Trail Riding at V6 Ranch in California

Last April, I attended my second event hosted by the Arabian Horse Association at the V6 Ranch in Parkfield, California. The AHA did a great job coordinating this event. First, you don't have to own an Arabian to attend this event.

Last April, I attended my second event hosted by the Arabian Horse Association at the V6 Ranch in Parkfield, California. The AHA did a great job coordinating this event. First, you don’t have to own an Arabian to attend this event. It’s open to all breeds. You may either bring your own horse or use one of the capable ranch horses (Quarter Horse type) for a small fee.

A Family Operation
The ranch is owned by the Varian family, Jack and Zee Varian. Also on hand for the event were John and Barbara Varian, and their kids, Brinan, Lauren, and Kathryn. They were so helpful – we felt more like family than guests.

This ranch is a 20,000-acre working cattle ranch on some of the most beautiful property you’ll ever see. The hills were filled with blooming flowers, happy cattle, horses grazing in the fields, and even a sweet mare with her newborn foal. We rode up and down hills, through fields of mustard glowing yellow against the blue skies.

Sheila Varian, noted Arabian breeder, trainer, and horsewoman, rode with us every day, offering tips and advice. Riders had informal conversations with her regarding training problems, and she was more than happy to discuss it all. It was a thrill to ride next to her on the trail.

Around the fire at night, Sheila talked to us about her life history, her famous stallions, and her breeding and training methods. We hung on every word.

Jack Varian, patriarch of the family, is a delightful man and a pioneer in sustainable ranching. He spoke about using solar power and recycling usable products from the ranch.

John Varian, Jack’s son, is an incredible cowboy and a talented craftsman. Not only did he build all of the facilities, he only used the ranch’s timber and materials. The new six-room bunkhouse is quaint, with two handcrafted beds in each room.

‘Wonderful’ Rides
I brought my North American Trail Ride Conference Arabian mare, who was quite full of herself (probably because she was camped next to her “boyfriend,” Varian’s legendary stallion Stetson V). I enjoyed wonderful rides with a great group of people.

Days were structured with a variety of activities. After a delicious breakfast cooked by Barbara Varian, we usually rode in the morning for three hours or so. Then we’d come back to camp, eat a huge lunch, and either go on another ride, practice roping, or hang around with friends (old and new).

Each evening, we were treated to a gourmet delight, and plenty of wine and beer. On Friday, we gathered cattle on the range and drove them to the ranch. Then, it was on to cattle sorting with much hilarity. Some team names are unprintable, so you can image what fun we had!

On Saturday, riders had the option of a long ride, six hours with lunch on the trail, or taking a shorter, three-hour version. Sunday was a brunch ride. We saddled up and headed out to Manzanita Trail, which is a good climb to the top of a ridge that overlooks the camp. As we rode, Jack pointed out the wild Yucca. We headed down into a meadow where a huge brunch was awaiting. Then John Varian set up a mini “Extreme Cowboy” type challenge for us. It was a blast!

I hated to leave the Varians’ ranch. Five days should’ve been enough, but I just can’t wait to return. Put this on your spring calendar! You’ll never meet nicer people than the Varians, or have a better, more relaxing and entertaining vacation at the V6 Ranch. This is easily one of the best trial rides I’ve ever attended.

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