After the red Maple Leaf, the second most recognizably "Canadian" symbol around the world is the red tunic worn by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Today, at historic Fort York in downtown Toronto, the RCMP's spectacle known as the Musical Ride was on display.
It was a show of incredible horsemanship and entertainment for the assembled crowd with 32 horses and riders performing intricately timed-out steps, all beautifully choreographed to music.
The first official Musical Ride was performed during the winter months of 1887 in Regina, Saskatchewan by the RCMP's predecessor, the North West Mounted Police.
The Riding Master at the Regina depot was Inspctor William George Matthews. Inspector Matthews teamed up with the Bandmaster, Sergeant J.T. Farmer, at the Regina depot, and together they created the Musical Ride.
The Musical Ride was based on cavalry drills
and tactics that were first employed by Frederick The Great of Prussia in the 1700's:
The basis of the Ride's movements stem from the ability to move a mounted cavalry regiment with some form of organization–e.g. single file, half sections and sections at all three paces. Since 1887, Musical Ride Instructors have developed and elaborated on these basic movements. The Ride varies from year to year as every new Instructor slightly alters the Ride movements and formations.
The RCMP breeds and raises its own horses at a breeding farm in the Ottawa Valley. The horses spend the first three years of their lives at the farm in Pakenham before becoming Musical Ride horses when they are then moved to the Rockcliffe Park Equestrian Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.
This year, six foals were born at the Pakenham, Ontario farm. The RCMP has once again invited children and youth around the world to enter the "RCMP Name the Foal" contest. This year, names have to begin with the letter "H" and have to be 6 letters long or less. Kids and youth are invited to enter online here
The RCMP Musical riders undergo extensive equestrian training. Each year, 45 applicants are culled from hundreds of active RCMP officers and those selected undergo a five week "Basic Equitation
" course where the riders are:
evaluated during the five weeks on their riding ability/aptitude, conduct, relationship with other members, initiative/effort, appearance and attendance and responsibility/reliability.
At the end of the basic five week course, 12-15 riders are selected from the original 45, to carry on to a six-month Intermediate Equitation course.
At the end of the six-month intermediate training, they become members of the Musical Ride, where they will stay on for a maximum of three years.
The Canadian Tour schedule is located here
. During 2010, the Musical Ride will be making stops in most Canadian provinces, as well as a few stops in the United States, however, the emphasis this year is on Quebec and Alberta.