Mounted Police Horses
The Mountie Horses in History
July 8, 1874
Amid the sharp calling of bugles, excited shouts of command and the cracking of whips, the Force that people would soon be calling "the Mounties" headed west.
The 275 officers and men of the North-West Mounted Police were dressed in bright scarlet Norfolk jackets and white helmets. Their horses were called "the best in Ontario."
"A" Division rode matched dark bays. B division were astride dark brown horses. C Division rode bright chestnuts. D Division -- the Lance Division -- carried their British Cavalry light lances to the right side of their greys and buckskins. E Division sat astride beautiful blacks. F Division rode light bays.
The Great March West had begun...
The Mountie Horses in History -- From the Great March to the Musical Ride
THE GREAT MARCH
That very first night out, some of the Eastern horses stampeded. The night was clear and quiet -- there was no obvious reason for the stampede. It was an ominous beginning...
After travelling 14 days they reached the Roche Percee on the Souris River. Their supplies were depleted, horses were exhausted, and many men were sick. The NWMP Commisioner, George French, decided to split the group in two. The sickest horses and weakest men would travel the easier route along a 800 mile cart trail toward Edmonton, while the rest would take the shorter but more difficult 550 mile journey toward the foothills of the Rockies.
The Force endured terrible hardships: lack of water, insect plaques, lack of fire wood. Most of the horses died, and the equipment soon proved to be inadequate. The tents blew down in the prairie winds and the pillbox hats were of little use.
By the time the expedition had reached Roche-Percée on July 24, 275 miles from its point of departure, many of the horses and oxen were on the verge of exhaustion. On August 1, Commissioner French decided that one division should proceed directly to the Hudson's Bay post at Fort Edmonton with the weaker animals. The remainder of the expedition continued westward.
The march became even more difficult in August and early September. The men were suffering under the heat and the hardships of the journey, while the shortage of water and feed continued to take its toll of the animals. On September 12, the expedition finally reached its destination - the Belly River near its junction with the Bow River. However, to Commissioner French's distress, there was no sign of either Fort Whoop-Up or the whisky traders. As it turned out, Fort Whoop-Up was actually located further west than was originally reported.
By now the condition of the men and the animals was desperate. Horses and oxen were succumbing at an alarming rate. In addition, weather conditions were deteriorating and an early winter was feared. The expedition turned south and travelled to the Sweet Grass Hills near the U.S. border where the men and the animals rested amid good camping and grazing grounds.
To obtain fresh supplies, Commissioner French and a number of men proceeded across the border to Fort Benton, Montana. While in Fort Benton, French received a telegraph from Ottawa with instructions to leave a large part of the Force in southern Alberta and to return east with the remainder of the men to Swan River, Manitoba, where the government had decided to locate the headquarters of the Mounted Police. On September 29, French and two divisions set out on the return journey.
The task of establishing a police post and maintaining law and order in the foothills was now the responsibility of the Assistant Commissioner, James Macleod.
Accompanied by Jerry Potts, a half-breed guide and interpreter who had been hired in Fort Benton and who was to render invaluable service to the Force over the years, Macleod and the remaining divisions continued west. At Fort Benton, the Mounties had purchased what would be a new breed of horse: the "remounts." These tough broncos were native to the West. Often unbroken, they were a challenge to ride and to train. But they were a tough breed and their likes would serve the Force for many years, until local ranchers and the Force itself began to develop a breed of its own.
On October 9, they reached their primary objective, Fort Whoop-Up, the infamous stronghold of the whisky traders, located at the junction of the St. Mary's and Belly Rivers. To their surprise, however, the site was almost deserted. The whisky traders had either fled across the border or had abandoned their illegal activities altogether...
"There is something about jumping a horse over a fence, something that makes you feel good. Perhaps it's the risk, the gamble. In any event it's a thing I need." -William Faulkner
THE MUSICAL RIDE
The Musical Ride is a spectacle created by the RCMP. It showcases riding ability and traditional cavalry drill movements. The Ride has become part of Canada's heritage and has grown in popularity since its inception in the early 20th century. Now, it's a familiar sight on Parliament Hill, and at parades and special events.
It has a long history, but the first officially recorded Musical Ride took place in Regina in 1887 under Inspector William George Matthews. It went on public display in 1901. Officers who designed the Musical Ride in its early years wanted to display their riding ability and entertain local communities.
The Musical Ride was developed from a desire by early members of the North-West Mounted Police to display their riding ability and entertain both themselves and the local community. Considering that the original Mounted Police members had a British military background, it was inevitable that the series of figures they performed were traditional cavalry drill movements. These movements formed the basis of the Musical Ride. Although legend has it that the first Musical Ride was performed as early as 1876, the first officially recorded Musical Ride was performed in Regina under Inspector William George Matthews in 1887. The Musical Ride, consisting of twenty men, was put on public display for the first time in 1901. Over the years the popularity of the Ride has grown and it has become a familiar sight throughout most of the world.
In the 1870s, horses of the North-West Mounted Police were the main means of transportation for officers and the animals had to be rugged. Now, an RCMP horse has to be black, graceful and strong, with a good nature and enough stamina to enable it to perform the Musical Ride many times.
Since 1839, the RCMP has bred its own horses. The RCMP horse breeding program got its start at Depot Division in Regina, then it moved in 1942 to Fort Walsh, built in the Cypress Hills of southwestern Saskatchewan. In 1968, the breeding program was moved to Pakenham, Ont., west of Ottawa. Here, RCMP horses spend the first three years of their lives before they become Musical Ride horses. Then they reside at the home of the Musical Ride – the Rockcliffe Park Equestrian Centre in Ottawa.
Members of the Musical Ride are first and foremost police officers who, after at least two years of active police work, volunteer for duty with the Musical Ride. Most members are non-riders prior to their equestrian training with the RCMP; however, once they complete the courses of instruction, they not only become riders but ambassadors of goodwill. Working through a unique medium, they promote the RCMP's image throughout Canada and the world. RCMP members only remain with the Musical Ride for three years which ensures an annual rotation of approximately one third (33%) of the riders.
Today, in keeping with tradition, the Musical Ride is performed by a full troop of thirty-two riders and horses, plus the member in charge. The Musical Ride consists of the execution of a variety of intricate figures and cavalry drill choreographed to music. Demanding utmost control, timing and coordination, these movements are formed by individual horses and riders, in two's, four's and eight's at the trot and at the canter. Months of training, practice and many kilometres/miles around the riding school make horse and rider one. The horses must not only appear in the Musical Ride, but on Parliament Hill, in parades, special events and have the ability to travel and adapt to different environments, not to mention, hours of petting and photo-taking that the horses must patiently endure.
One of the more familiar Musical Ride formations is the "Dome," once featured on the back of the Canadian fifty-dollar bill. The highlight of the Musical Ride is, without a doubt, the CHARGE when lances, with their red and white pennons, are lowered and the riders and their mounts launch into the gallop. The conclusion of the performance is the March Past performed to the strains of the RCMP's Regimental March where the Musical Ride traditionally salutes the guest of honour.
Pictorial: The Long March Reenacted & The Musical Ride
ARTICLES ABOUT HORSE CARE AND TRAINING...
"CHARACTER OF THE HORSE" An Article by Roger Bourdon
Considering how we treated horses in the early civilizations it is amazing that horses are so well disposed towards man as they are. It is unlikely that horses were ever meant to carry man, given that the earliest horse which existed from 55 - 45 million years ago, the Hyracotherium, or eohippus (dawn horse) was a small, timid creature no bigger than a dog. It was 10 to 17 ¾ inches tall at the shoulder and had four toes on its front legs and three toes on its hind legs!
Fortunately for us they have developed over the years into the beautiful creatures we all now know and love.
But it is beholden on us to be aware of the horse's general character and sensitivity to gain his confidence and cooperation, and to build a strong relationship with him. To do this we need to learn how he reacts, feels and works, both physically and mentally. It is as important to realize the limitations of his brain as much as to understand his physical capacity. To overtax his brain or his body will cause fear, stress and resistance. A horse is not naturally ill-tempered or stubborn and most of his faults of temperament believe it or not are in fact man-made.
Your horse is much more sensitive than you may realize. Apart from the obvious sensations of smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste, he is very conscious of atmosphere. So your moods and feelings will rub off on him. He can readily sense if you are timid or nervous around him equally he will react positively to someone with courage and confidence. If he is anxious, he will demonstrate this by either going off his food or walking nervously about his stable, so if you spot these signs, do not ignore them, but see if you can understand what has caused them.
A horse obeys his natural instincts, some of which may be subdued through training, but others can be used to develop your relationship with him. The most important lesson of all is for you to teach your horse obedience. He is such a powerful creature that if there ever developed a battle of strength, he would win every time and you know it. So teach him how to behave by quiet, firm handling and ensuring he is clear as to what you expect of him.
Of the horse's natural abilities, his memory is perhaps one of the most useful to you, allowing you to train him by means of reward and punishment. If rewarded by praise for doing what you ask, he will be eager to cooperate the next time. If he is sharply corrected by voice or by hand when he misbehaves, he will remember what you didn't like and will learn to respect your authority in the future.
Your horse's sense of hearing is highly developed and the way he holds his ears gives us an indication of this as they reveal his feelings. Laid back, they show he is unhappy; pricked forward, they indicate that he is alert and interested, but not necessarily in you. Flickering constantly shows he is paying attention to you and your vocal commands.
One of his great senses is that of touch. He is very afraid of pain and will try to escape from anything that suggests it to him. Whatever you do respect his sensitivity to touch in his schooling and when riding him and use it to your advantage.
To establish a successful partnership you need to make your horse feel secure. Be aware that he has a great love for his stable and/or field, and his life revolves around his food. Make his home life a happy one and not being a natural worker, you will find him keen to return once ridden.
Whenever you are working with your horse, make sure the last thing you do with him is good and worthy of praise. Training is hard work, but if you both leave on a high, it makes for a much easier approach to the next lesson.
Remember a horse is an individual with its own character and temperament. There is no overriding list of characteristics that make for an ideal horse as none is perfect but then neither are we!
"TRAINING AGE: THE FOAL" by Roger Bourdon
Training begins when you prepare your unbroken horse to be backed and ridden. Once he is broken in, you can get him to respond to your instructions so that you can get real enjoyment from riding him.
You may find that you can take your horse further with some dedicated training if you are interested in areas such as show jumping or dressage. Do bear in mind however, that the average horse and rider do not go this far, so don't feel this has to be your next step. If you enjoy riding, continue getting pleasure from your riding and don't worry about what else others are doing. There's nothing nicer than feeling the breeze on your face as you ride through the countryside.
Although while learning to ride, you will have gained some experience from handling your horse unless you are an experienced horseman, with a thorough knowledge of horses and how they work, under no circumstances consider training a young horse on your own. Whatever your level of experience you should always work with a good assistant who should be of a quiet and reliable temperament and needless to say physically fit.
The next step is to get your aims clear and how best to achieve them. Your principle aim is that both you and your horse should enjoy the experience of riding. Your horse should be willing and able to listen to your instructions and obey them to the letter. This will mean designing specific training programmes and schedules and this is where understanding your horse comes into being.
It is also important to understand your horses' anatomy and to recognise that it takes time with skilful and patient training to enable your horse to develop muscle, but his physical ability is just the start. Your horse must want to use his ability, for any horse that is overtaxed, he will become disobedient. To persuade the horse to work for you and with you at all times, it is important to understand his mentality as well as his anatomy.
Whilst horses have limited intelligence and powers of concentration they generally want to please. You need to encourage these qualities by making your training lessons simple and easy to understand. Plan each lesson in advance with specific goals in mind. You need to judge how much training your horse can take without getting bored or overworked. Keep your horses attention by varying your lessons and by keeping them short and to the point, but most importantly make them fun. The other key to success is to give praise as appropriate and to only use force as a last resort and then only to win a battle.
Make sure your horse understands the difference between “yes” and “no” by giving both praise and punishment, but limit punishment as much as possible because it can do more harm than good.
Remember your horse is not like a dog and cannot be bribed with titbits to perform well. His reasoning powers are not developed in this way. The best way to reward him is through his sensitive response to feel and hearing — offer him a pat, a kind word or, best of all, release him from restraint.Ultimately training is always a two-way process you need to learn about your horse, so he can learn from you.
"TRAINING AGE: THE YEARLING" by Roger Bourdon
A youngster is called a yearling from 1st January of the year after his birth. Remember therefore that he may still be very young if born late (ie November) in the previous year, but still called a yearling – hence their level of maturity will depend upon how much you can do with them.
So, this week we’re going to cover what you can expect from a Yearling, and to be clear I am referring to a foal that has been weaned and is actually between 6-9 months old.
A reasonably well developed, mature yearling can be lunged a little, although only for a few minutes on each rein. As the joints are not yet fully formed at this stage, there is an obvious risk of injury if you do too much at this stage. An experience trainer will know how much to ask of a yearling or whether to delay the first lessons on the lunge until the horse is 2 or 3 years old. So if you are uncertain, seek advice.
Thoroughbreds destined to race on the flat are broken in during their second winter – while still yearlings. Many of them are lunged, long reined, backed and ridden and have started cantering before their second birthday. Most horses cannot be broken as yearlings, however because they are insufficiently developed. A racehorse can be reared with a view to racing at 2 years, but even then he may be too ‘backward’ to be trained for racing until he is a year older – they are all individuals and have to be treated as such.
The process must be carefully planned otherwise only the really tough ones will survive hard training.
All yearlings however should learn to obey your hand and voice and to tie up quietly. Before going onto lunge them, you should be sure to complete your horse’s training ‘in hand’ so that he obeys voice commands and light hand signals on the lead rein.
By now he should walk and trot beside you without pulling against the rope. He should also stop when you ask him to by saying ‘halt’ or ‘whoa’ (only use one or the other of these commands, not both, otherwise you will confuse him) and should walk on and trot on when you ask him. He should stand still until you ask him to move on. If you press your outside hand on his flank and say ‘walk on’ he will not be surprised when you use your leg aids later on to give a similar signal.
What you have to be aware of is that all during this time your horse is still growing and developing. As such his behaviour will also change, so don’t be surprised if exercises and lessons he performed when he was much younger, even suckling perhaps, no longer work. His rate of growth will show you how much he is changing, and you must expect his behaviour to change too, which is why you must make sure that you finish his hands on and voice training properly before you move on to anything more complex and challenging.
Remember the main schooling aim for a yearling is primarily to establish the relationship between you and your horse. With this in mind the important thing to bear in mind is that what you do with him is not as important as the fact that you do something with him at all – trying to do every exercise perfectly and overtraining him to do this is not the objective – working with him gently to get him used to you and used to doing some training is more important than the technicalities of how well he does the exercises.
From the author:
I have written a book on horse health, as I firmly believe that prevention is the best cure. If you are regularly checking your horse to see that he’s in tip top condition then at least you will know that any accident has not been caused or worsened by an existing health issue. Check out this book here.
"HOW TO INTRODUCE A NEW HORSE" by Roger Bourdon
When introducing a new horse to your existing horse or horses, you need to be aware of the potential for problems that can occur. When a new horse is put in a group of others the horses will by nature sort themselves out by rank, not a great deal different to us humans! So you will probably find that your existing horses will sniff your new horse and may even start making challenges towards him or her possibly tossing their heads, snorting and pawing and stamping their feet.
Given this the new horse could react in one of two ways:
- avoid confrontation and run away
- stand up and confront the others
lf the new horse’s reaction is to stand and confront the existing horse(s) this could result in a duel with rearing, boxing and striking of front hooves, maybe even slashing out with their bared teeth. Sometimes the duel will result in them spinning their bucking hindquarters at each other. Generally this will not result in physical contact but if it does they are at risk of sustaining serious injury to each other.
If you are able to, you should quarantine the new horse for a period before introducing her to your others, just to protect them from potential diseases the new horse may have. It is often not practical to do this, but worth doing if you are able. You should start off by feeding your new horse on its own away from your other horses.
When your new horse is familiar with you and the new surroundings you should start to introduce it to the other horses. Don’t turn them out together but let the new horse out in an adjacent pasture to the others for two or three days ensuring they are either side of an adjacent boundary . This means they can smell each other and move away if they wish to, allowing them the opportunity to familiarise themselves with each other, without any direct conflict.
Then move on with passive contact, such as me walking your new horse past your other two allowing them to touch noses and so on. If that works out fine then turn out the new horse with just one of your others, and then with the another one. Choose these liaisons with horses that are not the dominant ones. The rank and friendships established by your new horse during this period of one-on-one introductions will provide him or her with the security needed to fit in comfortably with them. Only after this consider turning them all out together in as big a pasture as possible, one that doesn't allow for the new horse to get cornered anywhere but don't do this at or near meal times. Make sure you have looked for any dead-end spaces and sheds in which horses might be trapped and/or terrorized, and plan an escape route for the new horse if you do need to remove her from a ruckus.
When you do let them out together make sure this is done during the day when you can clearly observe what is going on and be around for a couple of hours to observe and step in if things get out of hand. Let the new horse into the group at least 15 to 20 minutes after feeding so there will be no food fights and the established horses are then most likely to be grazing or resting.
For a couple of weeks after you have introduced the new horse to your others, be on the look out for bites, bruises, lamenesses, sniffles, dull coats, lethargy and so forth, indicating illness or inappropriate behaviour.
There will undoubtedly be some issues to deal with while the group settle down and sort out their respective rankings. Don’t get overly concerned unless things turn nasty as horses are by their very nature used to dealing with establishing themselves in groups in the wild, so should be able to do even better with your help!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roger Bourdon is the author of the #1 best seller INTRODUCTION TO HORSEBACK RIDING. He resides in England with his family and horses.
I was looking through an old horse book of mine and found some train a horse maxims I thought you'd enjoy.
Plus, they make it clear how to treat a horse which helps you learn to work with horses.
Check these out:
"If they throw up their heads and act timidly, look after your stableman. Such acts speak louder than words."
"Always speak to a horse as you would a gentleman."
"The three greatest enemies of the horse are idleness, fat, and an ignorant blacksmith."
"If you must put frosty bits in some mouths, let it be your own. Suffering begets sympathy."
And lastly (also my favorite)..."Be gentle, be kind, be patient."
--ANDY CURRY, Author of SECRET SCIENCE OF ARABIAN HORSE TRAINING An Instruction Guide On How To Train Your Horse Using The Exact Training Methods The Ancient Arabians Used.
"COMMON INFECTIOUS HORSE DISEASES" by Brent Goodman
Knowledge is the key to disease prevention
Infectious diseases are those diseases that horses can get from each other, or via a vector, such as a mosquito, which may transmit the disease from horse to horse. Horse owners can vaccinate their horses against many of these diseases, or their veterinarian may administer the vaccinations.
Some vaccines are considered "core" vaccines that cover diseases that all horses need to be immunized against. Some horses may need to be immunized only when there is significant risk that they will be exposed to the disease in their natural environment, or if they may be exposed when traveling, showing, or competing. In addition, horses must be vaccinated at different life stages. Most vaccines need to be given annually. Find a good Vaccine Schedule to check when your horse needs these immunizations.
Tetanus is caused by a bacterial toxin normally found in the soil and in the feces of horses. The bacteria that produce the tetanus toxin need a decreased oxygen supply to multiply, so any area where there is a deep puncture wound or where a wound has healed over (such as the navel stump of a newborn foal) is an area where tetanus can thrive. Symptoms of tetanus include an elevated third eyelid and stiff neck, progressing to overall muscle stiffness causing a 'sawhorse' stance. Tetanus is often fatal, but a yearly vaccine can prevent it, and the vaccine is a good idea because small cuts can go unnoticed and become infected.
Equine Encephalomyelitis (sleeping sickness)
This is a disease that affects the nervous system, and can be caused by equine encephalomyelitis viruses (Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan), which are carried by mosquitoes. Signs include depression and a high fever, followed by a period when the horse appears blind, nervous and uncoordinated, which progresses to muscle tremors, yawning, and eventually, complete paralysis. Proper vaccination and good mosquito control are important to help prevent this disease.
This viral disease is spread by inhalation of drops of infective material. Signs include a dry, hacking cough, sudden onset of fever, watery nasal discharge, weakness, stiffness, loss of appetite and depression. Infection with equine influenza is rarely fatal but can cause problems such as emphysema, pneumonia or bronchitis. Equine Herpesvirus (rhinopneumonitis, rhino, viral abortion) There are 2 types of equine herpesvirus: EHV-1, which causes respiratory disease (fever, cough, nasal discharge), reproductive problems (abortion, stillbirth), and neurological problems (hindlimb weakness, difficulty walking, sometimes paralysis); and EHV-4, which just causes respiratory problems and is usually only a problem in younger horses. Once a horse has been infected with EHV-1, he will always be a carrier, and the virus may re-activate within the horse during times of stress. A horse that has been infected with EHV-4 will always test positive for it also, but usually will not show clinical signs of it again after the initial infection.
West Nile Virus
Horses get WNV by being bitten by an infected mosquito; most horses do not show any signs and recover on their own, but in some horses the infection affects the central nervous system and causes signs including fever, weakness or paralysis of the hind limbs, impaired vision, lack of coordination, head pressing, convulsions, inability to swallow, and coma.
This is a viral infection of the central nervous system, and although it is not common in horses, rabies can be transmitted to horses by the bite of an infected animal such as a skunk, raccoon, fox, dog or bat. Rabies can be transmitted to people. We recommend that you check with your veterinarian regarding recommendations for rabies vaccination for your horse.
Strangles (shipping fever)
This contagious respiratory disease is caused by a bacterial infection. Signs include a fever, thick, yellow, nasal discharge and swollen, abscessed lymph nodes under the jaws. The infection is spread by infected material from nasal discharge or abscesses contaminating stalls, feed troughs, pastures, etc. Young horses are the most susceptible to strangles and many horses seem to have a lifetime immunity after recovering from this disease.
Potomac Horse Fever
This disease is a bacterial infection of the blood and tissues and is thought to be transmitted to horses by arthropod vectors such as ticks, lice, mites, and fleas. It is much more common in some areas of the country than others. Signs include a high fever, depression, decreased gut sounds, and a profuse, watery diarrhea that can lead to laminitis, colic, dehydration, shock, and death.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brent Goodman holds degrees in English from Ripon College, a Masters of Fine Arts from Purdue University, and has extensive experience in research communications and educational publishing across various fields of study. He is currently the Senior Copywriter at Drs. Foster & Smith Pet Supplies, the nation's leading online and catalog pet supplier.
NEW YORK CITY -- Police Horses on Parade...
A parade of police horses prancing down lower Manhattan in September, 2006. The horses, which hailed from more than 12 states, were in town for the Police Equestrian Competition in New Jersey that weekend. Since they were around anyway, the crime fighters and their riders took the opportunity to check out the NYPD's Mounted Unit headquarters near the Chelsea Piers before it moved and then went to pay their respects at a memorial service at New York City's Ground Zero.
The NYPD employs about 75 police steeds in its Mounted Unit but is in the process of doubling that number over the next three years. When they retire, some lucky police horses get to spend their last years relaxing on a farm with Whoopi Goldberg....