Summer of Awesome - RCMP Stables

Recently my two daughters have become obsessed with horses. They both claim that they want to learn to ride - no doubt they have images in their heads of their hair flowing in the wind as they race towards the sunset, bow and arrow in hand just like Merida in the film Brave. I have to admit, I am pretty skeptical that their reaction to riding a real-life horse will be quite so dreamy.

So I thought I'd ease them into it by visiting the RCMP Stables. It's where they train the horses for the Musical Ride, and I was hoping an up-close-and-personal encounter with an enormous, black horse would knock the request for riding lessons right out of 'em.

The stables are in Rockcliffe and are open every day in the summer from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is where they train and house the horses for the famous Musical Ride. During the summer, the 36 horses that are part of the Musical Ride are on tour, but there are still about 60 other horses in the stables - these are horses that have been retired from the ride, or young new horses who are just starting their training.

So the first thing you need to do when you get there is find the entrance, which (memo to the RCMP) is not very clearly marked. Here's the building:

RCMP Stables Building

The entrance is the one on the far left hand end, behind the giant tree, that has a sign that says, "Lost and Found." OF COURSE.

The door leads you straight into the gift shop (OF COURSE), and you have to go through the gift shop to get to the museum part. The museum is a few small rooms that talk about the history and function of the RCMP, and the details of the Musical Ride.

We learned about the RMCP's bomb disposal unit:

Bomb Disposal Unit helmet

The kind of horses that are picked for the ride (must be almost all-black, 16 hands high):

Museum Display

And we saw the carriage that is used for visiting heads of state, including Will and Kate last year on Canada Day:

Will and Kate sat here!

There's also a video playing with footage of the actual Musical Ride, if you've never had a chance to see it.

A tour leaves about once every half hour from the museum section and lasts about 20 minutes. You'll get a chance to see the Musical Ride practice area:

Musical Ride rehearsal area

(This area is also open to the general public, you can come and watch them practicing which takes place most weekday mornings in the winter - call them for the schedule.)

You'll see the tack room and the ferrier's workshop:

Ferrier's Workshop

You'll see horses (yay!):

Horse RCMP Stables

You'll learn about how they name the horses (did you know there's a naming contest every year, in the spring?), how they choose the horses, and how the selected officers learn to ride.

Name Tags from Retired Horses

After the tour, you're welcome to walk behind the stables where they have a training area. When we were there, two riders were working with a new young horse and we were allowed to watch if we were VERY quiet.

Training Area

Out front, two RCMP officers in full uniform allowed us to get up close and personal with the horses:

RCMP Officers

That was probably the best part. We were able to pet the horses, chat with the officers (SO NICE), and we learned a few extra details, like how they brush-in a maple leaf pattern on the the horses' backsides before taking them out on rides. Cool.

I liked this visit because it felt like we were really learning something about Canada. We have, unfortunately, never actually seen the Musical Ride itself, so this was a great introduction. However, it was a pretty small place - we were able to cover the whole museum, the tour, and the visit with the officers in about an hour and a half. So it fits nicely in between naptimes, but if your kids are older, you can probably combine this visit with another event.

Also, word of warning: your secret plan to avoid riding lessons may backfire, and the budding love of horses may turn into full blown adoration.

Lynn is mom to three tombliboos and blogs over at Turtlehead.

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Flashback: RCMP Sunset Ceremonies - Free and Fun!

The musical ride is a highlight for many every year. This year it runs from June 26 to the 30th.   by Josee

I've lived in or around Ottawa most of my life, but I'd never seen the RCMP Musical Ride until last spring. My husband Dan and I decided to take our kids (our then two-year old daughter “B.G.” and three month old son “Bonhomme”) to the RCMP Sunset Ceremony at the Rockcliffe Stables.

The ceremony was slated to start at 7:30 p.m. and we arrived (later than planned, as usual!) at about 7:00 p.m. We managed to park on St. Laurent Boulevard, close enough to the stables so that BG was able to ride on Dan's shoulders the rest of the way to the stables. We found a shady spot and set up our lawn chairs, and Bonhomme and I guarded our spot while Dan and BG went exploring. There were lots of displays to check out. Dan enjoyed sitting in an airplane cockpit (I think it had once been part of a fighter jet) and BG came back waving a poster and stickers she'd gotten from an RCMP officer.

The show began with a comedy routine, which I admit I wasn't able to follow because we couldn't see the whole ring, not to mention the fidgety three-year old sitting in my lap, asking question after question. Then we noticed an airplane circling above, and suddenly parachutists from the US and Canadian armies started dropping out of the sky. They circled so close overhead that we thought they would get caught up in the large tree that was providing our shade. Everyone around us laughed when an excited B.G. pointed to a parachute and shouted out, “Mommy, I want one of those!”.

After that came the marching band; that was also a huge hit with BG. Then, finally, the RCMP musical ride. I have to admit that by the time the ride started BG was done with the sunset ceremony, and we ended up leaving before it was over. But even though we didn't get to the end, we had an amazing time. BG still talks about the parachutes!

The RCMP sunset ceremonies are back this year and run from Wednesday, June 23rd to Sunday, June 27th, from 7:30 to 9 pm  June 23 to 27.We're planning on going back this year, but we'll (hopefully) head out much earlier and bring a picnic supper, so that we can snag a spot a bit closer to the ring and keep both kids occupied until the show starts. Maybe this year I'll manage to catch the whole show!

Josée is mom to three-year old daughter B.G., and one-year old son Bonhomme.  She is always searching for fun and frugal Ottawa events and activities, and puts her research to good use at her website,

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