Behind The Scenes Of The Musical Ride

Pipestone Flyer

Fortunately, Amberlea Meadows was well prepared for the 90mm’s of rain that fell on Friday, July 25th as they were able to host the Musical Ride inside in their arena. Hopes to host Saturday’s Ride outside were dashed early, as the grounds were just too wet to ensure the horses and riders safety.

Both performances were sold out with the proceeds going to Kids With Cancer.

This year we got an opportunity to tour the barn that stabled the horses for the Ride. As we entered the barn there was a horse, named Echo, wearing his blue Mounty Police (MP) blanket, waiting for a farrier to have some work done on his hoofs.

As we were about to walk around Echo, we were fortunate to meet one of the riders, Constable Ann Howitt, from Guelph, Ontario.  She was nice enough to pose with Echo, and informed us that the RCMP had its own farrier who travels with the Ride.

Constable Howitt then explained that though only 32 horses are used in the Musical Ride performance, there are actually 38 horses and riders who rotate performances.

Riders are all volunteers who are chosen after a five-week Basic Equitation Course. Of the over 800 officers that apply each year, only 45 are invited to take the course. From that group, only 12 to 15 are chosen to advance to the Intermediate Equitation Course, and from there they will replace those that have completed their three year rotation on tour and are returning to regular duties across Canada.

Horses have their own tack box, painted in blue, with their name printed on the edge. Horses are all black, with the decision for this being made about 1938 when Assistant Commissioner S. T. Wood decided that the contrast between the red tunics and black was very impressive and worth maintaining.

This has resulted in the RCMP establishing their own breeding program. Horses come into the program at six years old and can remain in the Ride well into their twenties.

Each rider and horse has their own Trading Card, often found in the Tack Box. Constable Howitt introduced us to Warren, her assigned horse. Warren is a 12 year-old gelding in his seventh year with the Musical Ride and is 16.3 hands tall.

Constable Howitt began her tour with the Musical Ride at the beginning of 2014. To date they have ridden in Quebec and Alberta. Their stay in Alberta will conclude in mid-September at Spruce Meadows. Their last tour show for 2014 will be in early October just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

Constable Howitt realizes that the Musical Ride is an opportunity to travel and meet people from the various parts of the country, and to participate in one of Canada’s and the RCMP’S oldest and finest traditions. She also knows she will have mixed feelings when her tour ends. She will be sad to be leaving, but will take with her many excellent memories of the time she took part in the Musical Ride as she moves forward to the rest of her career.

Just as we were leaving we met two officers from the Leduc attachment getting ready, in their red serge, to serve as honor guards and you could tell they were proud to be part of this event. They were also thankful that the warm weather was not scheduled until later in the week!

If you missed it, or want to see it again, The RCMP Musical Ride will find its way to Wetaskiwin on Wednesday, August 20 at the Wetaskiwin Agricultural Grounds, located two kilometers east of Wetaskiwin at the junction of Highway 2A and Highway 13. Gates will open at 5pm with the show, including wild pony races, RCMP dog handling and mini chuck wagons, starting at 7pm. For more information, please contact Karen at the city of Wetaskiwin, 780-361-4417.

Pictured: Constable Ann Howitt. Photo by Tom Dirsa

See more Musical Ride photos in this week’s paper.

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