Chappel Creek Ranch
Story and Photos by Lyn Odom Cherenzia

Poor me…mean ol’ Marilyn. When Mare recently sent me to Dallas to attend the Medieval Times Dinner Theater, she also made me visit the ranch where they breed and raise all the Andalusians for all Medieval Times located throughout the United States. Tough job, but somebody had to do it.

The first Medieval Times Theater was in Kissimmee, Florida in 1982. What started in Spain as a celebration of the Andalusian crossed the Atlantic Ocean and made it possible for Americans to watch these wonderful horses in awe.

Cave paintings on the Iberian Peninsula dating back 25,000 years depict the Andalusian horse and it’s believed the horses were being ridden by 3000 B.C. Later, Xenophon praised the Iberian horse in helping Sparta defeat the Athenians around 450 B.C. William the Conqueror rode an Andalusian in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. And the warhorses carried heavily armored knights for the armed forces of Europe. The Andalusian was almost extinct when Spanish monks decided to save them.

Americans were anxious to have the breed here, but not only was it a crime to export stock, it was costly and time prohibitive. But the success of preserving the breed in Spain warranted a breeding program, laws were changed and horses were shipped to Buena Park, California.

The natural impulsion, athletic ability and kind temperament of the Andalusian are what draw us to the breed. Incredible jumps, effortless dressage and the proud carriage of the horses make it impossible to take your eyes away from them.
Only stallions are used in the theater performances exhibiting long line, driving and leaping maneuvers always demonstrated by the master trainer. The stallions’ arrogance and natural ability are utilized during training.

The Don Pedro De Montina family of Spain, and a primary investor own the Andalusians bred and trained in the United States at Chapel Creek Ranch. The only breeding farm of Andalusians used in Medieval Times Theaters is 40 or so miles north of Dallas and is not open to the public. Just a handful of employees, using consistency and kindness during the formal training, do the training of the horses on a daily basis.

Foals are imprinted at birth and spend the next two and a half years running together. The Spanish Registry requires live cover and the breeding farm has 25-30 Andalusian brood mares at a time.

Born black or bay, 85 percent of foals change to gray or white by maturity, 10 percent stay bay, four percent stay black and less than one percent are a different color.

Around three, when their adult weight is on, they begin lunging and then are sent to the master trainer, (Marcial Contreras in Dallas), and then are trained in formal dressage. There are seven Medieval Times Theaters, and each has master trainers. Dressage training continues through the stallions fourth, fifth and sixth year to fourth level dressage.

Honoring Spanish custom, stallions are never gelded, long manes and tails are never clipped on the stallions, and the mares’ tails are clipped in a fashion that tells age and status. When I visited, there were about 130 horses at the ranch and the number varies during births and shipping. There are approximately 25 horses per castle, and retired Andalusians usually go into therapeutic riding clinics. Honoring customs and respecting the breed, Chapel Creek Ranch/Medieval Times lets all Andalusians live out their natural lives. Only in dire circumstances are the horses euthanized for humane reasons.

Ranch Manager, Vickie Hilliard took me out to a pen full of yearlings. There were 15 or so colts and one VERY friendly one. I watched as their babysitter, Aribito, an Andalusian cross, patiently endure nibbles and general harassment from the yearlings, he was also quick to put them in their place when they got too rough. The gorgeous, spirited Andalusian yearlings treated me to a wild bucking and running go around the pen.

I knew these horses running before me are entitled, as all horses are, and will be provided, as many horses aren’t, to a life of good health, exercise, showmanship and peaceful retirement. Give yourself a real treat and go and see them perform at Medieval Times. 1-800-WEJOUST.

Oh…and Mare? Thank you.

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