Passing of influential arabian horse breeders Sigi Siller and Wendell Hansen

Sigi Siller, pictured with her daughter, Janina Merz, with whom she ran Om El Arab International.
Sigi Siller, pictured with her daughter, Janina Merz, with whom she ran Om El Arab International.

Two renowned breeders of Arabian horses died on Wednesday, with the passing of Sigi Siller and Wendell Hansen.

Both bred arabian stallions of significance to the breed, with Germany’s Siller of Om El Arab stud breeding El Shaklan, and the USA’s Hansen the breeder of WH Justice.

Hansen died at the age of 92, and Siller died after a battle with cancer at the age of 65. Both died on May 10.

Sigi Siller

German-born Siller ran the Om El Arab stud founded by her parents from 1974, and between 1975 and the early 1980s horses she and her then husband, Heinz-Ruediger Merz, had bred conquered the show rings of Europe, with many national, international and world champions.

The breeding of El Shaklan brought the “golden cross” to arabian breeding – the mix of Spanish and Egyptian lines.

In 1983, the stud sent El Shaklan to the United States, and later that year bought land in the Santa Ynez Valley in California.

The couple moved to the US in 1984 with their two children, but divorced in 1985, resulting in the sale of El Shaklan to Brazil. Later, Siller formed Om El Arab International on the same California farm.

Siller is also credited with “rescuing from obscurity” El Shaklan’s dam, Estopa, when buying her from Spain in 1970.

Friend and breeder Aislinn Brander Ford said: “Just like Sheila Varian, Sigi changed the world, she left it a better place, and left us a legacy that touches so many lives. I am so grateful to her, and I hope she is riding with Sheila now on El Shaklan!”

Darryl Larson said: “There are volumes that can be written on the loss of one of the greatest contributors to our beautiful Arabian horses. Sigi shared an infectious vibrant quest for life – a radiant and passionate spirit that lives on. She will indeed be missed but her legacy lives – through her family and her horses.”

Wendell Hansen with his son, Travis, at the Scottsdale Arabian Show in February.
Wendell Hansen with his son, Travis, at the Scottsdale Arabian Show in February.

Wendell Hansen

Wendell Hansen’s legacy lives on in the name of the influential stallion WH Justice, by Magnum Psyche and from Vona Sher-Renea.

Hansen’s son, Travis, said: “He had leased the mare Vona Sher-Renea, from David and Jo Anne Goodrich of Salt Lake City, Utah, for several years. Vona Sher-Renea is by the El Shaklan son El Sher-Mann and out of Renea, Vona is a mare with primarily Egyptian and Polish bloodlines. Dad bred Vona to Magnum Psyche because he was a five-time national champion and considered the heir to the world famous Padron sire line. The following year, on May 16, 1999, Vona Sher-Renea produced a grey colt.

“Dad had 13 foals that year: eight fillies and five colts. We really liked Justice very much, but we had five colts and you just can’t keep every foal you breed,” Travis said.

“Our friend Fernando Poli knew of some breeders in Italy [Thierry and Catherine Kerjean] who were looking for a very special colt or stallion and he contacted them. They fell in love with Justice and purchased him for their farm. Immediately after the sale, my father said he was sorry he had not kept some breedings to Justice because he was certain the colt was going to be a good sire. He sure was right about that! We are very proud of WH Justice and all that he has contributed to the breed.”

In announcing his father’s death yesterday, Travis Hansen said: “I am proud of the example he was to me and my family and I will be eternally grateful for the love and passion of the Arabian horse he instilled in me.”

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