How We Earned Our Spurs

RCMP spurs and high brown boots (Source of photo - Sheldon Boles).

 

 

 

The details of this webpage was develop and sent to us by Veteran Dan Lemieux.

 

 

 

 

 

Up until 1965, every recruit had to learn to ride a horse. The three months spent taking “equitation” was a very rewarding experience. At 6:30 am every day, several troops were detailed to attend stables. This involved mucking out stalls, adding fresh straw, feeding, watering and grooming approximately 50 horses. Some would occasionally kick, bite or step on your foot. This was an interesting experience for men who had never touched a horse prior to joining the force. Grooming involved brushing horses and cleaning hooves. Bending over to examine each hoof created opportunities for a playful horse to take a nip at a tender area. We also looked after Boots and Tatters, the team that pulled the manure wagon and occasionally the ceremonial carriage. They had a reputation of being cantankerous. Ironically, Boots liked to bite and Tatters preferred to kick. I love horses, but they could be dangerous at both ends. When chores were finished, we marched back to barracks to shower, shave, change uniforms, have breakfast and go on parade at 8:00 AM.

Photograph of RCMP members carrying for Force horses (Source of photo - Sheldon Boles).

Photograph of RCMP members carrying for Force horses (Source of photo – Sheldon Boles).

53/54 Troop. Geo.Cutting - instructor. #18369 Del Hanson - Marker (on Willie George) (Source of photo - George Cutting photo collection)

53/54 Troop. Geo.Cutting – instructor. #18369 Del Hanson – Marker (on Willie George) (Source of photo – George Cutting photo collection)

Photograph of an unknown Troop of recruits at "Depot" Division. The new riding school being is in the background. Noted building was constructed in 1953. (Source of photo - George Cutting photo collection)

Photograph of an unknown Troop of recruits at “Depot” Division. The new riding school being is in the background. Noted building was constructed in 1953. (Source of photo – George Cutting photo collection)

We were not allowed to wear spurs for equitation, as they had to be earned. The first thing we did after mounting was to cross stirrups in front of our saddle. Allegedly, this was for safety reasons in the event we fell off and caught a foot in the stirrup. We personally believed it was to prevent the horses from being injured or annoyed by having to drag us around the school, if we happened to fall off. We learned to sit properly in the saddle while the horse walked, trotted and eventually cantered. All movements were done in unison on command of an instructor. Independent dismounting over the head or tail of a horse, while it was still in motion was considered improper procedure and contrary to regulations. It did however, create much laughter for those not involved. The horses also thought it was funny. We were continually reminded that squeezing with knees and calves was essential to remaining in the saddle.

June 1966 - Photograph of Constable Gordon Lastucka standing in red serge in front of the third Riding School at "Depot" Division (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

June 1966 – Photograph of Constable Gordon Lastucka standing in red serge in front of the third Riding School at “Depot” Division (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

 

The riding school was slightly larger than a hockey rink and the floor was covered with tanbark. In the beginning we rode in single file around the perimeter. After a few days of training, I started to feel comfortable on a friendly horse called Topper. A troop mate accidently lost his fur hat and it fell on the path in front of us. Topper decided the cap was a hazard and made a sharp right turn. I continued in a straight line and after a very short flight, I made a hard landing face first in the tanbark. The instructor demanded to know who gave me permission to dismount. I then entered into a lengthy foot pursuit to catch my ex-friend Topper. Other riders thought my activities extremely humorous.

Photograph of two RCMP recruits demonstrating their acquired horsemanship skills (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Corner).

Photograph of two RCMP recruits demonstrating their acquired horsemanship skills (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Corner).

Photograph of Constable Fred Stark on horseback at "Depot" Division in 1962 (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection)

Photograph of Constable Fred Stark on horseback at “Depot” Division in 1962 (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection)

As we became more proficient, we took lance and truncheon drill. For jump training, we again crossed stirrups and in addition, tied a knot in our reins. We approached the jump at a trot, dropped the reins on the horse’s neck, crossed our arms and leaned forward. If all went according to plan, the horse and rider sailed over the jump. On many occasions, riders leaned forward but at the last moment, the horse would baulk. The rider then made a less than graceful solo jump. Another alternative was for the horse to jump without the rider. These behaviours annoyed instructors and embarrassed riders.

Photograph

Photograph of RCMP recruits on horseback at “Depot” Division (Source of photo – George Cutting’s Photo Collection).

Near the end of the course, while riding in the pasture, we were finally allowed to take part in the famous charge. The instructor said he would lead and any rider passing him would be in serious trouble. We formed up in two ranks of 16 behind the sergeant. We started at a trot, which quickly developed into an uncontrolled gallop. The horses decided the race was on and we all passed the sergeant. Some barely managed to stop at the end of the field. We laughed so hard, it was an effort to stay in the saddle. Needless to say, the sergeant was not amused.

Equitation was eventually dropped from recruit training. I served on the committee that made the final decision and with great reluctance, voted in favour of removal. As senior academic instructor, I believed teaching law enforcement procedures more important. However, I still believe the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man. Riding made men stronger physically and gave them self confidence, fortitude and pride.

Photograph of RCMP Musical Ride horse & rider

Photograph of a RCMP Musical Ride member on horseback with his lance and spurs. (Source of photo – Sheldon Boles).

 

In 1955, I was subsequently selected as part of a small contingent to ride in the Calgary Stampede parade. We also rode through downtown streets each morning and in front of the grandstand in the evening. The famous Musical Ride continues to this day and I get emotional watching it. I am very proud to be able to say I earned my spurs.

Footer tribute for Dan Lemieux's submission

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