauty and performance ability. "*Naganka is a flamenco dancer," she wrote to Wenonah. "I think you should have her."

It was December before the mares arrived, tired and thin, but clearly superior. The Varian breeding program was on its way.

The year 1961 was notable for other events as well: Bay Abi won his first halter championship, and Sheila and her American-Polish cross mare Ronteza "won the world" -- slang for winning the $1,000 Reined Cow Horse Championship, held at the Cow Palace. The only woman and the only Arabian defeated a class of the best Quarter Horses in the country. The cowboys now knew who she and Ronteza were, but by and large, the Arabian community did not.

The following year, Sheila had a unique mission: she taught Bay Abi to stand up at halter and then to completely relax on voice command. She had taken aim on a recent addition to the show ring, the U.S. National Stallion Championship, scheduled to be held at the Estes Park, Colo., Show on the Fourth of July. She and Wenonah loaded up Bay Abi and *Bachantka into the family's two-horse trailer and headed east. They were not, by anyone's standards, considered real contenders in the show.

In the following few days, *Bachantka placed second in the 4- and 5-year-old mare competition at the regular Estes Park Show, while Bay Abi took on a strong contingent of horses in the show's U.S. National Stallion Championship. In the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, 45 entries endured a four-and-one-half hour class, and when it was over, Bay Abi's ability to turn on and off at the flip of a switch had served well. He presented himself with aplomb and let his natural conformation do the rest, becoming the unanimous U.S. National Champion Stallion.

"He was better fitted and he showed better," explains Bob Armstrong, a lifelong horseman and one of the Estes Park judges. Forty-six years after the competition, his memory remains clear. "Bay Abi was built to be athletic; he had the bone and muscular structure of a using horse. He looked then as if he'd been used -- and he probably was, to put those muscles on him."

From Sheila's point of view, there was one fact perhaps more important than a national title: back at home, all three Polish mares were in foal to Bay Abi. The next few years would see the beginning of a stream of Varian champions; *Naganka and Bay Abi hit a home run on their first try. Their 1963 colt was Mikado, U.S. National Champion Park Horse and sire of U.S. National English Pleasure Champion Comment.

In coming years, Bay Abi went on to place Top Ten at the U.S. Nationals in both Western and English pleasure, confirming the Varian goals of producing outstanding halter and performance contenders -- but it was on April 25, 1969, that his greatest achievement took place.

Bay El Bey was foaled out of *Naganka.


Wenonah Varian was the first to recognize *Naganka's foal for what he would become; she named him Bay El Bey, or "son of Bay." Sheila, distracted by family illness and the burdens of running the ranch, noted only that he was "nice" when he was born. As a yearling, he rated "special." It was not until he was 2 that she began to sense that he had a role to play at Varian Arabians.

The following year, she showed Bay El Bey to the first of a series of victories and high placings in the show ring, as well as bred him to one mare. His first foal, a filly named Reina Del Bey, arrived in 1972, precipitating eight more breedings -- and it was in that second crop that Bay El Bey produced Barbary, the first of the impressive lineup of stallions who would become outstanding competitors as well as breeding horses, earning their sire (and now, as the generations go forward, grandsire or great-grandsire) the epithet "The Kingmaker." Those first youngsters were enough to let Sheila know that Bay El Bey was the next step in her program; it remained only for him to make a name in the show ring.

In a halter career that spanned six years, the striking bay attracted considerable attention, never finishing out of the top ten in seven national appearances.

"What I remember most about him was his amazing neck, the same type that Bay Abi had, but with even more stretch and elegance," comments breeder Mike Nichols, who first saw Bay El Bey on a 1974 visit to Varian Arabians, which resulted in his purchase of the yearling Barbary. "The trick is to get certain things simultaneously; none is more important than the other -- type is crucial, correctness, performance, athletic ability, disposition -- you've really got to get all of those or you don't have what we're looking for and you don't have anything you can go on with. Bay El Bey was living evidence of that and how brilliantly it bred on."

That Bay El Bey was athletically inclined was apparent. In preparing for his halter competition, he often enjoyed an unconventional training regimen. One year, getting ready for Nationals, Sheila conditioned him with extensive rides in the country around Arroyo Grande, accompanied by her whippet Amber, and unofficially, a jackrabbit. "Every day, the jackrabbit would always be in the same spot, and every day we'd chase it, my dog and my horse and me. We'd be going wide open through rough country." Every day, she adds, the rabbit escaped. "That was Bay El Bey's exercise that year. I always exercised him under saddle, never longed him."

At Scottsdale in 1973, the combination was undeniable. "There were a lot of good horses in the [stallion halter] class," recalls Frank Evans, who judged the competition. So respected an official was Evans that he later was named one of only seven Judges Emeritus by the American Horse Shows Association. "When Sheila led Bay El Bey up for me to examine, he had everything I liked in a sire. He was masculine, had a tremendous amount of quality, and a lot of substance. It's hard to find all three of those things together. Then when she led him out for me to look at him in motion, and she turned the corner down at the end of the ring, I never saw a horse move so pretty in my life. I'll always remember that. There was no doubt in my mind; he was the best horse in the class. I made him champion. I think he was one of the most outstanding stallions that I ever judged."

As important as his physical presence was the sheer force of his personality. "Bay El Bey had the temperament that we see in all the descendants -- ready to work, full of fire, but completely sweet," says Mike Nichols. "That's what characterized everything that's come down from him."

"He had an extremely gentle inner side," Sheila concurs, "but he was very willing and enthusiastic in his own way." She searches for adjectives. "Bay El Bey was stately, wise, thoughtful, kind ..."

It was that gentle honesty that was nearly their undoing at the Canadian Nationals of 1977, when after a long, hard class, when everyone was tiring, Sheila knew that Bay El Bey had been giving his best, and let up a little.

As the judges made one final tour of the ring, a voice commanded, "Show me your horse!" It was Judge Tom McNair, card in hand.

"She got after it, and it was like magic," McNair recalls. "She made him look magnificent, and I was so relieved because there were several horses in there that could have gone [national champion]." He considers the memory, and becomes more specific. "I was seeing a really nice horse. When I say that, I'm talking about a correct horse, one that had a very expressive face, a really good poll area and neck to follow it, a good shoulder, good leg. He was the epitome of the athlete; he had a beautiful way of moving. To me, he stood out. I was delighted to see that he won the championship."

In addition to his Canadian National Championship in Stallion Halter, Bay El Bey was named 1974 and '76 U.S. National Reserve Champion Stallion, and earned seven top tens as well as eight championships and reserves at regional and Class A shows. Sheila also presented him briefly in English pleasure, totaling up three championships, three reserves and the Region II Championship.

By the late 1970s, Bay El Bey's growing reputation as a sire outweighed any desire Sheila Varian had to show him. He remained full time at Arroyo Grande, where he and Bay Abi formed one of the only national champion father and son teams to share a barn. In 1984, however, Bay El Bey was on the move, this time to Florida, where he was leased by Rohara Arabians for two years of stud duty. In the days before the use of transported semen, the move east provided increased exposure for the stallion and allowed his son, Huckleberry Bey, more opportunity to develop his own following on the West Coast.

"The first time I led him through the breeding shed, he became like a 10-story building with the momentum of knowing he was going to be bred," Rohara's Roxann Hart remembers. "Sheila's words kept running through my head, that he was a perfect gentleman, and I just hoped she was right!"

During his two-year residence in Florida, Bay El Bey established an indelible link with Rohara. "He's a part of our program through all three sons and one grandson, JK Amadeus," says Hart. "Even this year, so many years later, I would say that half of our show horses are either grandsons or great-grandsons (or daughters) of Bay El Bey -- 50 percent of the show string that we showed, and we had 21 entries at Region XII." His contribution? "Mostly the motion, the stretch, the overall athletic ability."

His disposition was appreciated as well. "He knew people and related to them," Roxann recalls. "He trusted those people he knew. In the barn, he knew each person's job. He was one of the most aware stallions; he was totally confident in his surroundings and who he was, and had an awareness of everything that transpired in his domain."

When Bay El Bey returned to Varian Arabians, it was to live out his days in the front paddock, the one which had been Bay Abi's and was reserved for the patriarch. Public attention was gradually shifting to his son, the charismatic Huckleberry Bey, and to his grandsons. Bay El Bey's last foal was registered in 1985, and living in genteel retirement, he was allowed to pass his days pretty much as he wished.

"Almost every time someone came to the barn, Sheila would ask me to stand him up for the visitors," relates trainer Steve Heathcott, who worked at Varian Arabians at the time. "Every single time I did it, he showed as good as any show horse I ever had, and I mean every time I did it. The funny thing was, I don't remember ever schooling him in between -- it's not like I kept him tuned up to show. When people arrived, I'd show him, and he'd show like the ones in show training who were being schooled three or four times a week."

In later years, Bay El Bey spent much of his time with Varian Arabians breeding manager Angela Alvarez, who at the time was a newcomer. Bay El Bey became her mentor.

"He stopped breeding mares just as I started a job of breeding mares," she recalls. From the beginning, there was a special bond between them.

Sheila Varian particularly remembers the sight of Bay El Bey and Angela, heading out to the back pasture to tease the mares, a duty the stallion took over from his sire, Bay Abi. "You'd see an empty 20-acre pasture when Angela led Bay El Bey in ... and then, over the hill, the mares and foals would come running to greet him. Because they were used to him and knew him, the mares didn't object when the foals came up to him, and he would stand with the babies all around him, talking to the mares. There was no striking, no biting, no rearing -- he knew what to do and how to do it."

"He was a once-in-a-lifetime horse for me," says Angela. The memories still bring tears to her eyes. "For those of us who love horses, who have had that 'special' horse touch their life and capture their heart -- they become our equine soul mates.

"Bay El Bey and I trusted each other. He had a strength and seriousness about him that I admired and a playfulness that I loved. If I wasn't moving fast enough to those pastures, he'd get behind me and nudge me in the back. I miss those nudges ... especially every morning around 8 o'clock."

By the early 1990s, the success of Bay El Bey's descendants was staggering. Through Huckleberry Bey and Barbary, his influence in the performance arena was profound; through Bey Shah, he nearly dominated the halter ranks. He had sired 441 registered foals, including nearly 100 champions and more than 30 national titlists. When he died on November 25, 1996, the Arabian world knew that the most important sire of sires in the 20th century had passed.



The secret behind Bay El Bey's amazing ability to sire stallions who would carry his name into the future was that he produced very disparate individuals, enabling the next generation to cross well on a wide variety of mares, expanding the circles of his influence like the ripples on the surface of a pond. His top three sons -- Huckleberry Bey, Barbary and Bey Shah -- shared their sire's "fundamentals": they exhibited his overall balance; the laid-back shoulder and powerful hip; his long, arching neck; and expressive face. However, they interpreted that look in individual ways, giving each a unique and different appeal. Between them, the triumvirate has sired more than 200 national winners, and each has proven to be a sire of sires as well.

Bay El Bey's influence extends beyond his three most outstanding sons and their offspring. Over the years, he sired a long procession of colts who typically excelled at both halter and performance, including such national titlists as Bay Dubonnet, Moonstone Bey V, Chez El Bey, Woodwind V, Cinco Bey, Talisman Bey and many others. Most went on to sire talented show contenders as well.

"I've had many Bay El Bey get and grandget in my show string," says Lori Mangan, owner of Balajkar Bey V and a longtime fan of the Varian program. "Probably 90 percent of my winners have been from the Bay El Bey bloodlines."

Mangan pauses, and recalls the devastating fire a few years ago that destroyed most of the barn at Prestige Arabians, killing every horse in one wing except Balajkar Bey. "It's because of his uniqueness and special personality that I was able to get him out of the fire. He followed me just by pulling on his mane and getting him out, where with the other horses I couldn't do that."

Jim and Gilda Ferguson of Whisana Arabians in Ashland, Va., acquired the Bay El Bey son Cinco Bey, a Canadian National Top Ten Park Horse, in the mid-1980s. "What attracted us was that he was so athletic and beautiful," says Gilda. "He was not only a performance horse, he was a halter horse. We loved the way he looked, the way he held himself. His neck is set on so nicely, and his head is so beautiful. We like the Bay El Bey look."

"The Bay El Bey line had been so spectacular for us; almost all of the horses we now own have Bay El Bey in them," says Debra Mingst of Crown Jewel Arabians in Napa, Calif. "They've been consistently good-minded and good-bodied, and they're excellent athletes. After all, isn't a true halter horse supposed to be the absolute performance horse?"

For Cory Soltau, D.V.M., and Ralph Sessa of Blackhawk Valley Arabians in Pleasanton, Calif., breeders of U.S. National Champion Mares Shahteyna and Bey Teyna, the strength of Bay El Bey blood is simply undeniable. Bey Shah was a legendary nick for their mare TW Forteyna, but when he moved east, they decided not to send the old matron to him.

"So we thought, we have to get back into this Bay El Bey line because there's something about that blood that works with TW Forteyna," relates Sessa. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out! So we bred her to Desperado V, a grandson of Bay El Bey, and we have the best colt this mare has ever produced. People would think that's a big statement to make, but we've had 14 babies out of the mare. He's as good as Shahteyna, Bey Teyna and Bey Julie Anne were at this age."

"Each succeeding generation of Bay El Bey's blood has had a very positive effect on the breed's ability to produce horses with great natural athletic ability and a sizzle that brings with it a 'can do' willingness," says Suzy Sankpill of Hacienda Del S-Par Arabians in Stilwell, Kan., who now owns the Bey Shah daughter NV Tahnee.

"When I made the decision to buy a Breeding stallion (with a capital 'B'), and an English pleasure horse, there was never any hesitation on my part," comments Kay Skeeters of Ojai, Calif. "It had to be a Bay-El-Bey-bred stallion. I wanted 'bred-in' motion, conformation, trainability and a willing attitude. I wanted a strong pedigree as the foundation for the breeding program I was creating. And I wanted the genetic phenotype to produce sound horses."

She found what she wanted in the Huckleberry Bey son Buckingham Bey V, whose first foals arrived this year. "I'm seeing consistent foals with long, high-set, clean necks; good legs; lots of substance and sweet dispositions."

Those specifications were high on the list when Robert A. Cook and Jane Latimer of Winding Creek Arabians of Dallas, Texas, elected to lease the Bay El Bey grandson (through Huckleberry Bey) Atlantis Bey V, who now stands at Stanley White Jr.'s White Rock Farms. "I had the pleasure of judging Bay El Bey his last year at the Nationals," explains Winding Creek manager Mary Latimer. "He was a most handsome horse, extremely athletic, and he passed on his good temperament and attitude. I also judged Huckleberry Bey the first time he was ever shown. I knew when I saw him that he was going to be a star -- he had such charisma, and of course, he moved beautifully."

Ken Tallent of KCSA Farm in Estacada, Ore., credits the direction of his breeding program to Bay El Bey blood. His family-run operation stands the talented English horse Benevolence V, a Bay El Bey grandson. "Benevolence V is so kind, loving and gentle, but yet he's very spirited and full of himself. He's correct and upright, and produces beautiful horses that carry on those traits," says Tallent. "His attitude and the willingness of the Bay El Bey horses to work and become good horses for a family and the show ring is just amazing. He changed greatly what we had come to expect in a horse. That line changed not only our program, but our whole outlook to a much better horse."

Sherry Owens of Jewel Mist Arabians in Corydon, Ind., traces her connection to Bay El Bey to before the stallion's birth. Growing up in Oregon, she would accompany her father when he visited his friend Lloyd Silva, breeder of Bay Abi. "'These are special horses,' my father would say," she recalls now. She realized her dream of owning one when she found Kubres Bay Elkhem, a Bay El Bey grandson with two lines to Bay Abi.

Not every Bay El Bey horse went to the show ring; the athletic ability that was so much a factor of his persona emerged in other fields of competition as well. "I used Bey Juan for endurance riding," relates Doug Herthel. "One year, we got a call from the Western White House, and they asked if they could use Juan. He'd just finished a Tevis 100-mile race, but he didn't look like it, so two days later he was on duty for President Reagan in the mountains above Santa Ynez."

Herthel, one of the most respected veterinarians in the country, was curious about his horse's impressive abilities. "I did a stress test on Bey Juan, using a high speed treadmill," he says. "I've never had a horse score as high as he did. It wasn't just a fluke -- that's genetic."


Bay El Bey's breeding career lasted only 15 years, but his influence has been monumental. In 1997, more than 10 years after he stopped breeding, after his son Huckleberry Bey died, and with Barbary and Bey Shah both advanced in years, the descendants of Bay El Bey still accounted for a stunning 11 U.S. National championships in halter and an array of performance divisions. (Include reserves and top tens, and the figures balloon.) Year after year, the lists of leading sires at the major American Arabian shows confirm the continued importance of the Bay El Bey line.

"The outreach of this stallion is mind-boggling," observes Sue Brown of Atascadero, Calif., who is researching and chronicling the Bay El Bey descendants and their accomplishments, "particularly when you consider that when he started breeding, there was no transported semen. He basically had only his geographic area from which to draw mares."

If the total of Bay-El-Bey-line horses seen in the ring today is impressive, Brown says, just wait until you examine four generations, as she has in her studies. The numbers seem to explode.

"By the time you arrive at his great-grandget, there are 14,000 descendants of Bay El Bey," she reports. "The Varian program is into its eighth generation; you're talking several hundred thousand horses today derived from him. If there are 750,000 in the world (according to the Registry), he's already a significant percentage of that. The numbers continue to multiply at an astounding rate -- some of the sons have been so prolific."

For others, the influence of Bay El Bey is best expressed in the horses, themselves. "I guess that if you have to choose one word, he was a very honest horse," reflects Mike Nichols. "He was completely an Arabian, but he had enormous athletic ability and size and type. And a great heart. All of these are a part of the breed now because of him."

"There is a spirit about Bay El Bey offspring that is just phenomenal," comments Michael Byatt, who led Shaman AA, a Bay El Bey great-grandson (through Bey Shah and his daughter Shahteyna) to his 1997 U.S. National Yearling Jackpot Colt Championship. "Their inner spirit is beyond most horses, or most anything I've experienced in the horse business. They have a self-worth that is unparalleled in the business."

"Sheila Varian has produced the new Arabian show horse, with that high-set neck and that presence," says Lydell Sannes, of Sannes Arabians in Thompson, N.D. "I think that Bay El Bey has done that -- he's produced the Varian look, with the high neck set, and he's given a lot of performance ability, too." He pauses. "Without that extra-special neck, you can't win in the show ring."

At William and Austin Hearst's San Simeon Ranch, manager Bill Flemion, who once worked at Varian Arabians, recites the Bay El Bey characteristics he sees in young El Picon, the farm's Bay El Bey great-grandson: "The laid-back shoulder, the way the neck sets on, where it ties into his poll ... he's got a beautiful throatlatch. It's a working neck -- everything fits. It's the same thing with Paonia, our Barbary daughter, and our Fame daughter -- it all comes down the line with these horses."

Kathie and Bob Hart Jr. agree. At Vallejo III, they have made many Bay-El-Bey-line horses champions over the years, including Moonstorm Bey V, Magination V, The Marshall V, Vallejo On To Fame, PF Fameous and NV Pingo.

"They've all been very intelligent horses to work, very perceptive horses," Kathie comments. "You don't have to 'cram' them; you teach them something and they want to learn. They want to do things right. They're not rebellious-type horses at all -- they're real kind-minded, kind-thinking horses."

Not every breeder is interested in the conventional show ring. Peter Rich of Bay Laurel Arabians in Orinda, Calif., recalls a conversation he had with a highly respected national champion competitive trail rider. "It was she who said 'You ought to drive south and visit Sheila Varian. She raises horses that produce "show pretty," can perform and stay sound. Visit Bay Abi and Bay El Bey.'" Rich, who focuses on competitive trail horses, did just that. "It was the beginning of 20 years' breeding to Bay El Bey and his sons and grandsons."

"Bay El Bey contributed with presence, beauty and talent enough to excel in the show ring, but with the kind of temperament that can accommodate just about everyone," says Lis Nedds of Brittany II Farm in Oakland, N.J. "Versatile horses that please in the ring, on the trail and in the backyard ... all traits important to the ongoing vitality of the breed."

"We feel Bay El Bey's charisma as we look into [our stallion] Mexico V's eyes, and feel honored just to be in his presence. This regal charisma is being passed down to Mexico's foals for a new generation. If I sound reverent about Bay El Bey, well, I guess it's because I am!"

"He's definitely had more impact on my breeding program than any other horse, as Fame VF's grandsire and the grandsire of both Desert Heat's sire and dam," says Pat Radmacher, breeder of the popular U.S. National Champion Stallion Fame VF. She's now directing her attention to her young stallion Desert Heat VF, a Bay El Bey great-grandson, out of a Huckleberry Bey daughter. "I credit Bay El Bey for the long, high-set neck, balanced, well-structured bodies and long legs in my horses -- traits that seem to carry on down through the generations."

For some, the influence of Bay El Bey has been simply personal.

"He's done everything," Gwen Cook says of her Bay El Bey gelding, Back Bay. "He was a regional futurity champion stallion, then at 4 was a pleasure driving champion. He's been a champion, reserve champion and blue ribbon winner in everything we've asked him to do. Now he's 16. We've taken some dressage lessons, and he's decided he likes to jump."

She smiles. "Back Bay is a gelding. There isn't really anything for me to gain [by being involved in this article]. I just really felt that it was important to be part of this final tribute to Bay El Bey."


Twenty-five years after Bay El Bey's win at Scottsdale, Judge Frank Evans remains proud of his selection. "I feel that my decision certainly was correct, looking at what he produced over the next few years," he says with satisfaction. "I couldn't have been far off, considering all the great horses that go right back to him."

"It's not whether a stallion is prepotent enough to sire a generation or two of champions," reflects Sue Brown. "We've been fortunate in the Arabian breed to have had a few stallions whose records have been extremely impressive that way. But the really unique ones are the ones whose influence seems to grow stronger from generation to generation -- where each generation, instead of diluting the characteristics of that important stallion as he moves farther back in the pedigree, reinforces them. That's what we're seeing with the Bay El Bey line."

Don DeLongpré puts it in perspective. "As a whole, [the Bay El Bey influence] has changed the industry, very much as a horse like Skowronek changed the industry when he was introduced into the United States through Raseyn, Ferseyn and Raffles. I think that was like a benchmark at that time. The next benchmark came with Bay El Bey."

The list of kings in the Arabian breed is select, but gratifyingly robust ... *Raseyn, Ferseyn, Ferzon, *Mirage, *Raffles, Azraff, Indraff, *Fadl, Abu Farwa, Fadjur, Ga'Zi, *Sultann, *Silver Drift, *Serafix, *Witez II, *Bask, *Naborr, *Morafic, Khemosabi, *Aladdinn, *Muscat, *Padron and others.

All have been influential, but none has maintained that influence through his male line -- indeed, expanded and strengthened it -- as the generations moved forward. That remained for Bay El Bey, whose remarkable production of stallions, and their sons and grandsons, has written his place in history.

The title of The Kingmaker is unique. It belongs to Bay El Bey.


Remembering Bay El Bey 1969-1996

by Kristin Berkery

On November 25, 1996, Bay El Bey++ (Bay-Abi x *Naganka) passed away at Varian Arabians in Arroyo Grande, California.

Bay El Bey
Bay El Bey (Bay-Abi x *Naganka)

The bay stallion, affectionately called “the Kingmaker” by his owner/breeder Sheila Varian and countless other admirers, enjoyed good health up to the end of his life. “At the Summer Spectacular in August, he was in perfect condition and hadn’t looked better," comments Sheila. "Over the years, he grew to love the Summer Spectacular Weekends here at the ranch. Each time, he outdid himself from the year before. We would take him in the ring and he would just snort. This year, he was especially beautiful. He just loved it!”

Some of Sheila’s favorite memories of Bay El Bey are not from show rings and presentations, but rather from quiet moments in the mare pastures. Sheila would tease mares in the fields while on Bay-Abi's back, and she did the same with Bay El Bey after he came of age. When Angela Alvarez became the stud manager at Varian Arabians ten years ago, she began to handle Bay El Bey out in the fields with the mares and foals also. “The babies would come up and huddle around

Bay El Bey in a crowd at the U.S. Nationals
"Touching is never to forget." Bay El Bey presented to the crowd at the U.S. National Championships.

him,” remembers Sheila, “and he would just walk through the mares. Our mares were gentle, they knew him, and of course he knew the mares.”

While Bay El Bey did not sire any foals the last several years of his life, Sheila says his role at the farm was still a big one: “Although we weren’t breeding him, he was still the mainstay of the farm. We always allow the older stallions to think that it’s their ranch -- it was the same way with Bay-Abi (Errabi x Angyl) and Huckleberry Bey (Bay El Bey x Taffona).

“I rubbed Bay El Bey dry when he was born,” continues Sheila. “These horses just become a part of your life. Of course, Bay El Bey never had a change in ownership, but he stood at stud in Florida for two years. Interestingly, although he was wonderfully cared for, he didn’t do well there. He was a

Bay El Bey as a five-year-old
"Bay El Bey as a five-year-old -- standing quietly, simply being himself...beautiful," says Sheila.

California boy. Now we have our ‘Horse Park’ on the ranch where Bay-Abi, Huckleberry Bey, and Bay El Bey are all buried together.

“Bay El Bey was different from his sire,” says Sheila. “Bay-Abi and Huckleberry Bey were more similar in personality. They were amusing, bouncy kinds of horses; Bay El Bey was always kingly.”

The sire of 441 purebred foals in his lifetime, Bay El Bey has a left a mark unequalled by any other stallion. Future generations may look upon the ever-dignified stallion as having as much influence upon the breed as the founding father of the modern Arabian, Skowronek (Ibrahim x Jaskolka). “I would think that he would be remembered like Skowronek,” says Sheila. “Bay El Bey was the Kingmaker, and I’ve felt strongly about that for a long time. I think he has always been appreciated, but I don’t

The Kingmaker's trot
Bay El Bey at a Summer Spectacular -- held the first weekend in August each year at Varian Arabians.

think that people recognized, really, the things he has given to the breed. I think they are recognizing it now...I’ve had a lot of people tell me that no other stallion in our lifetime has had as much influence on the male line. Well, to me, that’s just as obvious as the nose on your face. Taking nothing away from *Bask or any other horse, Bay El Bey was the Kingmaker.”

Bay El Bey has left behind a legacy of some of the greatest stallions known to the Arabian breed, including his sons Bey Shah (x Star Of Ofir), one of the best-known sires of charismatic show horses today; Huckleberry Bey, who redefined the look of the modern English pleasure Arabian; Barbary (x Balalinka), who has sired many of the breed's great show horses -- both purebred and Half-Arabian; Moonstone Bey V (x Moska), sire of the successful western pleasure horse, Rohara Moonstorm; and Talisman Bey (x Talaena), whose son, Talismans Zhivago, is an up-and-coming young star. Alongside a number of other descendants, Bay El Bey’s prodigious grandson, Desperado V (Huckleberry Bey x Daraska), will continue the legacy at Varian Arabians.

Reprinted with permission from "Arabian Horse Interactive Magazine"