Knight in Shining Armor
WEB-EXCLUSIVE: It's not easy being a Medieval Times knight. We find out what it takes.
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Erik Westrom’s work uniform is a little different than most: riding boots, riding chaps, a tunic, shoulder armor, and chain mail – well, kind of.
“It’s not really heavy chain mail; it’s just a cloth that’s woven to look like it. It won’t protect us at all, but it looks great from 50 feet away,” he says.
His work days are comprised of riding horses at top speeds, battling co-workers in sword fights and participating in jousting tournaments. Westrom is a knight – and Medieval Times Buena Park is his castle.
The Santa Ana native entered the castle in 2006 as a squire, the knight’s shield bearer and loyal comrade. Five-and-a-half years later he stands as assistant head knight. “I became a knight within three months of being hired,” he says. “It all depends on your athleticism and how fast you can learn to ride a horse really well.”
The physically demanding position of knight requires plenty of training. Aside from nightly shows, knights partake in three hours of training every day. Whether it be on a horse, with weapons or running, fighting, falling, and rolling, remaining physically active is crucial. Participating in twice-a-week yoga sessions at the castle is also a requirement for all knights.
“It all depends on what aspect of the show we’re training for,” Westrom says. “We all go to the gym on our personal time, plus we come in here [to the castle] and do certain workouts. Sometimes we’ll play football or volleyball.”
Injuries are common – something Westrom knows from firsthand experience. While those involved in the performance never actually strike each other with weapons, they do train and work hard to make it appear so.
“Because it’s a dangerous job, it needs to be choreographed for the safety of the knights,” he says. “We’re dancing out there together, stepping together, swinging together, and if we do it how we’re supposed to, it looks like we’re really trying to go at it and hurt each other, but it’s all predetermined and planned.”
After five years of performing the same show and script, Medieval Times has recently debuted a new storyline for its show. Describing it as more direct and easier to follow than the previous show, Westrom says he expects fans to enjoy this new show because of its simplicity and amped up action scenes. Knights spent months learning the new show during daily training while performing the old show during nightly performances.
“It’s nice to change it up so we don’t get so burnt out doing the same thing every day,” Westrom says. “It’s nice to do something new and fresh.”
But whether working the new show or the old one, there's one thing that always keeps Westrom's attention: the horses. It was Westrom’s life-long love of horses that attracted him to the job in the first place (as a child he rode and trained horses).
“I’ve been on a horse most of my life,” he says. “The games part of [the show] is probably my favorite part because you get to canter on a horse full speed and do all of these fun little games like ring jousting – it’s something you just can’t do at many other places.”
Besides his passion for horses, Westrom found another kind of passion at Medieval Times Buena Park, which is where he met his wife, Katie Westrom, whose job it was to fly the falcon during the performances five years ago.
“She came to the castle in 2007 and got her knight in shining armor. That’s what we like to joke about,” he says with a laugh.