Many Ottawa visitors and residents will be familiar with the RCMP Musical Ride. Performed by thirty-two Royal Canadian Mounted Police riders and their horses, the Musical Ride is a military pageant consisting of cavalry drills choreographed to music. The spectacle has thrilled audiences for over one hundred years, and continues to be seen at forty to fifty locations a year between the months of May and October.
So what happens during the winter months when the Musical Ride is not touring? That’s when the riders and horses come back to their home base at the RCMP Rockcliffe Stables in Ottawa. From November to April, the stables are buzzing with activity as new riders and horses go through their training for the next year’s tour. This is by far the best time to visit the stables, which are open to the public year-round.
During the winter months, the RMCP Musical Ride Centre offers tours of the horse stables and training centre on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Although larger groups should call ahead, most visitors should be able to just join the next tour after they arrive at the visitor’s centre. While you wait, you can browse through the Mountie Shop, an RMCP-themed gift shop that is open daily in the summer, and Monday to Friday in the winter.
The tour starts in the visitor’s centre behind the gift shop. Here you will find some excellent displays about the role of the RCMP in combatting crime in Canada. Topics include fighting terrorism, counterfeiting, organized crime, and drug trafficking. You’ll also see displays about the history of the Musical Ride and how the horses are bred and selected for the program. This is also where the RCMP keeps the horse-led carriage used by the Queen when she is visiting Canada.
The next stop is the Riding Centre, where if the timing is right, you will be able to see some riders and horses in the indoor arena. Your guide, who is one of the police officers in the Musical Ride, will explain the training and selection process for new riders and horses. If you’re lucky, a uniformed rider may bring over one of the sleek black horses for you to pet and see up close.
Your guide will then bring you to the Tack Room and Farrier Room, where you’ll learn more about how the RCMP cares for the horses. Then it’s off to the stables, which is the real highlight of the tour. Your guide will introduce you to many of the horses, telling stories about each one. You’ll learn why some horses get their own box stall, and why one horse was returned by a Prime Minister. The guide will do a great job of answering questions from both adults and children, and will give you an opportunity to visit the horses up close and pet some of them.
At the end of the tour, you’ll be brought back to the Visitor Centre, where you can spend more time viewing the RMCP displays, and perhaps purchase a souvenir. Make sure you don’t miss the counterfeit money display, where you can compare fake and real bills, and see the various security features of Canadian paper currency.
Location: End of St. Laurent Blvd (north of Sandridge Rd.), Ottawa
Reservations: Not required, but call ahead for groups
Hours: Tours from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from September to April. See website for additional hours.