The RCMP Musical Ride is something that even non-equestrians enjoy. Every year, a group of RCMP officers and their black horses take to the road to showcase one of the most iconic Canadian pictures ever – an RCMP officer in red serge and a black horse. I was able to see the Ride for the umpteenth time at the PNE in Vancouver this year, and caught up with Cst. Sarah MacQuarrie direct from the RCMP’s stables in Ontario.

1. Please tell us about yourself.

I’ve been a member for almost eight years. This was actually my third tour with the Musical Ride. I’ve been here for almost four years. We do a tour each and then almost a year of training. I’m originally from New Brunswick, but I did my police service in Alberta before joining the ride.

2. Please tell us about your horse.So, this year I had a horse named Idalia.

She was the youngest horse in the Ride, she’s six years old, and she was the only six-year-old we had, so this was her very first year on the Ride.

3. Did you have any horse experience before you joined the Ride?

I did. I actually started riding when I was about eight years old. I used to be an eventer before I was a member. 90 per cent of people on the ride have never ridden before joining; they usually prefer no riding experience. It’s easier to train new people than break old habits. As long as your open-minded, they’re usually good with you having riding experience; but you have to be willing to adapt to how we do things here.

4. What do you enjoy most about the Ride?I really liked going to small communities.

I’ve been to every province in Canada, so I’ve been to communities that I would never gone to – places that you wouldn’t go to for vacation. You get to meet a lot of interesting people and see lots of things that you would never have seen.

5. What your the most difficult manoeuvre?

One of the most difficult ones would be the turnstiles, or thread the needles are usually hard to, just because of the timing. If someone messes up the timing and they don’t come up at the right spot, then the horses bump into each other and there’s usually a blow up.

6. What is your favourite manoeuvre?

Obviously I love the charge. I like doing the cloverleaf too, it usually looks good if it’s done properly.

7. Tell us about your first performance for the Ride. Were you nervous?

I was a little bit nervous. I had competed before so it wasn’t so much showing in front of people. When you put on the red tunic and you’re riding with your group in front of a huge crowd – because sometimes we have thousands and thousands of people there – it’s a little nerve-racking you don’t want to let the team down. I’ve never competed with that many people as one team. You don’t want to be the one that messes it up.

8. Why do you think the RCMP Musical Ride is so popular?

I think it’s popular for the public because everyone seems to know what it is; it’s a part of our history, even when we go overseas and things like that you talk to anybody and you talk about a red coat and a black horse and they instantly know what that is. They might not know the dynamics behind it or anything, but everyone can recognize it. The kids are always in awe.

9. How has being in the RCMP Musical Ride affected you?

It’s opened my eyes to what Canada is like. I’ve seen a lot of different things along the way. It’s definitely made me even more proud to be Canadian. We have literally seen people cry when we’ve arrived into their community, come to talk to you and we’ve had some older ladies who will come sometimes and be crying because we let them pet our horse. It’s a real eye-opener as to how much people love Canada and love the Mounties in general.

10. Do you have any funny stories about horses, either from practice or during a performance, to share?

My horse this year was a little bit quirky because she was the youngest horse, so on Canada Day we did an escort to Parliament Hill and my horse was scared of the green bicycle lanes. I couldn’t get her to get into the green for a little while. At one of her worst shows where she got scared, they had patched a couple of holes with brown dirt in a very nice green soccer field, but these brown dirt holes were man eating, I guess… And we were all over the place. You never know what can happen! We also had a horse this summer, not my horse, but another horse, during one of the moves it just stands still and does slight movements – and it decided that would be a good time to get down and roll. Right in the middle of the show. So you just never know what’s going to happen.