Musical Ride entering Dempster Field at Brothers Park in Gibsons
taken by Duane Burnett of Duane’s World
I first had the privilege of seeing our RCMP Musical Ride when Expo 86 was held in Vancouver. I watched that performance, beautifully backlit by the sunset over the city, and was awestruck at the incredible precision of these horses and riders. When I heard that the Musical Ride was going to visit our small town of Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast of B.C., I was thrilled to find out that the horses were going to be stabled in our neighbourhood and that I would have an opportunity to meet them individually.
As beautiful as the polished performances are, behind the scenes is often where we learn the most. When I asked about the history of the Musical Ride, I found out that it originally evolved from the North West Mounted Police. Uniforms were worn, lances were carried, horses wore ceremonial white head ropes, and were taught to carry out traditional military drill movements, just as they are today. The first Musical Ride performance was held at the Regina barracks in 1887 and regular public performances started in 1904, carrying on across the country ever since. Thirty-five riders, thirty-six horses, a farrier, a technical production manager and three Non-Commissioned Officers travel with the Musical Ride. The tour takes place between May and October, and includes Canada, the United States, and select International venues.
I was interested to hear that the horses are all bred by the RCMP themselves, rather than bought from other sources, and that the first breeding farm was at Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan. In 1968, breeding was moved to the detachment near Pakenham, Ontario, because the larger Saskatchewan facilities were no longer needed.
New foal and future Musical Ride member photo taken at the RCMP Breeding Farm in Pakenham, Ontario
The photo of the new foal came from the RCMP Media Center at:
Thoroughbreds were originally used, but in 1989, the force purchased Hanoverian mares and stallions to cross-breed with existing Thoroughbreds. The horses I met at Chaster Creek Stables on July 30 were of this mixed bloodline, all black and approximately the same height, 16 – 17 hands. Their intelligence and gentle temperament was evident, as crowds ranging from babies to the elderly walked through the stables, stopping to pet them freely. Even though these horses are naturally agile and athletic, their training is never rushed. General training starts at age 3 and takes approximately 3 more years. Many of the horses continue with the Musical Ride past the age of 20.
Casey could be as sweet as he was cheeky. Moments after this photo was taken he grabbed his feed pail and flung it into the alleyway, demanding supper!
Photo Carol M. Upton
The Gibsons performance included the iconic British Columbia Regiment Irish Pipes and our very own Coast Cow Girls Drill Team. Proceeds from the show were donated to our local Hospital Foundation. Annually, the Musical Ride helps approximately 40 communities raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a number of excellent causes. What a gift to all of us!
Several of these giant trailers were needed to transport all the equine members of the Musical Ride and their equipment.
Photo Carol M. Upton
RCMP Musical Ride Equine Members at rest on the day of their Gibsons performance.
Photo Carol M. Upton.
The Ride is touring British Columbia at the moment and will perform in High River, Alberta on September 9. If you have a chance to see this living example of our country’s history and national identity, you won’t want to miss it! For more information and a tour schedule, please visit the RCMP website at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca
Carol Upton (604) 886-8951
Dreams Aloud Promotions
~ Linking your dreams to the world