The lineup for last-minute rush seating stretched from the Stettler Agriplex outdoor grandstand halfway down the track, but in the end anyone who waited patiently were able to get in and get rush seating on the lawn to view the spectacle of the uniquely Canadian RCMP Musical Ride.
On July 22, the Stettler Agricultural Society brought in the Musical Ride, which is touring Quebec and Alberta this year.
While the horses and their riders warmed up on the nearby riding ring, and the stands and lawn filled to capacity, Alberta’s Keister Family Fiddlers entertained the crowd with their unique cheery sound and a fiddling cover of Guns’n’Roses Child of Mine.
The dark brown horses and their riders in bright red serge were greeted with delighted and consistent applause as they trotted into the ring to music, which was handled this performance by ride member Const. Ryan Fraser.
“The DJ program has all the cues set up, but every performance is different,” he said following the show. “Horses go faster, they go slower, so you have to adjust.”
As the horses trotted through the complex patterns, transitions and tricks, riders kept one hand on the rein and one hand on the regiment lance. For the most part, the show went without incident, though here and there horses decided to give their riders a bit of challenge, dancing in place. During the charge, one constable lost his hat.
In addition to the routines, the riders demonstrated various lance manoeuvres, swishing the sharp, metal flag-bearing spires left, right, up, down and around. The horses, used to the presence of such things, remained stock still.
Stettler RCMP Constable Sarah McQuarrie, who left earlier this year to begin training with the ride, wasn’t performing since she was in still in training, but the neighbouring detachment of Coronation saw one of its former members, Zachary MacMillan, return to strut his stuff with his horse, Elliot.
“She (Sarah) is pretty jealous about me coming here to Stettler,” MacMillan said as he groomed Elliot prior to the show.
“I can’t decide what I liked best,” 10-year-old Miranda Zweiful said. She was there to see the Musical Ride for the first time – and her father was the announcer, who explained each routine to the audience throughout the Ride.
Stettler’s Baileigh Sorenson and Lacombe’s Kelsey Little, both riders themselves, were impressed by the skill and technical aspect of the work the riders and horses demonstrated during the ride.
“I thought it was actually fantastic,” Sorenson said. “I like the transitions they did, the tricks. We do the less complex ones (in riding) ourselves but nothing like that.”
Little said she came into the show expecting something similar to what she’s seen from local performance rides, but was blown away.
“It was so much better,” she said.
Both girls said they were surprised some of the riders had only been doing this slightly more than a year, and had come from no riding experience.
Const. Adrienne Young grew up on a farm in Nova Scotia, raising chickens. Despite being a farm girl, she never rode a horse until the Ride.
“My Dad never let me have a horse,” she said. “So ha, Dad.”
Unfortunately for Young, it’s been a short season. She broke her hand earlier this year, causing her to miss the Quebec leg of this year’s tour.
It did, however, give her the opportunity to get to know Stettler’s cop, McQuarrie.
“She’s a real solid, nice person,” she said.
Young’s horse is a veteran of the ride, one of the oldest ones in the ring. He’s also blind in one eye due to Moon Sickness.
“I wanted a challenge,” Young said. “And now I’ve got the only horse who’s blind.”