Fort St. John is the first stop on this tour of the ride, and it’s a particularly special one for Constable Brett Cunningham, who was one of the men and women mucking out trailers and caring for his horse, Bruce, yesterday. Cunningham served at the Fort St. John RCMP detachment for five years before joining the Musical Ride last year, and it’s both his and 9-year-old Bruce’s first year performing. He’s following in the footsteps of Inspector Pat Egan, who took part in the 1980’s.
“He obviously promoted the Musical Ride idea to me, and I ended up going on the basic course having no prior horse experience,” he says. “It’s scary. I mean, five years of policing I’ve obviously encountered a lot of stuff, but I can honestly say that I was most scared on the back of a horse the first time. You really gotta conquer your fear.”
Despite his inexperience, Cunningham and Bruce have formed a tight bond, learning the ride together. Although he’s more nervous than some of the other horses, they’ve built a trust, and Cunningham boasts his as the best in the ride.
“Ask every rider and they’ll say that their horse in the best, but I’m the only one that’s being honest with you; mine is the best,” he jokes. “Every rider really builds a bond with his horse.”
Most of all, Cunningham says he’s looking forward to performing in front of his old “stomping ground”, despite any nerves that may bring.
“It obviously means a lot more to me as opposed to a lot of other places,” he says. “It’s always a great show, but when I’ll be looking at the crowd in Fort St. John I’m going to be knowing all these people and that’s exciting.”
There are two public shows scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Horse Park on the Swanson Lumber Road, and tickets are going quickly. Tickets are available through the North Peace Cultural Centre online or by calling 250-785-1992, as well as at the gate. Proceeds from ticket sales will go towards the North Peace Justice Society and the Fort St. John Rotary Club, in return for their planning of the event.
The Musical Ride was last in Fort St. John in 1993, and also took place in 1981 and 1977. First developed in 1876, RCMP use the event as a tool to share information about and support community policing efforts, as well as contribute to local non-profit organizations.
The day after the ride a regimental dinner will be held as a fundraiser for Cops for Cancer. The charity ball will be held at the Pomeroy Hotel, including a dinner, entertainment by a comedian, and a dance. Tickets cost $75 and can be purchased at the Fort St. John Visitor Information Centre, Patch Java or the Fort St. John RCMP detachment by July 8.