Under fair skies, about 2,000 spectators were treated to the legendary RCMP Musical Ride Wednesday evening at Twin Oaks Equestrian Centre.
Nearby ships and barges floating by on the Fraser River gave the performance a unique backdrop as the 32-officer cavalry, riding impressive black thoroughbred horses, trotted into the facility's riding arena surrounded by onlookers of all ages.
"It's the memories of childhood seeing it. Every time you see the show they change the music so it's contemporary and ever-evolving but it's also the military manoeuvres that are still the same, so there's a bit of nostalgic history as well," said Rita Blosmanis, 50, a Richmond resident of 13 years who has seen the ride several 13 years who has seen the ride several times across Canada.
Because the Musical Ride only comes to B.C. every four years and this performance was its first ever in Richmond the crowd came early and by 6 p.m. traffic jammed No. 3 Road from Twin Oaks to Steveston Highway.
"We're excited to be here. It's one of our big detachments in the Lower Mainland and also there's a strong agricultural affiliation," said Supt. Marty Chesser, head of the Musical Ride.
Atop their horses wearing black saddle blankets with yellow trim, the Mounties - themselves wearing their familiar red coats, brown Stetson hats and black pants with a yellow stripe - performed cavalry drills to a mix of traditional and modern music.
Among some of the Billboard Hot 100 songs they choreographed was Gangnam Style with spectators mimicking the drawn-out YouTube Cotton-Eyed Joe. Chesser said that while the modern music is meant to keep the performances engaging for young audience members, the historical significance of the Musical Ride is most important.
"I think it's important we stick to our roots," he said.
Among the timeless British Cavalry-inspired manoeuvres on display during the show were: Thread the needle, which sees the horses crisscross one another in an intricate pattern, The Dome, which has the horses form a circle as the Mounties raise their lances in the air, and The Charge, a simple but effective gallop toward the briefly frightened audience.
The officers come from all over Canada and just two are from B.C. this year. They undertake a six-month equestrian training program in Ottawa and typically perform for three years until they return to normal police duties. A Musical Ride program takes about four months to choreograph.
The horses have Hanoverian bloodlines from Germany, Chesser said. They are bred for colour, size and temperament and take about two years to train, he added.
Prior to the show, Air One, the RCMP's helicopter, took flight over the arena and the audience was entertained by taiko drumming and a showcase of drills by the RCMP K-9 unit.