Bill Duer

June 2011
Written By: 
Ashley Morris
Photographs by: 
Bobby Altman

Medievial Times’ master horse trainer was born to play this role




Medieval Times isn’t Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament without its cast of knights and horses. And the cast isn’t a cast that’s performance-ready without Bill Duer, master horse trainer at Medieval. It’s a responsibility that’s bigger than the castle he works in. But Duer takes it in stride. He was practically born to do this job. 

Q: When was your first brush with working with horses?
A: I grew up around horses in the mountains of California. When I was young, my parents divorced and Glen Randall took me under his wing. Glen was one of the greatest horse trainers of all time—he trained for Roy Rogers and Zorro. So when I was 15 years old, I had an apprenticeship with Glen for three years in southern California in Newhall. Then I went on to train horses for the general public for backyard horses, which led to dressage training and exhibitions at county fairs and festivals.

Q: When did Medieval Times gain your expertise?
A: I started at the Medieval Times in Buena Park, Calif., 10 years ago and worked as an assistant horse trainer for only six months. The position in Myrtle Beach opened up and I’ve been here ever since. Moving across country was a huge challenge for me because I had never been out of California.

Q:Tell me more about the “cast and crew” you work with.
A: I work with baby horses—between 3 and 5 years old—through my oldest horse right now, who is 16. We just retired two horses who were 19 and 20. There are 19 horses total, mostly Andalusians, some Friesians and a couple quarter horses for the games with the knights. Depending on the types of tricks, it takes six months to two years to teach them. ... They get very good treatment here—the best foods of alfalfa and hay we can get, a vet that’s on-hand for grooming … They have plush, multimillion-dollar stables. The horses I get to work with are the best horses out there.

Q: And tell me about your roles in the show and day-to-day duties.
A: I have three roles in the show: a solo, five-minute performance that’s the scene of presenting a gift to the princess, the long lines of horses doing tricks, and the six-man drill team that involves both performance and patterns. No horse or knight enters the show without me training them. ... Most knights have never been on a horse; but that’s OK, I’d rather have it that way. Horse and rider relations are just like people and relationships, not all horses and riders get along, so it’s about finding the right match.