The image of the red-coated Mountie in broad-brimmed Stetson hat is associated with Canada round the world. But there is more to the Mounties than just a romantic image.
From the beginning of its history, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has served Canada and its people by establishing law and order in the frontier reaches of this vast nation.
Representing a colorful 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 originated from the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) as they made the Great March West across Canada in 1874. Although the original NWMP were scattered in small groups over tens of thousands of miles of unsettled prairies, they routinely practiced both mounted and foot drills.
In this time, Sergeant Major Robert Belcher and other members who directed the mounted training had been members of the British Cavalry regiments and had experience in performing drill displays.
Only after the men of the NWMP had formed their own band, did the riding displays take the form of the Musical Ride as we know it today. The performance of the drill movements accompanied by music helped the NWMP to entertain themselves during the evening or while off duty.
The Early Years
The first recorded display of the NWMP riding performance, under the direction of Sergeant Major Belcher—and with no public in attendance—took place at Fort Macleod, Alberta in 1876. Training for and performing the Musical Ride provided relief for the officers from the daily drill periods and routine duties.
The first time the NWMP performance was named the Musical Ride was at the Regina barracks in 1887. A total of five performances were given that year. There were no public displays for many years after this because regular police duties and the creation of new posts took precedence.
The NWMP riding performance became a form of public entertainment in 1904. The troop trained under the direction of Inspector Frank Church and performed in Winnipeg, Brandon, Qu’appelle, and Regina.
Some of the Musical Ride movements are based on cavalry drills. These drills began to take shape during the eighteenth century when Frederick The Great of Prussia (1712-1786) revolutionized cavalry tactics and trained his cavalry to a standard which became the envy and ideal of other European nations.
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 Musical Ride became a permanent entity of the RCMP in 1961. Up to 1961 it had been impossible to plan performances far in advance, as there had always been doubts about whether or not the Ride would continue.
Prior to 1961 and beginning in 1920, there were two Rides that performed in various parts of Canada and the US. One Ride was based in Rockcliffe, Ontario and the other in Regina, Saskatchewan, occasionally with other Rides trained for local performances.
Over the years, the popularity of the Musical Ride has grown and it has become a world renowned attraction.
The Ride varies from year to year as every new Instructor slightly alters the Ride movements and formations.
Please note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series on Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Musical Ride
Part 2: 2012 Musical Ride
There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe.
It has symmetry, elegance, and graced—
those qualities you find always in that which the true artist captures.
You can find it the turning of the seasons,
in the way sand trails along a ridge…
—Frank Herbert, Dune