From early beginnings riding a pony at a birthday party to representing Canada on the world stage, Alicia Gadban-Lewis is quickly making a name for herself in show jumping ranks. She first gained national attention by winning the Canadian Show Jumping Champion title, hosted by the Royal West in 2021 in Calgary, AB, and has been on an upward trajectory ever since. In October of 2022, she donned the pinque jacket for the first time for the Longines Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain.
Gadban-Lewis, now 27, earned her business degree online through the University of Guelph, specializing in horse care and management. She balanced her studies while working first for Jeff and Shelley Campf at Oz Inc. in Oregon for three years followed by a year in England based with British Olympic team gold medalist Peter Charles. She now runs Triperial Equestrian Inc. alongside business partner Jenna Brownjohn out of her family’s 10-acre farm in Delta, BC.
We caught up with Gadban-Lewis in Wellington, FL, where she is spending her second season competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival. Having previously spent her winters in Thermal, CA, Gadban-Lewis enjoys the dynamic set-up in Wellington where countless farms surround the showgrounds, allowing both horses and riders to relax and enjoy the comfort of home when not showing. The large number of competitors based in Wellington, including numerous international athletes, also raises the level of competition – a challenge that Gadban-Lewis is rising to.
What age did you start riding and what was the name of your first pony or horse?
I started riding at a birthday party when I was about six or seven. My first pony was named Kianti. She was an Arab/Welsh-cross and I bought her when I was 10. She was wild, young, and for sure way too much horse for me. She taught me a lot of resilience!
You are currently named to the Jumping National Team Program ‘B’ Squad with Beneficial. How long have you been partnered together, and what are your goals with her for the 2023 season?
I’ve been partnered with Beneficial since the summer of 2017. She was a five-year-old when I got her, and it was her first show season. She’s a mare with a lot of heart, and she is showing more and more talent every time I step her up. She recently did her second four-star grand prix under the lights down here at the Wellington International. She had one rail, which was my rail. She seems to rise to the occasion. In the immediate future, I have goals of representing Canada in Nations’ Cup team competition. Beneficial was my second horse in Barcelona last fall for the Longines Nations’ Cup Final, and then I rode as an individual in the CSIO divisions in Morocco and Spain.
(Editor’s Note – Gadban-Lewis rode Nico 1427 in the Longines Nations’ Cup Final.)
As for my goals as a rider, I really want to go to the Olympics and represent Canada. We are developing Beneficial with that in mind. So far, she loves the sport.
I also have Nico 1427. He is a 14-year-old gelding, and I got him at this time last year. He’s a neat horse, super scopey, and he’s developed over the past season up to this level. He had been owned by an amateur in Germany so hasn’t done a lot at the FEI level. I showed him at 1.50m in Europe last year.
I have another young one at home; she’s six and exciting for the future. She’s a homebred named Ciela. She’s by the stallion, Cicero, and her mom is Ryanna, a former horse of mine that has Oldenburg bloodlines featuring Argentinus. Ciela is very cool. She’s tall, but she’s light on her feet and jumps in a good technique. She’s gangly and has to learn how to use herself.
I showed her mom, Ryanna, up to the national grand prix level. I did everything with her from the USHJA International Hunter Derbies to the CET Medal Final at The Royal. I got Ryanna when I was 16; she was a sensitive mare, and it took time to gain her trust. She came from Germany so was used to a different system. Since she was such quality, I spent the first year in the hunter and equitation rings getting to know her. My career highlight in the hunter ring was getting a score of 97 from George Morris riding Ryanna.
What is your favourite competition memory?
A highlight for me was winning the Canadian Championships in 2021 at the Royal West in Calgary. The Canadian Championships were held over three phases and on the final night, I won the Grand Prix and was the overall Canadian Champion. It was a double bonus. It was a happy night.
I would also say representing Canada for the first time this fall at the Longines Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona. Wearing the red jacket was a proud moment for me.
What is your favourite horse show venue to compete at?
That’s a tough one. At home in Canada, Thunderbird is a favourite. It’s my home show; it’s half an hour from my house. I can bring the clients and bring the hunters as well as the jumpers. The footing is top-notch, it’s very welcoming, you have trails to ride on, and my staff like working there. It’s a very well-rounded show for us.
Internationally, my favourite show so far is Barcelona. The show ring was incredible – it is a big ring with a lot of atmosphere. I loved the Spanish culture and being in an environment with so much energy. It was super exciting and like nothing I had ever been to before. For a show in the middle of the city, there were still lots of places to take the horses.
Which competition is still on your bucket list?
In Europe, I would say Aachen would be incredible to ride at. That’s probably my number one. There are so many great shows in Europe. I would also love to do Geneva. Aachen and Geneva are my top two. In North America, I would love to go to World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida. It looks like an interesting place, and the facility looks good.
What is your dream vacation?
Somewhere with my horses. I loved it when we went to Vejer de la Frontera in Spain last fall. There was a week off when we weren’t showing. I could ride my horses in the morning, and then the beach was right there and there was so much culture. It was the best of both worlds, so that would be my dream vacation.
Cats or dogs?
Dogs. Dogs all the way. I have a Rottweiler-cross named Lulu. I rescued her about eight years ago. She is the sweetest. She came to Spain with us, she came to Morocco with us. She travels with the horses. She’s like my shadow.
Last show you binge-watched?
Formula 1: Drive to Survive on Netflix. I love Formula 1. I loved the show. It’s similar to show jumping.
What are the three most used apps on your phone?
Instagram, WhatsApp, and probably my GPS because I have a really bad sense of direction.
Favourite motto or saying?
I love the saying, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” Another one of my favourite quotes is, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
What three things are always in your fridge?
Oat milk, apples, and tofu.
If you could ride any horse in the world, past or present, which one would you pick?
Probably Hickstead. I love small horses. I gravitate towards smaller stature, and I like horses that are quick off the ground and have blood. I like quirky and lots of heart. I would always make a point to watch Eric (Lamaze) and Hickstead in international competition and I would get so energized and so inspired by his heart.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
A lot of people internationally that I’ve met don’t know that I love teaching. I love teaching and developing young riders through the jumper ring. I’m also an avid skier. I was doing ski racing and I had to choose between skiing and riding.