This May, Const. Sarah MacQuarrie will leave the Stettler detachment for Ottawa, where she’ll take her place as one of the riders in the RCMP’s legendary musical ride.
MacQuarrie, 30, found out this past Wednesday that she made the cut and is one of about 14 RCMP members heading for the next level of training in Ottawa.
“She squealed,” Const. Bill Lewadniuk, a colleague who was on shift when MacQuarrie,30, received the news, said with a laugh.
“I knew I was chosen to move on, but until you have the paper in front of you it’s not certain,” MacQuarrie said. Her family – not just the mother and sister who got her into riding but extended family, too – are proud and excited, she said.
“It hasn’t sunk in,” MacQuarrie said. “It doesn’t feel real.”
Once in Ottawa, MacQuarrie will begin a six-month intermediate program, and will start riding with the actual Musical Ride in 2015.
MacQuarrie was one of a handful of police officers selected to join the Musical Ride after completing a six-week program this past November and December.
During the six-week period, MacQuarrie spent five days a week surrounded by horses, in which three hours was devoted to riding and the rest to care and instruction.
According to the constable, the RCMP selects contenders from a pool of applicants with little to no experience so there’s less for the potential riders to unlearn.
MacQuarrie, however, came with experience: She started riding in 1992 and competed every summer until she became a police officer.
“I do it (compete) for fun, now,” MacQuarrie said. “I work every weekend.”
She noted that when she joined the RCMP she thought she’d still be able to compete regularly so never gave the Musical Ride a second thought.
That changed, however, when the workload for the constable simply didn’t allow for the same level of competition.
Moving to Ottawa moves MacQuarrie closer to her family in Hampton, New Brunswick, something that excites the constable and her family, she said. Both her mother and older sister, who started MacQuarrie on her riding adventures more than two decades ago, are proud of her, she said – as is the rest of her family.
“I’m ecstatic,” she said.
The six-week entry program wasn’t too difficult for her since she listened and had experience, MacQuarrie said, but for others it wasn’t as easy. Many of the candidates had a hard time staying in the saddle — the tack used by the Mounties is English — and one person in her class had to back out due to injury after he took a tumble and landed hard on his tailbone.
“One man fell off his horse three times in one class,” MacQuarrie said. She explained that about half the time, riders were riding without stirrups, and they went through a large range of manoeuvres, including but not limited to trotting, cantering and jumping.
The next phase of training, the six-month intermediate program, promises to be increasingly difficult, and MacQuarrie said the falls will likely continue.