Each year the RCMP Musical Ride awes cities across Canada. But co-ordinating a cross-country trip with 45 people and 36 horses is no easy task. RCMP Cpl. Kyle Kifferling, a trainer with the ride, gave the Gazette a step-by-step look at how they get from A to B.
Planning the musical ride tour starts one year ahead of the performance season. The seven-month tour focuses on two provinces and can include international visits upon request. New riders train for nearly a year before touring as the majority have minimal riding experience before joining. All horses get a thorough veterinary examination to ensure they have the fitness and temperament to travel.
It takes four 22-metre long tractor trailers to move the horses and equipment from the RCMP stables in Ottawa to their destination. Three trailers each fit a dozen horses and the fourth stores all the tack, tools and equipment including the riders' kits and uniforms. The riders will travel by bus or plane — depending on distance. On an overseas trip, the horses travel in a cargo plane.
After arriving at the destination, all horses are moved from the trailers to the host-provided stables — sometimes a temporarily transformed hockey rink. But before the unloading begins, officers inspect the stables to ensure they're safe and suitable for the horses.
There's plenty to do before the musical ride takes the stage. All riders make sure stalls are cleaned and horses are fed, groomed and tacked. Riders shine their boots and confirm their ceremonial red serge is in pristine condition. Before show time, riders warm up for approximately 45 minutes to prepare the horses.
The musical ride performance lasts about 30 minutes. In a choreographed routine, riders display formations such as the star, the dome, the maze and the charge. The ride's musical technician ensures not a beat is skipped during the display of horsemanship.
Meet and greet
After the show, RCMP officers will meet with the crowd giving the public a better view of the Hanoverian horses and the chance to ask questions. This promotes police-community relations and stimulates interest in the RCMP. All are welcome to visit the stables providing a behind-the-scenes view as riders clean their tack and groom their horses.
Pack up and repeat
The busy tour schedule doesn't leave much time for rest. Sometimes, less than two days after unloading the four trailers, every horse, saddle, bit and bridle must be packed up and riders prepare for the next stop.