Memories From The Musical Ride

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The recent story on the Force’s history with the lance (The Lane And The Force) and the crimping or non-crimping of the lance’s pennon stirred some memories for one veteran, Mel McIntosh, Reg # 23729.

 

 

 

Mel joined the RCMP in October 1964 as a twenty year old and was transferred to the Musical Ride, October 15, 1967 after completing “Horse Course #4.” It was a busy year for Mel as he married his wife in December the same year.

Apparently after each ride performance the riders would remove the pennon from the lance, band it together to hold the creases and place it back on the lance for the next performance. As Mel, and I am sure other riders probably agreed, it was “a pain!” Being a keen and enthusiastic new member of the famed Musical Ride after having worked the previous day on the Ride and then drawing an all night shift as stable guard, following his night shift he permanently pressed his pennon with the aid of his wife’s brand new Singer sewing machine. During the next ride it was very obvious the permanency of the creases of his pennon, which received the dim view of the Riding Master, but the OIC of the Ride must have thought it was a good idea as the Ride members were shortly thereafter issued permanently crimped pennons courtesy of the Force tailor. He should have put in for one of those old suggestion awards…he might have received $25.00 for the permanent creases idea. Mel still has that original pennon of his, and a recent count reveals sixteen crimps, the same number awarded the 16th Hussars by Queen Victoria in 1846. What a coincidence! His pennon served him two tours and by the end, Mel claims it looks like something that may have been carried on the March West, South Africa and Siberia, a little fragile now after being rode hard and put away wet on a few occasions. When Mel retired in 1998 he received a new pennon from the Musical Ride which has 20 creases.

Photograph of two RCMP Musical Ride pennon: top - Mel's road weary original pennon and bottom - his pristine retirement gift (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of two RCMP Musical Ride pennon: top – Mel’s road weary original pennon and bottom – his pristine retirement gift (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

One can only imagine the stories that can be told by those young men (they were all men up till the 1980s) gathered together to form the Musical Ride….the statute of limitations may or may not have run out on their escapades.

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Photograph of Rockcliffe Stables - "Home of the Musical Ride." (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of Rockcliffe Stables – “Home of the Musical Ride.” (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

Join the Musical Ride and get to see the world! Mel recounts that while on tour in Washington, DC, it was bitterly cold. The water hoses were frozen, water buckets iced over and the horses were blanketed. Assigned stable duties along with another member, Mel’s horse “Carmaide” (like your revolver/pistol serial # – Ride member’s never forget their horse’s name) decided to lie down around 01:00. Mel dug out another blanket from his tack box and threw it over “Carmaide” and he crawled in with her. Warm and cozy Mel and “Carmaide” slept till 07:00. When he woke his partner, not the horse, was still complaining about the cold and was doing whatever he had to do to keep warm.

A special year for Mel was 1969, the Ride got to tour England doing eleven Agricultural Fairs and four Tattoos, finishing in Edinburgh. While in England his wife gave birth to their daughter. His mother-in-law sent a telegram advising him of the joyous news. However when it arrived it was printed onto a mailing envelope, folded up and put in the general post. A long week-end delayed the arrival of the telegram/letter. The news got out and led to pictures for the press and fifteen minutes of fame for the new father. A temporary stable had been made for the Ride near the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade and visitors were seeking out the new dad. He received a silver shilling for the baby from two elderly ladies and a doll and pair of little moccasins.

RCMP Musical Ride Constable Mel McIntosh receives congratulations on the birth of his daughter from Lt. General Sir Derek Lang along with the OIC Musical Ride Insp. Cliff Morin (Reg.#15490/O.634) (Source of the photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

RCMP Musical Ride Constable Mel McIntosh receives congratulations on the birth of his daughter from Lt. General Sir Derek Lang along with the OIC Musical Ride Insp. Cliff Morin (Reg.#15490/O.634) (Source of the photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

Photograph of RCMP Musical Ride member Constable Mel McIntosh and some friends in England - Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Alexandra (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of RCMP Musical Ride member Constable Mel McIntosh and some friends in England – Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Alexandra (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

Photograph of RCMP Musical Ride members.  Mel McIntosh is third from the right (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of RCMP Musical Ride members. Mel McIntosh is third from the right (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

That same Musical Ride tour is when the Force presented Police Service Horse (PSH) “Burmese” to Queen Elizabeth II. “Burmese” was the first of many horses presented to Her Majesty. “Centenial” (note: the spelling of “Centenial” was changed by Her Majesty from the original spelling of “Centennial”- Queens perogative!) in 1973, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Force; Saint James, in 1998 to mark the 125th Anniversary of the RCMP. “George”, renamed from “Terror”, in honour of the Queen’s father, was presented in 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the presentation of “Burmese.” During the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012 the Force quietly presented another horse, no publicity and no name of the horse revealed. I am sure there are those in the know….who have that information.

The original idea for the Force to present a horse to the Queen came from the Riding Master Staff Sergeant Ralph Cave prior to the 1969 tour.

Memorandum submitted by S/Sgt. Ralph Cave suggesting a horse be presented to the Queen (Source of image - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Memorandum submitted by S/Sgt. Ralph Cave suggesting a horse be presented to the Queen (Source of image – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

“Burmese” was part of the Musical Ride in England in 1969 and performed in front of the Queen. She was ridden by Corporal John Hossfeld, Reg # 21602, who had the Queen’s pennon attached to his lance so that Her Majesty would be able to keep an eye on her new horse. “Burmese” was a favourite of the Queen’s horses and was featured in Trooping of the Colour for eighteen consecutive years.

 

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II receiving her first RCMP horse - Burmese

Photograph of Corporal John Hosssfeld IReg.#21602) on "Burmese" carrying the Queen's pennon. (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of Corporal John Hossefeld (Reg.#21602) on “Burmese” carrying the Queen’s pennon. (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

Saskatchewan Legislature - Queen Elizabeth and Burmese (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Saskatchewan Legislature – Queen Elizabeth and Burmese (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

Mel recalls that one of his Ride mates “lost his saddle” while performing “The Maze” he stood in a safe position while the other riders positioned for “The Dome.” Meanwhile the rider less horse “Talon” circled on the outside losing a bit of ground, Corporal Hossfeld had the Ride make an extra revolution before signalling for the turn in to form “The Dome” and once the “The Dome” was formed “Talon” was in position…right where he belonged and his rider regained his saddle to complete the performance.

"Losing the Saddle" (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

“Losing the Saddle” (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

A personal memory from Ric Hall; John Hossfeld was a young constable on the Riding Staff when I went through training. One evening when our troop was doing stable duties, we decided to use the water trough for some “Depot” justice for one of our troopmates who was viewed as slacking off. Into the trough he went, water everywhere, not sure who was wetter the guy in the trough or those who threw him in. Around the corner came Constable Hossfeld, the Duty NCO, he loudly enquired as to what was going on. Pretty obvious, one guy in the trough and a bunch of soaking wet brown fatigued 3rd Class Constables – aka – recruits standing there. Not sure why we didn’t get further extra duties after being ordered by Hossfeld to appear before the Corps Sergeant Major. Instead, he turned around and walked away. Why…perhaps he realized the “Depot” justice was deserved or he just thought it was too damn funny and didn’t want to be seen laughing. Our lucky day! Sadly, John Hossfeld died in a motor vehicle accident in 2009.

Life on the Ride was not quite so glamorous in the 1930s. Treatment of the men on The Ride was quite different from the Musical Ride of today. In 1990 the Victoria Division Veterans’ Association published a small book “The Way It Was – 50 years of RCMP Memories.” Below are a few stories remembered by members of the Musical Ride;

Sixteen members went to be the Royal Escort for the Governor General, Lord Bessborough, who rode in an open carriage to inaugurate the International Bridge at Cornwall, ON. They took their own bedding; mattresses were brought by van and they slept in a vacant house for two nights. By comparison the Army Reserve had hotel rooms.”

The Ride performed at the Winter Fair at the Coliseum in Ottawa. They were billeted in the Poultry Section and had to sweep out the chicken dung from the pens so they could put their mattresses down. They spent three nights there.

The Ride attended the International Horse Show at Madison Square Gardens which was paid for by wealthy New Yorkers. Teams came from all over the world to compete. The Ride was a non-competitive side attraction. This was the first time the Musical Ride had performed outside of the British Empire. All expenses were paid by the Americans and all shows were sold out. The first night in New York the Ride members slept in the boxers dressing rooms in the basement of the Gardens on canvas folding cots. Newspaper photographers came and took pictures of them in what they described as “The Black Hole of Calcutta.” They compared the member’s quarters and the Officer Commanding, who stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The Ride members were awakened at 05:00 and transferred to the Belvedere Hotel – so justice was finally served – as the Americans were paying the bill. Later in the year the Ride went to Aylmer, Quebec and took their own bedding and slept in tents on mattresses provided.”

A far cry from the Musical Ride tours of today.

A special thank you to veteran Mel McIntosh for sharing his photos and stories.

We would love to hear the stories from other former members of the Musical Ride and any photos they may have and wish to share. You can email Ric at rshall69@shaw.ca

image of Ric Hall closing block for his Photo Corner webpage

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