Every gal loves a man in uniform, but when you put him on top of a great looking horse then the fantasy is complete.
One of the most iconic symbols of Canada is the RCMP, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who perform their Musical Ride at countless venues the world over each year.
The horses, all black, and the riders in their scarlet jackets, Stetson hats and lances perform a ride that is precision perfection. But, while the horses and riders perform for the public, the non-riding RCMP members carry out duties protecting Canada and her people including fraud, border integrity, ballistic id, youth crime prevention, commercial crime and forensic id services.
1. The first established police force was formed in May 1873 to police the newly acquired western territories of Canada. They were soon named the North West Mounted Police. In 1920 their headquarters were moved to Ottawa, Ontario, they became the RCMP and they took over policing in other Canadian provinces.
2. The early members of the NWMP wanted a way to display their riding ability. Theirs was a British Military background so the ride then and today is based on drill movements. The first ride was performed in 1887 and there were no spectators.
3. Today, all ride members are police offers who must have two years of active service under their belts before they apply for the ride. Many are non riders and they sign up for three years. Prior to 1966 all recruits had to learn to ride.
4. There are 32 riders in the troop and the ride requires timing, precision and coordination. Once seen you will know why. Hours of training create a horse and rider in perfect unison within the group.
5. The horses have other duties and these include parades, standing at Parliament Hill and of course endless pats from fans and hours of photo ops! The use of horses for regular duties was stopped in 1936.
6. Besides the horses and riders, the troop takes along a farrier, technical production managers and three Non-Commissioned officers who travel on tour to the 40 or 50 locations each year.
7. The original NWMP horses were a far cry from the well bred, black horses on tour today. The RCMP has bred and raised its own horses since 1939 and produces some of the finest horses in Canada today with very high standards. The present day farm is at Pakenham, Ontario, 150 acres of Ottawa Valley heaven for horses where they stay for the first three years of their lives before going to the training facility at Rockcliffe Park Equestrian centre in Ottawa. At Pakenham there are about 27 broodmares and 40-50 youngsters from babies to three year olds. In Rockcliffe there are about 96 horses there for training and for the ride.
8. The Musical Ride became part and parcel of the RCMP in 1961 and it was just an annual event before the future of the force was settled.
9. During the coronation of King George VI in England, Assistant RCMP Commissioner S.T Wood noticed how nice the Household Cavalry looked with their scarlet tunics on their black horses. In 1938 when he became Commissioner, he said that all RCMP horses must be black. Soon it was obvious that the RCMP would have to establish a breeding program to get the temperament, colour, size and number of horses they required.
10. In March 1989, black Hanoverian mares and stallions were purchased to add substance and bone to the thoroughbred RCMP troop horses. The Hanoverians with their docile, quiet nature made them the perfect horse to cross with the Thoroughbreds.
11. With an annual surplus of horses, the extra horses are auctioned off at their horse auction and 10 young horses enter training. Many horses start in the ride at 6 years of age after 2 ½ years of basic training. They also need to get used to crowds, noises, traffic and to calmly escort dignitaries and Royalty.
12. The horses are between 16 and 17.2 hh and are no longer branded but are tattooed on the upper lip with a regimental number. Today they are also microchipped in the neck.
13. The RCMP has its own saddler who makes and repairs all the needed equipment but the saddles are Stubben saddles from Germany. The RCMP had tried so many different kinds of saddles but it was John Stubben who got the contract after modifying his saddle cut to accommodate the horses and riders with a longer flap.
14. The white rope or head rope along with the lance is part of the ceremonial uniform. The saddle blanket or “Shabrack” or “Shabracque”, designates it as one used by a mounted military unit.
15. The maple leaf is put on the horse’s rump a few minutes before each show with a brush and stencil.
16. One of the summer highlights of life in Ottawa, Canada’s capital is the Sunset Ceremony that takes place in June right at the RCMP stables. The annual five night event features a variety of performances including the combined pipe bands of the RCMP and the Ottawa Police Service, the signature Sunset Ceremony, and the world famous Musical Ride! If you like music, pomp, pageantry and horses, this is a must see performance.
17. Burmese (1962–1990), a black RCMP Police Service Horse (PSH) mare, was given to Queen Elizabeth II by the RCMP and ridden by the queen for Trooping the Colour for eighteen consecutive years from 1969 to 1986. It is said that Burmese was the Queen’s favourite horse.
18. PSH Burmese was followed by PSH Centennial, presented to The Queen in 1973 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the RCMP; and PSH Saint James, in 1998, to mark the RCMP’s 125th anniversary.
19. The Queen received PSH George in 2009 and he has the same bloodlines as Burmese. George stands 17 h.h. high and is said to be a real “people horse” becoming the lead horse in the famous RCMP Musical Ride, a task that requires innate boldness. His original name was “Terror”. The YouTube video also shows the older footage of the presentations of her other horses from the RCMP.
20. In 1981, the first female served on the Musical Ride. In 2013, there were 18 female members on the Musical Ride (50%), Sergeant and two Corporals are all women.
21. Hosting the musical ride is organized down to the last detail and it includes location, stabling, feed, show sites, public access, seating, sound requirements, footing, master of ceremonies, honoured guest to receive the salute, parking, washrooms, publicity, and the Mountie Shop purchases.
View a part of the RCMP Musical Ride on You Tube from August 26, 2010 at the Pacific National Exhibition, British Columbia.