Gladiators to take Minot by horseback

Vegas cast brings horse-themed show to expo

Submitted Photo Performers and their horses entertain a crowd during a performance of Gladius The Show.

A bit of Vegas is coming to Minot in June.

The North Dakota Horse Expo is bringing the Las Vegas-based Gladius The Show to its weekend event June 4-6 at the North Dakota State Fair Center.

Gladius The Show is an acrobatic equestrian production created in 2014 by Erik Martonovich and Alethea Shelton, two of the original cast members of the world-touring Cavalia show. Loosely based on mythology and Gladiators, the show features 15 performers and 20 horses in original, awe-inspiring performances.

This will be the show’s first time in North Dakota.

“This will be the farthest north we’ve ever gone,” said Martonovich, the company owner.

Kaycee Wilen, board president for the North Dakota Equine Association, which is sponsoring the expo, said she connected with Martonovich after witnessing a Gladius show at a South Dakota horse expo.

“I thought it was amazing and I was shocked that they came up from Vegas to do the show there,” she said. The COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on plans for a second annual horse expo in Minot last year, but Wilen stayed in contact with Martonovich to bring the show to Minot this year.

“Our show basically takes Cirque du Soleil, gladiators, Mad Max – throw it all in a Roman coliseum and have some fun. So it’s a very interactive, high energy show,” Martonovich said. “We have tons of crazy horse stuff, and if you’re not into horses, it’s still awesome because we have crazy acrobats and weird contraptions and chariots and steel horse statues that breathe fire.”

The show also includes sword fights and comedy acts, including comedy fight scenes.

“It’s a very diverse show and entertaining,” Martonovich said.

Martonovich grew up on the back of a horse on a Colorado ranch where his parents took in off-the-track thoroughbreds. By the time he was about 5 years old, he had decided standing on horses or jumping on and off as they raced across a field was more fun than simply riding. For his own safety, his parents enrolled him in a vaulting club, which taught a gymnastic form of riding, so he could learn in a more controlled fashion.

As a young teen, he began training eight to 12 hours a day, earning national titles. He competed with the U.S equestrian team at multiple World Equestrian Games. He joined Cirque du Soleil to help create the horse-based Cavalia show. He toured around the world, working for a time in a rehabilitation program using horse therapy with Israeli soldiers.

Along the way, he decided he wanted to Roman ride (standing on two horses) the Budweiser Clydedale hitch. Budweiser thought he was crazy, but he connected with a sponsor who acquired a Belgian horse hitch that he could perform with instead.

“So I set the first record, Roman riding an eight-horse draft hitch. Then I went and reset it, doing nine a few years back,” he said. “One day, I decided it would be really cool to parasail behind a hitch of horses across a dry lake bed, and literally bought a parasail off of Craigslist.”

However, in seeking information from parasailers on how best to perform the stunt, he was discouraged against the attempt. He eventually connected with an Australian parasailer who gave him basic information, such as the needed speed and rope strength.

“It took about five attempts to actually get in the air,” he said. “I’m literally driving the horses from the parasail as we’re going across the dry lake bed.”

He performed the parasailing twice, the first time for television and the second time for a video that can be found on YouTube.

Although Martonovich’s early preference was for Belgians, today the Gladius show includes a variety of horses, from minis and Norwegian fjord horses to Andalusians and Percherons.

Martonovich said he continues to experiment with new acts and constantly adds to the show, which – outside the intermission – runs about 90 minutes with multi-scene action flowing together into a single show.

Martonovich said people might come a second time and see things they didn’t see the first time because there is so much going on.

“There are pieces that are really focused-in small. But there are pieces that are just massive, with things happening everywhere at the same time,” he said.

Due to COVID-19, the more audience-interactive portions of the show have been excluded in recent shows, but Maronovich said the hope is to bring those elements back once safety guidelines allow.

Gladius The Show will offer an after-party for premier-ticket holders and VIP guests. The expo will have a family-friendly post-event with a DJ and appetizers at The Clarion.

Individuals who want to show horses at the event can obtain a Showcase ticket for stalls, parking and the opportunity to participate in a pre-show before the Gladius event.

Gladius The Show

Performances of Gladius The Show will be Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 6, at 2 p.m. in the North Dakota State Fair Center.

Adult ticket prices begin at $35 and can be purchased at northdakotaequine.com. Also available are premier table packages for groups of six adults that include drinks, a gift basket of goodies and a meet-and-greet with the horses and show cast.

The North Dakota Equine Association is working with the Downtown Business & Professional Association regarding a possible mini-parade featuring the Gladius horses and cast during downtown’s Creative Night Out on Thursday, June 3.

North Dakota Horse Expo offers all things equus

Clinician presentations, entertainment and children’s events are among the many activities that will be happening at the second North Dakota Horse Expo, sponsored June 4-6 by the North Dakota Equine Association at the North Dakota State Fair Center.

“We are pushing education so we really want to focus on people coming and learning about horses and people who own horses learning more,” said association board president Kaycee Wilen, Max.

Preliminary schedules, camping and ticket information can all be found under the ND Horse Expo tab at northdakotaequine.com.

The event builds on the initial horse expo held in 2019 in Minot.

“For the first year, I was pretty happy with 1,000 people over the three days,” Wilen said. “Our goal is 1,000 people a day this time.”

The expo is calling for artists to enroll in its Equine Art Show, which includes a kids art contest. Information is available on the website.

There also will be equine Jeopardy, barrel racing, wagon rides, Kids Showdeo, pony rides, vendors, demonstrations and presentations on topics such as preserving North Dakota’s wild horses and finding homes for retired race horses.

The North Dakota Mounted Shooters will hold a sanctioned shoot during the expo. Cowboy Mounted Shooting is the fastest growing equestrian sport in the country. Contestants compete in this fast-action, timed event using two .45 caliber single-action revolvers, each loaded with five rounds of specially prepared black powder ammunition.

The Mounted Shooters Association promotes family participation and the preservation of Old West values, period clothing, sportsmanship, patriotism and safe handling of firearms.

The expo also will host the State 4-H Horse Contest with hippology and horse judging on June 4 and demonstrations, public speaking and a Horse Quiz Bowl on June 5.

Clinicians scheduled to present are:

– Ryan Rose of Wisconsin, who began his career as a professional horse trainer and international clinician in 2005 after studying with many top world-class horsemen.

– Todd Martin, a champion at multiple reining horse derbies and futurities and an accomplished showman who has conducted numerous clinics nationally and internationally.

– Elasabe Hausauer, a South Africa native who has competed in horse shows, trained race horses in England and now farms and ranches in the United States. She trains others in building a relationship with their horses.

– Casey Hufstader, a skilled mule trainer and a fifth generational packer from Oregon.

– Jenna Mickelson of Great Potential Stables in Grand Forks, who has been training and showing horses professionally since 1996, primarily Quarter Horses and Appaloosas. She is an experienced judge and clinician and does farrier work.

– Jamie Jennings, a Georgia native and military wife who is certified in Monty Robert’s methods. She and her husband operate an equine facility in Oklahoma, and she competes in the sport of Three Day Eventing across the country. She is the host of the podcast “Horses in the Morning” on the Horse Radio Network.

– John Hovde, a Williston native and adjunct professor at North Dakota State University. He is active in cutting events and helped start the North Dakota American Quarter Horse Association Trail Ride. He was inducted into the N.D. Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2009 and the NDAQHA Hall of Fame in 2016.

– Linda Mealio, who grew up near Hazelton and competed in rodeos. She operates Riverview Performance Horses, where she focuses on riding lessons and training horses.

– Shayla Smock, a graduate of the Clinton Anderson Clinician Academy with experience in training problem horses.

– Nicole Tribbet, who grew up in Connecticut, where her family bred, trained and showed Morgans and later Quarter Horses. Now focused on Welsh ponies, she would like to introduce more people to driving horses.

Single-day expo-only passes are $5 for children and $10 for adults. A three-day pass is $12 for children and $25 for adults.

“We’re going to have lots of door prizes and things to give away,” Wilen added. A child’s saddle will be given away in a drawing June 6.


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