The Troop Heads East - RCMP And Red River Exhibition
Written By Tpr Brandyn Tomayer
Being in the Army comes with some basic unavoidable truths. Waking up while most sane people are still happily in bed is one such truth, and regardless of how unique being a member of the Strathcona Mounted Troop is, we are not spared from this undesirable task. Consequently, the day the Troop was due to depart to Winnipeg’s Red River Exhibition (RRX) saw me awake at 0500hrs in order to have time to feed, groom, and prepare our ponies before departing on one of our longest road trips of the 2012 season. However, before we could make it to Winnipeg we were scheduled to stop in Regina in order to ride at the RCMP training grounds, what they call their “Depot” Division.
When we arrived in Saskatchewan, we stabled our horses at the “Dallas Valley Ranch Camp,” an amazing place run by Art Thiessen who showed up personally to greet the Troop and make sure the paddock for the horses was acceptable. I know for certain that the horses loved it, because after over 8 hours on a cramped trailer they exploded into motion as soon as they were released into the paddock. It was really amazing to see our entire herd burst into motion at the same time. They even turned in unison on some unheard order from “Sporty” the herd leader, and galloped around exploring their new surroundings. You couldn’t find nicer people then Art and his staff and we were lucky to be able to repay their kindness by doing a Musical Ride for their campers when we made our way back through Saskatchewan on our way home. I’ve never felt old before, but after our ride one of the campers came up to me and asked if I was in World War Two, I think I felt my bones creek for the first time. Despite feeling old, watching the look on the kids faces while we performed and hearing their applause after the show, was perhaps one of the best feeling I had this whole season.
After getting the horses bedded down for the night the Troop took off for the “Depot” to get some rack themselves. I am pretty sure that the drivers made sure to stay below the posted speed limit while on the RCMP grounds as there was no lack of “5-O” in the area. We found out the next day that the Musical Ride unfortunately had to be called off because of the large amount of rain that had recently fallen on the soccer field where we were supposed to perform, turning it into more of a swimming pool. Instead we put on our best Scarlets and readied ourselves for the Sergeant Major’s Parade.
Until this moment I had only ever seen parade drill in a military setting. The RCMP showed a level of professionalism and precision that I was very impressed with and it was a privilege to be part of their parade. After the parade we dismounted and had a chance to meet with the spectators. It was a lot of fun explaining to the folks how we weren’t “Mounties” but rather full time serving members of the Canadian Forces. I always got the same bewildered look and a “oh that’s cool” from them. I am still not sure if they understood the difference but the pride they showed towards those who “served” whether Police or Military was unquestionable.
We finished our time at the Depot with an escort for the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Vaughn Solomon Schofield, who insisted on being allowed to pet the horses and thank the guys once she arrived safely at her destination. Overall the experience at the Depot was great and I count myself lucky in having played a part in the uniquely Canadian institution that is the RCMP.
After another 7 plus hour road move we arrived in Winnipeg Manitoba at the Red River Exhibition grounds. We quickly stabled the horses and made our way our hotel which was located directly across from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium. It was definitely the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at and a far cry from some of the other places we stayed this season. A refreshing swim in the pool and some “questionable” antics on the water slide was exactly what the Troop needed to relax and get ready for the next 4 days of riding in what turned out to be a record heat wave.
We performed Musical Rides everyday at the Red River Ex and everyday the crowds got bigger and the weather got hotter. Despite the heat, you can’t beat the feeling you get when you hear the crowd screaming and clapping as you ride. After every ride the crowd would move to our stabling area and have a chance to talk with us and express their thanks for the performance and for all that we do in service to our country. Many of the guys in the Troop were fortunate enough to meet up with family members after the ride which helped to make the long trip seem shorter.
Finally the whole trip seemed to come full circle and I once again found myself up at 0500 hrs getting horses ready for the long trip back to Edmonton. Regardless of the early hours, long days, and hot weather, the trip was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to travel back out that way during the 2013 season; although hopefully we will be able to depart at a more sensible hour.