Members of the Musical Ride get ready to begin their performance at the Russell Fairgrounds on Sat., Sept. 10. Morin Photo

RUSSELL—A partnership between the Russell Agricultural Society, and the Russell Lions Club, resulted in a great day at the Russell Fairgrounds on Sat., Sept. 10.

The combined efforts of the two groups brought the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, (RCMP), Musical Ride to the fairgrounds as well as the township of Russell Photo Contest and Expo.

The Musical Ride was sold out, and visitors to the ride were also able to take a stroll through all the art vendors, set up at the fairgrounds at the Art at Night exhibit. Later on in the evening, visitors went over to the Bar Garden and listened to the live music of Any Good Reason.

Also performing at the fairgrounds along with the RCMP were the Capital Cowgirls and the Canadian Veteran Service Dog Unit.

The special day took place as the Russell Agricultural Society and the Russell Lions Club came together to make the event happen.

Sylvia Smith, the secretary for the Russell Agricultural Society said, “Interestingly enough in the spring of this year we were approached by the RCMP and they asked us if we wanted to do the ride. We were thrilled,” she said. “We have been working hand in hand with them.”

President of the Russell Lions Ashley Stewart has been president since this past Canada Day. She has been a Lions Club member for six years.

“We have a great team,” she said. She said her family has always been involved in the Lions Club and as a result she has had a great deal of experience with what they do and how the club gets things done. She felt the Sept. 10 event was a success with a great turnout and show of support from the Russell community.

Making the evening even more special was that one of the musical ride riders is a Russell resident.

Patrick Faye is a member of the RCMP and a rider in the Musical Ride. He lives in Russell with his family.

On the night of the event, the RCMP truck-in their members and horses. They unload them with each rider looking after their own horse. They walk their horses to give them a chance to warm up. Later when the horse is ready, the officers will saddle up their mounts and get ready for the ride.

Faye has been a police officer for 14 years and with the Musical Ride for two.

There are rules regarding joining the musical ride, and it is quite a journey to travel from novice horseman or woman to being a member of the musical ride.

“You have to be a police officer for a minimum of two years,” he said, “and then you can apply for the ride.”

He said that he loves doing it.

Training for the ride is not so simple.

There is a five-week equitation course to get through, to decide whether you are suited to be a rider and if you have what it takes to join the team. If you get through that part of the training, you are invited to take part in an intermediate course and then there is a six- month intensive training course.

“If you are successful, you go over to the Musical Ride side of the barn. You get to know the people who are on the ride, and you become part of the group.”

Then the next step is to be assigned a horse, and then you begin training for the actual Musical Ride.

The horses used in the ride are as unique as the RCMP officers that ride on them. The horses come from a breeding farm in Packingham. They are all black horses and are above average in size. They are all Hanoverian horses.

The musical ride has a long history.

When the Northwest Mounted Police, (NWMP) was created in 1973, they relied on skilled riders to carry out police duties across the Canadian West.

The endless riding encouraged members of the NWMP to begin competing amongst themselves showing off their riding skills. In 1876, some of these tricks and exercises were performed at Fort Macleod, Alta. This is believed to be the first public performance of what would eventually evolve into the Musical Ride.

In 1886, the NWMP’s first riding school was established in Regina but there would not be another official ride until 1901.

On July 28, 1908, a Musical Ride was performed in Quebec City as part of that municipality’s 300th anniversary celebrations. The Prince of Wales attended, becoming the first member of the Royal Family to witness the Musical Ride. This was also the first time a Musical Ride was performed outside of Western Canada. Musical Rides continued to be performed for the public until the start of the First World War in 1914.

The horses’ that visitors to the Russell Fairgrounds watch perform are specifically chosen for their job.

“The horses are chosen for their size, and their temperament,” said Faye.

He likes being part of the ride because of the opportunity to travel across the country performing.

“I find riding the horses is a lot of fun and challenging.”

A rider usually will spend three to four years with Musical Ride and then be rotated back to regular duty as an RCMP officer.

Today, the RCMP Musical Ride consists of 32 riders plus the member in charge. It executes a variety of cavalry drills choreographed to music. They tour throughout Canada and internationally between May and October, performing at approximately 40 venues each year.