Sgt. Barry Kennedy, now in charge of the Chase detachment, participated for four years in the RCMP’s Musical Ride where its travels took him to Windsor Palace in England. He was pictured on the front page of a May 2000 Horse & Hound magazine. (Photo contributed)

Mountie meets the monarch

New top cop for Chase recounts musical ride adventures

In his 28 years policing, most in general duty, Sgt. Barry Kennedy has seen a lot. But the new officer in charge of the Chase RCMP detachment has also experienced policing from a particularly unusual perspective – atop a horse.

His adventures have included talking horses with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle as well as galloping down an arena in Calgary’s Spruce Meadows while hanging around the neck of his steed.

Kennedy began his policing career in North Vancouver and his postings have included Ottawa, Vernon, Golden, McBride, Princeton and now Chase.

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His time in Ottawa was four years spent with the RCMP’s Musical Ride, a brand new vocation for him given that his knowledge of riding horses at the time didn’t go much beyond the words ‘giddy-up’ and ‘whoa.’ He applied because he’s from Ottawa, had seen the ride many times and thought he’d like to do it.

“The next thing you know, here I was on the ride, riding six hours a day,” he says.

The training included the basics: walk, stop, turn around, go the other way – and circles.

“My instructor told us, ‘We train by riding in circles. Not thousands of circles, tens of thousands of circles.’

“When we went back to the stables I thought, ‘Oh, a straight line, finally a straight line, I’m so excited.’”

The ride toured Canada, the U.S., Europe and England.

Every year riders would get a new horse, so over the course of his term, Kennedy had four.

Along with the musical ride horse, the riders exercised another, as well as looking after three more.

There were 96 horses in total in the Ottawa stables, and the riders fed them four times a day, cleaned their stalls and groomed them.

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A highlight for Kennedy was staying at Windsor Castle for more than a week in 2000 and performing for the queen. He describes her as sharp as a tack, very inquisitive and talkative.

“Our horses were stabled with her horses and she rode every day… She would come in when her horse was ready to go, talk with us and ask us about our horses. She was a good rider and she loved it, and she had a very keen interest in our horses as well.”

When the officers arrived at Windsor Castle, they were informed of protocols.

“Do not approach the queen, we were told. You can’t say, ‘Hey, Liz, come here, pleased to meet ya, I’m Barry,’ he quips.

“You will see her walking around and, like the royal family, you can’t approach and call out to them. But you can speak if they speak to you. And there were places where you weren’t allowed to go.”

Although they saw Queen Elizabeth every day, they didn’t see other royals.

The 40 people with the musical ride stayed in a dormitory, which Kennedy says was more like a big hotel over top of the stables.

“Everything was stone, oak, teak, all polished, just how you’d picture it would be – it wasn’t run down, it was beautiful.”

He said the queen would ride with her groomsmen, and security would follow at a distance. She used stairs to mount her horse, a luxury that Kennedy and his fellow riders weren’t allowed.

“Our bosses said, you will get on the old-fashioned way.”

They spent time with the King’s Troop, whose horses would pull wagons and cannons, do intricate drills, never run into each other and then fire off a cannon.

“We were fascinated by their show and they were fascinated with ours.”

In the daytime the Musical Ride would do shows for the local schools who’d come to the castle and, at night, for the whole week they were there, the queen would host equestrian shows which the town would come to watch, and they were part of that.

“I thought we were very privileged to stay in Windsor Castle – it was really an exciting opportunity that others didn’t get, kind of behind the scenes at Windsor Castle.”

And did he get to see the queen’s famous corgis?

“I did not. We heard a lot about them though… from the bobbies who had to run all over the place and catch them.”

He explains the dogs would get out and run around and the bobbies would say: ‘They’re her babies so we run and get them.’

Concludes Kennedy: “It seemed like the corgis kept them busy.”

Kennedy says the tour, which included Germany, Switzerland and England, wasn’t a holiday as they worked 10- to 12-hour days, six days a week, and on the seventh day, all 40 people would head to the laundromat to try to get their laundry done.

As for mishaps with the Musical Ride, Kennedy says he fell off about once a year, as did others.

One memorable fall was at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, a show that was going to be televised so he called his mom to let her know. At the end of the ride the horses line up and charge from one end of the arena to the other.

“Away we go, except the horse in front of me doesn’t go.”

His horse ran into it and he ended up almost at his horse’s ears. His horse then took off with him hanging off the side, his boot spur dug into the saddle.

“Down I go into the dirt, rolling, and I have to run down.”

Everybody on the ride was laughing, but Kennedy had a comedic comeback. “Yeah, but does your mother know which one you are? You’re just a red coat out there, I’m the one rolling on the ground.”

Although he road several horses, he remembers Badger – and it was apparenty mutual.

Kennedy found out by accident when he had a sore throat that Badger had a taste for Halls cough candies. He started rooting at Kennedy’s pockets, who finally gave him one.

“His lips were quivering, he loved it.”

Badger’s search for cough candies became a bit of a habit.

After Kennedy left the ride, he went to watch it one day when he was posted in Vernon.

Badger was performing so he went up afterwards and called his name.

“The first thing he did was come over and he went for my pants pockets.”

Despite all his travels, Kennedy says he and his spouse are happy to make Chase home.

They’ve been eyeing the community for nine years, so when the position opened up, he took it.

They have four children and the two youngest will be with them in Chase.

“We liked it as it’s right on the lake and it looked like a nice community to live in. It’s also on the highway with quick access to bigger centres. We thought, “This will be a nice place to go.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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