After five years on the force, Const.Matthew Tucker is preparing to trade a patrol car for a horse after being accepted as a member of the RCMP Musical Ride.
Once featured on the back of the Canadian 50-dollar bill, the Musical Ride is a unique branch of the force used to promote the image of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police throughout Canada and the world, and is a prominent posting for members.
“I’m very excited and nervous about the opportunity,” Tucker said after his transfer became official. “It’s a totally different role than general policing, and I will miss Canmore for sure, but this is something I’ve always had an interest in. It’s a very traditional part of the RCMP.”
The history of the Musical Ride dates back to the early days of the North-West Mounted Police, and is based on cavalry drill movements from the British military. It’s a technical and precise collection of actions performed in twos, fours and eights at the trot and at the canter, and is all set to music.
Perhaps surprisingly, most members are non-riders prior to being accepted into the Musical Ride. Out of 800 yearly applicants, 45 are chosen to go to Ottawa for evaluation, and only 12 to 15 of those are eventually chosen for the special duty.
“There’s a five week try-out called the basic equitation course,” Tucker said, “where they are looking not only for natural ability on a horse, but also good character to represent the police force, and the temperament necessary for living with all the other constables during the busy touring season.”
The Musical Ride is performed by a full troop of 32 riders and horses, plus the member in charge. A total of 36 riders and horses, in addition to a farrier, technical production manager and three non-commissioned officers travel with the group as they tour throughout Canada, as well as to select international venues. They perform at 40 to 50 locations a year between the months of May and October.
With no previous experience with horses except for the odd trail ride, Tucker was bucked off during his first basic equitation course. The incident ended with a broken wrist and delayed his transfer by a year, but he is now ready to go to the main RCMP stables in Ottawa in June for the intermediate equitation course, where he will learn how to become a ‘proper English equestrian’.
Musical Ride maneuvers follow, and he expects to be touring in 2012 and 2013, where he will uphold the image of the red-coated Mountie in broad-brimmed Stetson hat.
“My father is a retired RCMP officer and was part of the Musical Ride, and he speaks highly of the experience,” Tucker said.
And it is during tour stops and special events where the RCMP is most accessible and approachable to the public.
“I love wearing the red serge. It’s one of the proudest moments you experience while being an RCMP member. It always makes you feel great hearing from the public about how much the RCMP are appreciated and liked throughout the world.”
For more information on the Musical Ride tour schedule for 2011, go to www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca