Irving-based Medieval Times opened up the doors to a rarely seen, very important part of their operations on Thursday – the Chapel Creek Ranch in Sanger.
The 240-acre ranch sits just a few miles west of Interstate 35 and is home to all of the future stallions that will star at all of Medieval Times’ nine restaurants.
"These are the horses that wind up heading to the castles around North America," said Dallas General Manager Jon Speier, joking that the ranch is one of their best kept secrets. "Outside of our gate which shows a knight jousting on horseback, we're kind of 240 quiet acres, if you will.”
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The ranch is home to hundreds of pure-blood Andalusian horses – named after a region of southern Spain –also known as the pure Spanish horse or Pura Raza Española.
Trainers work with the animals from birth, training them to perform.
Dallas head trainer Javier Ortiz says they primarily use stallions for the shows as they tend to be more impressive in performance. The others are kept for breeding or sold, Ortiz said.
"You see a knight just walking and it's not as impressive,” said Ortiz. “The horses I think are the biggest pillar of our show, definitely."
This year the ranch welcomed 22 new foals who will train there for the next three years or so before potentially moving on to a castle. Ortiz says only the best make the big show.
The ranch isn’t only a training ground for horses though. Many of the actors who play knights and squires at the Dallas location also come to the ranch to train with the horses and with one another.
On Thursday, several of them put on a weapons demonstration in Chapel Creek’s training arena. Head knight Crew Wiard explained that all of their weapons are real titanium remakes that aren’t sharpened at the tip but can still cause serious damage. The ranch takes training very seriously and makes knights train for years, sometimes before they can become a part of the show.
This year marks the 21st year the Dallas Medieval Times has been in operation and the 30th year for the company. In that time they’ve relocated their corporate offices from Buena Park, Calif. to Irving, Texas and have expanded to nine North American locations.
The show tells the true story of the founders' family –an 11th century Spanish noble family.
The Dallas location sees about 3,000 customers on an average Saturday, but managers estimate they’ve entertained about five million guests since 1992.