January 16th, 2021

Musical Ride soldiers on

By Woodard, Dale on August 12, 2020.

Riders and horses go through their routines at the NWMP Musical Ride Saturday morning at the Fort Museum. The shows run today through the final shows Sunday at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Herald photo by Dale Woodard

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald -FORT MACLEOD


Even in difficult times, the NWMP Musical Ride still sits tall the saddle.

The historic ride at the Fort Museum in Fort Macleod has gone through some alterations to deal with COVID-19 protocols, but the ride, established in 1972 to pay tribute to the earliest days of the North West Mounted Police, has continued to entertain visitors and will do so until Sunday.

But amid social-distancing requirements in dealing with the pandemic, Fort Museum executive director Sandi Davis said the NWMP Musical Ride had to make a few changes for riders and horses.

“We started off a little bit rocky,” she said. “The Musical Ride is an historical depiction of how the RCMP Musical Ride started. It’s very much a military-style with a very tight formation and tight lines. We had to look at that and say ‘OK, how can we do this social distancing and pandemic-style?’ It was quite a bit of a challenge to think of a new spin on an old performance. I was very lucky that I had mostly returning staff. I had to hire a couple of new staff members this year, so it was very fortunate that they already had quite extensive training and they were able to adapt to the new social distancing requirements.

“So that was good, but then I have to remind them to not be so close together and to spread out more. It was the complete opposite of what we would usually do in training, where we would get tighter.”

Due to the pandemic, the Fort Museum had to cancel its “Groom A Horse” program. As well, the public is not allowed into the stables for a closer look at the horses and riders.

From the spectators’ view, the expansive seating next to the arena where the performers ride allows for safe, distanced viewing.

“The Fort is a nice, big facility, so we have quite a big gallery and compound and in the arena there are four different bleachers that are available for people,” said Davis. “I think most people have been very respectful, but if somebody sat down they would go and sit a little bit farther away.”

Davis said the Fort Museum has staff to enforce social distancing between the spectators, but thus far it hasn’t been necessary with visitors respectful of the guidelines.

“We have had very eager, happy visitors and returning guests and they are respectful that we want to keep the museum open and make sure they know what the guidelines are. We have been very lucky that way.”

The pandemic shutting down international borders resulted in a steep drop of foreign visitors the Fort Museum typically sees in past summers.

On the flipside, locals having stay-cations have made the Fort Museum a summer stop, some returning after some time away.

“It has been really nice to see and hear people say ‘Do you know what? It has been 10 or 20 or even 40 years since I’ve been here and I’m glad to be back.'” said Davis. “We will see some of our B.C. neighbours and a few Saskatchewan neighbours, but a lot of Albertans are supporting Alberta businesses and attractions. So that has been very nice and encouraging to see that we’re all supporting one another. When they come in they are all wonderful and respectful. They use the hand sanitizers and a lot of our visitors have their own masks, which we are not requiring, but it’s nice to see people are taking that initiative on their own to be accountable to their own experience.”

The NWMP Musical Ride will be the last program run by the Fort Museum this summer.

Davis said the museum received the Canada Summer Jobs Grant for eight weeks.

“So about half of my staff will be leaving soon, so we will be downsizing a little bit,” she said. “We will still have the museum open and have a documentary film that we play, but the Musical Ride will be done on Aug. 16. We usually go right until the very end of August, but unfortunately this year I can’t keep my staff that long. So we will still have a few riders available and they will be out exercising and keeping the horses from getting their winter weight too early. So there will still be some horses around and things going on, but we will not have any formal programming or anything like that.”

The Fort Museum NWMP Musical Ride runs Wednesday to Sunday with shows at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., weather permitting.

The museum is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and closed Monday and Tuesday.

For more information visit http://www.nwmpmuseum.com.

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