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A Visit with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Published: 9/26/2008
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By Maddy B. Gray

Since I’m old and cranky, I usually avoid fairs. Too crowded. Too expensive. The rides make me sick, etc. etc.
Royal Canadian MountiesBut when I heard the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were coming to the Cumberland Fair, I said, “Heck, yeah!”
Of all horse disciplines, I am particularly fond of mounted police departments. My grandfather was very involved in the Cleveland mounties more than 50 years ago. I have pictures of him on my wall and fun tales from my mother in my head. Aside from that personal connection, mounties have to deal with so many different situations – crowds, drunks, little kids intent on petting them, big scary garbage trucks – I admire the training and trust-building intrinsic this horse and rider package.
Anyway, the RCMPs are about as impressive as they get. (Indeed, they give clinics to other mounted units. Next month, they meet the Lexington, Kentucky mounties.)
Anthony gets a kiss from WimzieThe Musical Ride performers stick to parade and ceremony stuff as opposed to police detail. They perform their show all over North America. This year, they visit 53 venues and perform in hundreds of shows.
About three dozen horses and riders travel in a caravan of four mammoth semi-trailer trucks and extended entourage.
During their performance, they moved in perfect quartets around the arena. When asked, the horses stood perfectly still.
After the show, all the spectators were invited to visit the horses and riders backstage, as it were. So many of us walked over to their temporary quarters towards the edge of the fairgrounds.
Even temporarily, these folks have a quite a set-up. Each of the 36 horses has a spacious, covered stall with fresh shavings and hay. In front of the stall, there’s a big wooden box containing tack, treats, and posting the pedigree of that particular horse.
Bill Stewart of the RCMPThere is a large ‘midfield’ of space between their trailer trucks and stalls to walk out the horses, tack, and detack, and dump manure.
All of the riders we spoke with were busy but polite, friendly and knowledgeable. They are the crème de la crème, we were told. Eight hundred police officers apply to train for the Musical Ride. Fifteen make it.
Some additional tidbits:
- Half of the riders are men; half are women.
- Most have little riding experience when they enter the program. Of those with experience, they come equally from English and Western disciplines, according to Sgt. Major Bill Stewart, the Riding Master.
- The RCMP has their own breeding facility in Ottowa. Their horses are all Hanovarians or Hanovarian/Thoroughbred crosses. The youngest Musical Ride horses are six; the oldest are around 20 years old.
- Each horse is paired with a rider for at least a year. In fact, each pair has a type of baseball card with their info: We collected Anthony Cameron’s card, for instance. There’s a nice photo of Anthony and his RCMP stall set upmare, Wimzie. On the back, you can read that Anthony is from Waywayseecappo, Manitoba (really!) and that Wimzie is a 6 year old Hanovarian standing at 16 ½ hands.
- Foals born in the same year all have names with the same first letter.
- For more interesting factoids, check out the Royal Canadian Mounted Police website.

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3/11/2009 Tommie
Wow - those men and women (thank goodness, there are women nowadays) look so fantastic. And their horsemanship is stellar.

"Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses" - Elizabeth Taylor