Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Symbol of the Government of Canada

RCMP Musical Ride and Equitation - Media Corner

Backgrounders

The History of the Musical Ride

Throughout the world, the image of the red-coated Mountie in a broad-brimmed Stetson hat is instinctively associated with Canada. However, there is more to the Mounties than just this romantic image. The stage was set in 1873 for a role that would intimately connect the Mounted Police and its members with the development of Canada as a great nation. From the beginning of its long history, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have served Canada and its people by establishing law and order in the frontier reaches of this vast nation. As the country grew in population and diversity and communities became more established, the Mounted Police adapted, ensuring the peace and security for its citizens.

Representing a colourful tradition and ceremony through the horse and the scarlet uniform, the RCMP created a spectacle known around the world as the Musical Ride. The Musical Ride provides Canadians, from coast to coast, with the opportunity to experience part of our heritage and national identity.

The Musical Ride was developed from a desire by early members of the North-West Mounted Police to display their riding ability and entertain both themselves and the local community. Considering the original Mounted Police members had a British military background, it was inevitable that the series of figures they performed were traditional cavalry drill movements. These movements formed the basis of the Musical Ride.

Although legend has it that the first Musical Ride was performed as early as 1876, the first officially recorded Musical Ride was performed in Regina under Inspector William George Matthews in1887. Over the years the popularity of the Musical Ride has grown - today it is one of the most popular Canadian symbols around the world.

For more information, please visit the RCMP website at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca or contact National Communication Services Directorate at (613) 843-5999 (Fax: (613)-825-8250).

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The Musical Ride Today

Members of the Musical Ride are, first and foremost, police officers who, after at least two years of active police work, volunteer for duty with the Musical Ride. Most members are non-riders prior to their equestrian training with the RCMP; however, once they complete the courses of instruction, they not only become riders but ambassadors of goodwill. Working through a unique medium, they promote the RCMP's image throughout Canada and the world. RCMP members only remain with the Musical Ride for three years which ensures an annual rotation of approximately one third (33%) of the riders.

Today, in keeping with tradition, the Musical Ride is performed by a full troop of 32 riders and horses, plus the member in charge. The Musical Ride consists of the execution of a variety of intricate figures and cavalry drill choreographed to music. Demanding utmost control, timing and coordination, these movements are formed by individual horses and riders, in two's, four's and eight's at the trot and at the canter. Months of training, practice and many kilometres/miles around the riding school make horse and rider one. The horses must not only appear in the Musical Ride, but on Parliament Hill, in parades, special events and have the ability to travel and adapt to different environments, not to mention, hours of petting and photo-taking that the horses must patiently endure.

One of the most recognizable Musical Ride formations is the "Dome,"once featured on the back of the Canadian fifty-dollar bill. The highlight of the Musical Ride is, without a doubt, the CHARGE when lances, with their red and white pennons, are lowered and the riders and their mounts launch into the gallop. The conclusion of the performance is the March Past performed to the strains of the RCMP's Regimental March where the Musical Ride traditionally salutes the guest of honour.

The RCMP Musical Ride tours throughout Canada, the United States and other international venues, performing at approximately forty to fifty locations a year between the months of May and October. Thirty-six riders, thirty-six horses, a farrier, a technical production manager and three Non-Commissioned Officers travel with the Musical Ride on tour.

For more information, please visit the RCMP website at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca or contact National Communication Services Directorate at (613) 843-5999 (Fax: (613)-825-8250).

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The Horses of the Musical Ride

In 1873, the horses of the North-West Mounted Police had to be rugged and tough since they were the primary mode of transportation for officers. Today an RCMP horse must be black, elegant, athletic with a good nature and enough heart and stamina to carry it through approximately one hundred performances of the Musical Ride.

The RCMP has bred and raised its own horses since 1939 and today the national police force is known to produce some of the finest horses in the country. The RCMP horse breeding program began at Depot Division, Regina, Saskatchewan, and was subsequently moved to Fort Walsh in 1942, the site of a North-West Mounted Police Fort built in 1875 in the beautiful Cypress Hills of south western Saskatchewan. Fort Walsh was home of the breeding program until 1968 when the operation was moved to Pakenham, Ontario about 50 km. west of Ottawa.

The RCMP Breeding Farm in Pakenham is built on one hundred and forty hectares of lush Ottawa Valley land where the Remounts spend the first three years of their life, growing, developing and maturing before becoming Musical Ride horses and moving to the home of the Musical Ride, the Rockcliffe Park Equestrian Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.

For more information, please contact National Communication Services Directorate at (613) 843-5999 (Fax: (613)-825-8250).

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