Now, I understand you may have some preconceived notions of me by just wondering why I would even consider attending an event such as The Medieval Times, and honestly, I would too. But, bear with me— I swear it’ll be good. Greeted by a blazing sunset and the monophonic chants of workers dressed in tunics, my expectations for whatever this medieval experience was going to be had pretty much hit rock bottom. It smelled, I was tired, and the incessant chattering of old white men moaning about how they had to drag their wives and children there made me want to yank one of the swords off of the wall to [expletive] [expletive] and [expletive] while [expletive]. However, upon entering the check-in, which was located in a dome-shaped building with medieval weaponry adorning its grand walls, the employees gave us a brief synopsis of what the night’s events would entail. Now, if you’re completely oblivious to what the event is, the Medieval Times website describes it as “a boisterous, family-friendly experience inspired by an 11th-century feast and tournament…served a 4-course banquet as you cheer for one of six knights competing in the joust and other tests of skill.” But, that’s enough of what the company has to say—let’s begin the review!
After being led out into a vast courtyard full of larger-than-life statues of jousting knights fighting for their honor, then back into the event’s infamous “Hall of Arms,” we finally entered the main amphitheater.
Almost immediately, the lights dimmed and the opposing sides of lords and ladies began to viscerally scream–causing the arena to shake as a response to the anticipation of the people for their respective knights to exit their chambers. At this time of brief introduction, servers emerged at the top of the stand with our first-course meal of “Dragons Blood,” which was served with a slice of rock-hard bread! Mmm, yummy! Definitely left with a cracked tooth, but that’s beside the point. To be completely honest, the soup (at least I’m praying that’s what it was) tasted what I imagine hot dog water tastes like; so I left it at one sip.
Post-traumatic-hot-dog-water experience, the knights finally exited the chambers and made their rounds on horseback, waving and throwing roses to adoring fans in the first few rows; and blowing kisses to those higher up in the stands. As they were being formally introduced, the second and third courses were brought around–which consisted of a single potato and a large chicken leg. Both were heavily seasoned (notice I said just seasoned, not seasoned well), and quite frankly, the smell alone deterred me from taking any more than a single bite from each. I, fortunately, didn’t have to worry about leaving extra food, since the man next to me offered to finish off my meal. He downed it in about 0.5 seconds, popped a heart supplement in his mouth, and continued enjoying the show!
Arguably, the best part of the 4-course meal was the dessert…an eclair. Innovative stuff, I know! Although they were probably store-bought, I’ll give them a bit of credit where it’s due.
Shortly after the rather jarring feast, the princess sounded the trumpets, and at the deafening screams of the crowd yelling, “To love, to blood, to victory,” the duels had commenced. As the customary jousting began, each section was loyal through and through to their assigned knight- “HUZZAH” ing when they completed a task exceptionally and yelling in rather colorful profanities when the other knights performed theirs. The knight in my section had his tighty whities exposed while fighting, which admittedly made me gain just a bit more respect for him.
Now, it was at this time when the horses tasked with performing dressage exited the chambers. They made the customary motions of kneeling to the queen, who was sitting on a gallant throne above the lords and ladies, and began circling the pen. It seemed innocent until the horse began to stray from its owner and disobey their commands. Its movements became jerky and unsure, all while its eyes went incredibly wide. Now, I’m not a licensed horse professional or equestrian by any means, but it was obvious that the horse was very uncomfortable. Its behavior became increasingly volatile, which was clear to everyone in the theatre. Additionally, there were telltale signs of the horse being severely dehydrated—its mouth extremely dry, its skin unnaturally saggy.
Naturally, I began to question how inhumane this treatment was, and how the organization went about training these horses. On the Medieval Times website, they describe their horses as, “the treasured stars of the show,” which immediately stood out to me since the way they treated them didn’t reflect that sentiment in the slightest. Upon further research, I found claims that heavily corroborated what they stated, including a report that the Medieval Times was sued by a former cast member who claims that mistreatment of horses included, “whipping the horses unnecessarily and to the point where one of the horses had large welts over its body.” She also asserted that “such abuse ended in the death of at least one horse,” which is absolutely heartbreaking. Although this case was terminated in July of 2020, its indications tarnished the event’s reputation, and petitions to raise awareness for animal cruelty in their shows began to spread.
Upon skimming through a few articles while in the stands, I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the show knowing what was happening when the curtains closed and the horses went back to their stalls. This experience has taught me that the ongoing abuse of animals for our entertainment is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. Though this may not be the desired ending I was expecting to write on what was supposed to be a glamorous transportation back to the medieval times, I’ve learned a lot about the steps that need to be taken to ensure animals are being treated humanely—which starts with not having them perform at all.
And with that, I bid thee farewell.