- BC Games
To saddle and protect
Anthony Cameron’s equestrian prowess, or lack thereof, was not what landed him a spot on the iconic RCMP Musical Ride.
“It would have been January 2006 that I went on the selection course,” explains Cameron, a North Van RCMP constable. “I was taken aback by how big the horses were. Somebody told me, ‘They can sense if you are uneasy.’”
And he was feeling apprehensive, considering the 17-hand Hanoverian horse standing tall before him was a big step up from his previous equine experience: a childhood pony ride.
While growing up in New Brunswick, Cameron never really considered taking the policing path.
“I think, like the majority of police officers, I wanted a career in helping people,” says Cameron. “I was thinking more along the lines of social work.”
It was a RCMP member that convinced him to pursue policing, and then another officer that later encouraged Cameron to try out for the Musical Ride.
RCMP officers selected to the program commit to two entire summers of performing cavalry drills choreographed to music for audiences across the country.
The Musical Ride’s roots date back to 1874, when North West Mounted Police officers would use the drills to entertain themselves while off duty.
Cameron spent his first summer with the Musical Ride in Ottawa learning how to ride a horse. Once the trot is mastered, intricate manoeuvres that involve synchronizing 32 horses and riders are added to the mix.
“Everything is timing. Teamwork is essential when you have 32 horses,” explains Cameron.
Seamlessly, red serge-clad Mounties in broad-brimmed Stetsons astride black horses ride in formation. But sometimes, as evidenced by an embarrassing incident for Cameron in Manitoba, things can go haywire in a heartbeat.
During the “thread the needle” routine, Cameron was thrown from his horse.
“I could see my shadow on the grass — thinking, ‘this is not good,’” he recalls.
With a row of horses directly behind him, a quick-thinking Cameron skedaddled to avoid being trampled. The only injury he sustained was to his pride, he says.
Now three years retired from the Musical Ride, Cameron still remembers the names of all his horses — Lenny, Royal, Viper, Koko and Wimzie.
And, when the Musical Ride marched into Mahon Park last week, Cameron was volunteering behind the scenes making sure the horses and riders were looked after.
“It’s nice to be in one place — but, taking care of the horses here for a couple days, you miss them,” says Cameron of life after the Musical Ride.
He doesn’t ride horses anymore; his urban surroundings aren’t conducive for that. But Cameron can still dream about living out his golden years on a ranch.
“Yeah, I will have to convince my wife of that,” he says.
The Musical Ride will be in action at the Pacific National Exhibition from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.