Alberta’s RCMP have received dozens of requests to take part in parades for Canada’s 150th and to be prepared Mounties are taking part in horsemanship assessment in Ponoka.
The image of a Mountie in red serge on a black horse is synonymous with this country but one can’t just ride a horse without experience. To be prepared for these parades the RCMP have hired Dave Heaslip, former livestock investigator to train Mounties on handling and what to expect.
Last week Mounties could be seen parading through the Town of Ponoka to be assessed on their skills.
It’s a program that started in Ponoka due to Heaslip’s skill with riding, and with support of the Ponoka Stampede and Exhibition Association the program has grown across the province. Heaslip has since retired from investigations and has been hired as a public servant to train Mounties on riding.
“We have a lot of deep roots with the western culture in Alberta and it’s not just the Musical Ride in Ottawa that does this,” said Heaslip. “We have a lot of members who never went on the Musical Ride that are very excellent riders.”
The RCMP looks for Mounties with horseback training who can ride in a parade without getting hurt as well as being able to handle their horse. Riders were given a two-day assessment on their abilities and then provided tips and instruction on how the RCMP gear up a horse.
Using Vic Almond’s arena as the training base, officers got some hands on experience.
“Our program was in its infant stage. It’s now growing up,” said Heaslip. “We’ve got around 30 members.”
He handles the central region of Alberta and takes the calls for parades to ensure the RCMP are represented well. There is also a northern and a southern region for the mounted rider program.