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Topic – RCMP: The Musical Ride

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RCMP: The Musical Ride

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)

One of the most famous symbols of Canada is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), in their red jackets and brown Stetson hats. A specially trained group of RCMP officers, or Mounties, perform intricate manoeuvres on horseback in a spectacle known as the Musical Ride.

The Ride Begins

North-West Mounted Police, Calgary, Alberta, 1901

In 1867, Canada had just become its own country and it was growing and changing quickly. The country’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, was worried about keeping law and order in such a huge area. So in 1873, Canada’s government set up the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP). They were police officers who enforced the country’s laws, while on horseback. 

Early members of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) wanted to show off their riding skills. So the officers practised cavalry drill manoeuvers choreographed to music. They called it the Musical Ride and, in 1904, they gave the first public performances in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. When the police force became the RCMP, in 1920, the tradition of the Musical Ride continued.

The Musical Ride Today

RCMP Musical Ride, 2016

Each year, about 800 RCMP officers apply to take part in the Musical Ride, but only 12 to 15 are chosen. Although women were admitted to the force only in 1974, many of the officers in the Musical Ride are women.

It takes about 16 weeks of gruelling practice for the 32 riders and their horses to put together a Musical Ride show. They must learn many patterns and figures, with names such as the Bridal Arch, the Wagon Wheel, Thread the Needle, and the Dome.

The Musical Ride Horses

Picture of a RCMP on their horse

The horses are perhaps more important than the officers in the Musical Ride. They must be good-natured and able to cope well with constantly changing sights and sounds. Elegant and athletic, they must also be able to work extremely close together. All horses in the Musical Ride are black because they look so impressive with the Mounties’ red coats.

When the horses are three years old, they begin training to deal with parades, traffic, and crowds. At age 6, they begin special Musical Ride training, and some horses perform with the Ride until they are more than 20 years old.

Just before the performance, each rider takes a wet brush and stencil and marks a maple leaf on their horse’s rump. Every Musical Ride ends with the horses and riders charging down the field—a dramatic end to an event that is a unique part of Canadian history.

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