It may have been the best present Red Deer resident Judy Dobinson has received in her life — a special happy birthday wish at the beginning of both the RCMP musical ride performances in Olds on Saturday and Red Deer on Sunday.
Her son Const. Brent Dobinson was back in Central Alberta, as one of the 32 riders in the special group — chosen from 800 Mounties across the country to be one of just a handful of officers who perform with the RCMP musical ride for this season and next.
“It was a pretty proud moment for me and my family,” said Dobinson, of the special surprise for his mother’s 60th birthday. As it turned out the musical ride’s schedule put the officers in Central Alberta just at the right time and place.
Dobinson trained for around eight months before starting on the tour in November. RCMP officers work with the horses five days a week, three hours a day and also muck out the stables and groom the horses in Ottawa.
“It makes for long summer days. You’re pretty exhausted but you learn fast.”
Dobinson’s first show was the Olympics, where the RCMP put on regular shows in Surrey, B.C. “Grace by fire,” Dobinson jokes.
The pride swelled for the RCMP officers when they performed after the gold medal win in the men’s hockey final, but Dobinson said it was nothing compared to returning to his hometown.
“The city (of Surrey) was just electric. Everyone was feeling really Canadian, with the pride and everything, so it was a good time,” he said. “But not as good as the Red Deer show.”
Thousands of people crowded into the Centrium Sunday to see the RCMP officers perform to raise money for the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter.
“It was a great show and a great crowd, probably the best on tour and we’ve been coast to coast. Red Deer was really warm,” Dobinson said.
It didn’t hurt that he had such a large cheering section, not just family and friends, but the entire stadium started hooting and hollering when they heard Dobinson, who grew up in Red Deer, was among those performing.
Dobinson attended Camille J. Lerouge and Notre Dame High School and his mother Judy still lives in Red Deer. His father Lyle passed away two years ago and wasn’t able to see him perform, but Dobinson feels like he was watching. “I’m sure he was there in spirit.”
Dobinson worked as an RCMP officer for four years in Faust, Alberta, before putting the musical ride on his wish list of next postings. He was initially picked for a five-week training session and then chosen to be part of the musical ride. He thinks his comfort around the animals, having been around relatives’ farms as a child, helped him.
Dobinson is the first one in his family to become an RCMP officer, having been inspired a family friend Warren Ganes, who was an RCMP officer.
“I love policing. You fall in love with policing once you learn how to do it,” he said. “And the RCMP and the pride and tradition out there, on a horse in red serge, listening to everyone sing O’Canada. It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s an amazing feeling.”
He said during the performances the reactions are so positive from the crowd, with everyone clapping and wanting to talk to the officers afterwards. At each performance the Mounties donate the ticket sales to a certain charity.
On Sunday, before the musical ride began the audience got to see RCMP dog training demos. Once the musical ride started, the riders performed a variety of formations, including a wagon wheel, a variety of turns and circles, the dome and a charge at the end. Each movement was choreographed to music.
Insp. Marty Chesser, who is in charge of the musical ride, said all of the horses — which are a German warmblood breed known as Hanoverian — are raised on a farm in Ottawa and start to get trained at the age of three, with them joining the ride at the age of six until they are 18 to 19 years of age.
Only 16 to 18 new officers join the group each year. “Not everyone is going to have a chance to get on it so it is kind of prestigious to be on it and have that opportunity,” Chesser said.