Iranda Dyer, 28, could safely be called a horse nut. Growing up in San Diego, she fell in love with riding at age 7 and has spent the rest of her life learning various styles, eventually getting licensed as an equine massage therapist. Last year, she became the first female rider in Excalibur’s Tournament of Kings. (The original version of the show, King Arthur’s Tournament, had female riders, but there have been none since the show was retooled and relaunched in 1999.) Dyer took a break from her hectic schedule—when not performing, she spends time with her three horses—to talk about being a role model, working with animals and a certain Game of Thrones character she reminds us of.
Describe what you do in the show. I do an Alta Escuela act. I perform this routine along with eight dancers on the ground. It’s part of the coronation act after the Prince defeats Mordred and his evil dragon and right before the Prince becomes crowned King. It lasts about four minutes, but it truly does take years and lots of hard hours, dedication and patience to learn. When I was 16, I spent one year practicing the Alta Escuela, but I got about 45 days of practice with Nobilissimo [the 14-year-old Andalusian stallion she rides in the show].
How did you come to live in Las Vegas, and how did you get the job? I moved out here in 2011 because my husband was a Marine at the time, and I started doing massage therapy at Unicorn Ranch, Bridlewood Farm and Cooper Ranch. Through meeting different people I found a former employee of Excalibur who let me know about the audition.
When you learned that you were the first female rider in Tournament of Kings, how did that feel? You know, it didn’t sink in right away, and it never did up until my very first photo shoot [for MGM’s employee newsletter Momentum]. When I saw the photos, I was taken aback, like, “Wow, okay, that’s pretty cool!” But I’ve been very humble with it. I really feel like this is more of my way of saying thank you to people who have helped me along the way. One of the things I’m most excited about is to be a positive example for other young women and young riders who are looking for a career with horseback riding. The whole idea of being the first female rider still, I don’t think, has sunk in yet.
Any memorable moments in that regard? When I come out and everyone is saying, “Oh my gosh, is that a chick?” Even just last Saturday night on the first performance, someone said, “Oh my gosh, that’s a girl riding that horse!” I just kind of smiled and said, “Uh huh!” (laughs) I constantly hear, “You go, girl!” or “Ride ’em, cowgirl!” It just makes me happy to do something that people are so thrilled about. It feels like it’s not just me out there. We’re all in this together—woman power!
Of course, in any productions where animals are involved, there’s a bit of unpredictability. Any unscripted moments? There was a sword that was left in the arena, and my horse actually had to jump over it. And when the light hits the sword a certain way, it’s like coming around a corner and getting blasted in the face with someone’s high beams. But we were okay. Also, people that purchase the light-up swords and hats for the show spook the horse a little bit. But for the most part everything has been pretty good.
There’s a character in Game of Thrones, Brienne of Tarth, a strong, faithful warrior who’s trying to survive in a world populated by men. Have you seen the show? What do you think of her character? I’ve ordered all the seasons, so they should be arriving in the mail soon. But I’m really looking forward to seeing that character. My brother and his friends always used to pick on me, but I’ve always been the girl who went out there and tried to be better than the boys. They’d pick on me, but I would always stand my ground. It’s fun for me to be in a role where I still get to be girly, but being able to break through into a man’s industry or a male-dominated idea of the show has been really fun for me. I feel like talk is cheap, and I’ve wanted to demonstrate I’m not some sissy. In the beginning in rehearsals, I tried using the swords and other weapons. That was my way of demonstrating to everyone, to say, “Okay boys, move aside. You don’t get the spotlight anymore, you have to share it!”
Tournament of Kings Monday & Friday, 6 p.m.; Wednesday-Thursday & Saturday-Sunday, 6 & 6:30 p.m., $66. Excalibur, 702-597-7600.