Photography unless stated from Om El Arab Archives
I do not even know how to begin to write this. The extraordinary visionary, Sigi Siller, lost her very brave battle with cancer on Tuesday 10 May. This latest great loss to the Arabian industry truly resulted in an outpouring of grief and gratitude on Facebook. Sigi leaves behind an incredible legacy – the greatest of which is, without doubt, her treasured daughter, Janina Merz, her son Benni, and their respective children, Luca and Sophia.
Sigi was the founder and owner of Om El Arab. Originally located in the Black Forest in Germany, it was Sigi’s father, Franz, who first purchased a pure-bred Arabian mare from the famed Marbach State Stud in Germany. That was back in 1969; 47 years later, the breeding programme is still going strong.
It was the early, inspired selections that Sigi made when the breeding programme was in its infancy that resulted in some of the most well known names in the Arabian world being born. Namely – El Shaklan, out of the incredible foundation mare for Om El Arab, Estopa (Tabal x Uyaima by Barquillo), purchased by Sigi in 1970 during a trip to Spain. Having visited El Zahraa Stud in Egypt, Sigi added the stallion Shaker El Masri (Morafic x Zebeda by El Sareei), and the cross of this charismatic stallion with the elegant Estopa resulted in El Shaklan. And it was from this cross, these foundations, that the roots of Om El Arab were born.
Following her separation from her husband, Heinz, Sigi focused on a new farm in the Santa Ynez Valley, California, and it was from here that the programme continued to grow to become the truly international farm that it is today. With Janina by her side, Sigi travelled extensively, keen to keep up to date with the current developments in the Arabian industry, all the time working out how she could best utilise them in the Om El programme should she choose to. The results speak for themselves, and Om El Arab Arabians can be found in all four corners of the world.
This short tribute to Sigi is not meant to be about the horses that she bred, the results that she achieved. Rather, it is acknowledging her passing… The loss of Sigi to the Arabian industry when she was aged just 65 years of age is a truly devastating one to all that knew and loved her. And yet, you think of Sigi and you cannot help but smile. Sigi was a light energy, full of passion, enthusiasm, knowledge and friendship. Once she decided you were ‘okay’, you had a friend for life. She was kind, genuine, embracing, accepting. When I was last in ‘the Valley’, she learned my father had just had his 70th birthday, and she gave me a bottle of wine from their own vineyard to take home and give to him from her. We opened the bottle, toasted Sigi, and enjoyed the Om El wine. We still have the bottle – special memories tied up in objects that are meaningless to others, but mean the world to us. And for me, that short anecdote sums up Sigi – always thinking of others, always with a smile on her face.
|© Darryl Larson|
Sigi leaves behind a tremendous legacy – namely through Janina and Benni. Janina is continuing her mother’s vision, something that I have no doubt she will do in style and with the same relaxed passion that so described her mother.
A celebration of Sigi’s life will be held in Santa Ynez on 30 July and following that, a full tribute to Sigi will be shared through the pages of this magazine. The invitation to the celebration reads: “We hope you’ll join us on this very special day as we honour the incredible, timeless life of Sigi Siller. The start time is still TBD, but it will be a casual afternoon/evening affair… And likely with dancing, because Sigi loved any party with dancing! More details will be forthcoming, but rest assured it will be a celebration worthy of Sigi’s heart and soul. Hope you can join us.”
Our thoughts are very much with Janina and her family at this time – included the four-legged ones who must be wondering where their mum is. Janina – thank you for sharing your mother so selflessly with us; Sigi, thank you for all that you brought to the Arabian world, whether on a personal level or through the amazing gift of your beautiful horses. Rest peacefully.