Paula Leweke spent years working to be able to afford horses. Now “a miracle” has happened in her words: one of her animals has been named best bred Canadian horse for 2021.
The national award, presented to her by Equestrian Canada, comes after a long journey for both Leweke and Bella, the winning 10-year-old horse who went from clopping around Metchosin as a young filly to jumping under talented Canadian rider Alicia Gadban Lewis on the international stage.
“In the international, really expensive horse world, I am a nobody,” Leweke said. “It’s really, really fabulous and fantastic and a bit of a miracle, because these are the kinds of horses that top riders in Canada and the United States usually go to Europe to buy and pay $500,000 up to a million dollars each for them. The fact that this quality and level of an athletic horse was bred here – it just shows that Canada has the capabilities of breeding top international horses.”
Leweke’s love for horses was instilled early, growing up on a ranch in Mount Robson, off of Highway 16 north of Jasper National Park. Between pack trips over the Rocky Mountains and living on the ranch, she developed a good eye for horses.
She worked as a nurse and later taught nursing at several universities as well as Camosun College, and kept her eye on saving enough to be able to afford horses of her own. She started rescuing other’s animals and eventually started breeding horses at her Robin Hill farm in Metchosin.
She knew early on that Bella – who competes under the name Beneficial – was a winner.
“I’ve known that she was very, very special from the time that she was born. She was incredibly athletic with a very strong hind end.”
Bella was bred from a mare, Ivy, that competed nationally, but never reached the heights her offspring has since. Looking to give her prized filly a chance to run and grow stronger, Leweke sent her to a big open ranch in Kamloops when Bella was around two.
After some years there, the five-year-old Bella was ready to be trained into a serious competitor, but it was hard to find a buyer. Being a small town breeder, it took some convincing for people to take Leweke and Bella seriously.
Several Island riders Leweke approached weren’t interested, but eventually, Leweke reconnected with Alicia Gadban Lewis, who had purchased a horse from her when Gadban was 12. With their past connection, Leweke convinced the Delta-based equestrian that Bella truly was special.
Gadban Lewis trained her up and now they’re travelling the world, recently winning the Canadian Show Jumping Championships in November.
“I worked hard to be able to pay for this and it’s a real honour to know that she was bred and born in Metchosin and now she’s on the international stage,” Leweke said.
There may be more winners coming down the pipeline. Ivy recently had another foal, a colt called Bobbie that Leweke has high hopes for in the future.