HOOF-BEATS will resound in North Vancouver this week as 32 thoroughbreds trot into town for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police musical ride, scheduled for Aug. 21 at Mahon Park.
Officers will lead the 520-kilogram black thoroughbreds through carefully choreographed cavalry drills in two shows set for 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. For North Vancouver Const. Anthony Cameron, the annual event provided an entry into an activity he'd always been curious about. "I didn't have any horse riding experience at all," he says. "It's something that I always wanted to do as a kid but never had the opportunity.. .. They actually taught me right from scratch."
Cameron ultimately spent four summers astride a stallion for the travelling show.
"I was able to see Canada on horseback from coast to coast." In order to bond with Cameron's first horse, Wimzie, the constable spent three hours in the saddle each day, beginning in January. Establishing that connection means realizing how the horse interprets your energy, Cameron explains. "They're very perceptive on how the rider feels, so if you're tense, the horse knows that."
The musical ride is a meticulously planned affair, and officers take about 16 weeks to learn the routine.
While riders and horses are often paired up based on ability and temperament, the horse's relationship with his fellow equines also must be considered.
"You have to take into consideration how the horses get along with each other as well," Cameron says, explaining that certain horses shouldn't be side by side during the performance.
In order to offset the costs of the show, RCMP is looking for a few equine aficionados who wouldn't mind adopting one of the horses during their three-day stay in North Vancouver.
For the price of $1,000, 36 donors can have their name inscribed on a horse's stall in Kinsman Park. A contribution of $500 warrants gold partner status, and earns the donor seating for two, website advertising, and their name adorned on show banners.
The musical ride has remained an annual tradition since 1887, despite the RCMP discontinuing horse patrols in 1936.
The drills themselves date back to the cavalry tactics used by Prussian armies in the 1700s under Frederick the Great.
"You really gain a sense of history when you're sitting on the horse and carrying your lance and hearing 'O Canada' playing, you feel that patriotism," Cameron says.
While black horses were initially selected to show off the red of the officers' uniforms, Cameron says, "The horses are the stars, we've just along for the ride."
Admission is by donation, with the money raised going to the Canadian Cancer Society.
The show coincides with North Vancouver's 25th anniversary of Block Watch service.
Photo Submitted / NORTH Vancouver RCMP Const. Anthony Cameron on Koko drops his lance and "charges" in the climax of the musical ride. See it live on Aug. 21.;
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