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:
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:
The kind of horses that are picked for the ride (must be almost all-black, 16 hands high):
And we saw the carriage that is used for visiting heads of state, including Will and Kate last year on Canada Day:
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:
(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:
You'll see horses (yay!):
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.
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.
Out front, two RCMP officers in full uniform allowed us to get up close and personal with the horses:
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.