Gladius – The Show is an American acrobatic equestrian production based on mythology and Gladiators with about 15 performers and 22 horses. We have talked to Alethea Shelton, one of the founders of this spectacular equestrian show about the beginnings and their trainings.

Alethea Shelton

About Alethea

Age: 38

Occupation/Education: Massage Therapist and co-owner of Gladius the Show

Nationality: USA

Achievements in Vaulting: 7 National titles in Team and Pas de Deux

Started vaulting at the age of: 10

I couldn’t live without: My Horses

I could perfectly live without: Complainers!

Motto: Life will be gone in the blink of an eye. Do what you love every single day.

Gladius the show

1. How and when did you start with vaulting?

I started vaulting at 10 years old.

2. Did you compete in vaulting?

Yes, I competed for 20 years (all of our core members have a background of competitive vaulting). Team and Pas de Deux were my favorite.

3. How did you come up with the idea of Gladius? Is the show your full-time job?

We came up with the idea of Gladius over a decade ago. It is always something Erik thought would be cool because it had so many options with all of the stunts we do. There would also be otherworldly elements, like fire and magic that we could play with – we knew it would morph into something amazing. And of course, combat and chariot racing is FUN.  Gladius is a full time job that doesn’t support any of us financially YET – haha! I have a job that supports Gladius, and so do the others. We believe it’s worth the investment and will be a success!

4. How do you train for your show? And who forms part of the team?

We train each horse in their discipline almost everyday. All of our horses are trained under saddle. In addition to their conditioning, we will also work on and run specific acts for the show. All of us cross train as well: Weights, cardio, and/or aerial training. Four of us make up the core horse training group: Erik Martonovich, Lisa Martonovich, Nicole Czyzewski and myself (Alethea Shelton). We have known each other and worked together a very long time 😉 Erik and I started all of this in 1999. Nicole worked with Erik from the age of 7 and Lisa joined us in 2010.  We horse the rest of the cast in, depending on the show we are doing.  

Erik Martonovich

5. According to you, what are the differences (if there are any) between “academic” and show vaulters?

Preparing for a show is totally different than competition. Some moves that would score high in a competition wouldn’t be a crowd favorite. You make the routine crowd friendly and since we don’t have to worry about a time limit, we have moments to hold moves, connect with the crowd and invite applause. Our vaulting acts are normally choreographed in sync to a pole or aerial performer (now we even have a new horse apparatus), so we practice together to get the timing right. We can be as creative as we want without the limits of a competition. For the horses, they have to get used to lighting, loud crowds and our props. They are superstars.

6. How do you come up with new ideas?

Usually by failing at something! Well, that’s one way, anyway. Mistakes have lead us to think of new ideas and moves. The show also has a life of its own, so the longer we do it, things just naturally progress into something bigger and more impressive. We are all artists at heart so being creative and making changes is just part of the process. Growth is only natural.

7. What are your plans for the future regarding Gladius? Any surprise or announcement for us?

Our plan is to keep as much forward momentum as we can to get Gladius into its own venue or to be able to tour it. We are supporting it all on our own so our hope is to find financial backing that can help us get there faster! But, with or without that, we will keep going and booking events. We believe in the success of our show. We will be performing at the Del Mar International Horse Show April 21 in Del Mar, California. After that, you’ll have to stay tuned to see where we end up!