The Musical Ride
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Musical Ride had its humble beginnings on the Canadian Prairies. When the RCMP was first formed in the late 1873 (it was formed as the Northwest Mounted Police), every man was expected to know how to ride a horse. Some of these men used their off hours to practice their horsemanship and cavalry skills. Eventually, that practice became a demonstration for the public.
Today members of the RCMP are not required to know how to ride a horse. However, the RCMP has kept that tradition of horsemanship alive through the Musical Ride. On warm summer nights you can witness the RCMP's beginnings on the Canadian Prairie through their impressive demonstration of horsemanship that is the Musical Ride.
The RCMP Musical Ride originates from a stylized version of British Army cavalry drills. This cavalry drill was in use by the RCMP at the time of its formation in 1873. At the time, many of the world's army cavalry units peacetime duties often included public ceremonies. Eventually cavalry manoeuvres became combined with the music of regimental bands and thus musical riding was born.. The first recorded public performance of a British musical ride was in 1882 by the First Regiment of Life Guards at the Royal Tournament at Islington, London.
As part of their duties, members of the Mounted Police were scattered across the Canadian prairies. Whenever a sufficient number of men and horses were stationed in one place, the men made it part of their entertainment to practice drill and to demonstrate their riding skills. Eventually, that practice became a demonstration for the public, with the first display of the musical ride taking place in 1876 at Fort MacLeod. The first official musical ride was performed in Regina in 1887 under Inspector William George Matthews. From these humble beginnings the Musical Ride of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has grown to be an internationally recognized performance and part of the mystique of the RCMP.
The Ride Today:
Today the musical ride performs across Canada and at international venues. They will perform at between 40 and 50 locations every year. The Musical Ride is performed with 32 riders plus the member in charge, performing a variety of figures and manoeuvres, choreographed to music.
The figures include: The Diamond, The Bridal Arch, The X, Turnstiles, The Gates, The Star, The Wagon Wheel, Shanghai Cross, Diamond thread the Needle, The Cloverleaf, Lance Drill, Music 6/8 Time, Heads of Sections Circles, The Carousel, The Maze, The Dome, Single File Thread the Needle, The Charge, The Rally, MARCH OFF. The 'Charge' is the highlight, when the horse break into a gallop, the riders holding the lances lowered. At the end of the performance there is a traditional 'March Off' performed to the strains of the RCMP's Regimental March, where the Musical Ride salutes the guest of honour.
For more information on the Musical Ride you can read the book The Spirit of the Ride The RCMP Musical Ride
and see the video RCMP Musical Ride The Complete Show ; the book and video are available to purchase from this website.
Sources: The Musical Ride of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police by William & Nora Kelly; RCMP Fact Sheets 2000/01.