RCMP Musical Ride performs in front of more than 1,000 spectators in Cobden

Cobden -- Despite a sudden, yet very intense 15-minute rainstorm on Saturday afternoon, the 16 regular Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers mounted their black horses, made their way into the Cobden Agricultural Society’s (CAS) fairgrounds and were centre-stage at 3 o’clock to begin the historical RCMP Musical Ride.

The Ride entertained over 1,000 visitors and represented over two years effort and planning by the CAS to host the travelling show as one part their fundraising efforts to support the annual Cobden Fair and other community projects.

CAS president Megan Lariviere, who was still smiling despite being soaked from head-to-toe after the brief downpour, was thrilled at the community’s response when it was announced the RCMP troupe was confirmed to perform on Saturday, June 8.

“We are so excited the day is here and we have sold over 1,000 advance tickets and it shows just how popular the RCMP Musical Ride is with people of all ages,” she told the Leader shortly before the ride began. “The RCMP told us they perform in rain and only cancel in the event of lightning storms so we are grateful the rain finished up before 3 o’clock. We watched a lot of people get up to find some shelter during the storm, but everyone pretty much stuck around for the ride to begin.”

She explained the CAS booked the Musical Ride in 2022 and nothing was actually confirmed until earlier this year. The online registration is completed a minimum of one year in advance and is limited to non-profit or charitable organizations and the host of the event must meet several criteria in order to be considered as one of the host sites.

“The Musical Ride performs in up to 50 communities across Canada each year between the months of May and October,” she said. “Our whole committee worked hard to get them here and provide whatever they need while they are on site, and that includes stables, horse feed and other requirements that our committee made sure were available.”

Spotlight On Locals

Prior to the RCMP performance, an announcement was made by CAS secretary Janet Simmonds over the PA system. She said that in addition to the upcoming musical show, the audience was asked to direct their attention to the VIP section where Stewart and Vera McBride were seated with RCMP Superintendent Jeremie Landry.

“Today, the Cobden Agricultural Society would like everyone here to join us in honouring Stewart and Vera McBride and all the work they have done over the years to help promote the Cobden Agricultural Society, our annual Cobden Fair and so many other community projects,” Ms. Simmonds told the crowd. “In addition to operating a successful dairy farm outside of Cobden, the McBrides hosted the 2010 Renfrew County Plowing Match.”

Many of their accomplishments were read out including that since the early 1970s, both have served on the board of directors for the CAS. Mr. McBride was president on two occasions, from 1978 to 1980 and again from 2012 to 2014 while Mrs. McBride was the ladies’ president in 1979 and 1980.

“The McBrides have also been involved in various community events and organizations, including the Renfrew County Plowmen’s Association, Admaston/Bromley Fire Committee, Rural Ramble, Renfrew County Plowing Match host farm, Taste of the Valley, Cobden Curling Club, Cemetery Committee and Admaston/Bromley Waste Management Committee,” the crowd heard.

The McBrides, who had a front-row seat for the performance, were humble when asked how they felt having their accomplishments listed in front of more than 1,000 visitors. Mrs. McBride laughed and said it was hard for her husband to just sit and watch the show because he felt like he should be helping out in some way.

The couple has also received an Ontario Century Farm Designation, being a finalist for the Farm Enterprise of the Year — Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce; 2013 International Plowing Match Farm Family of the Year, and in 2015 Cobden and District Citizen of the Year award.

RCMP Superintendent Landry, who escorted the McBrides to their seats and remained seated with them during the show, was honoured to join the couple for the afternoon.

“Listening to all their volunteer roles is something else and they sound like a fantastic couple,” he told the Leader.

Homecoming For Constable Briscoe

When the 16 RCMP officers entered the main viewing area, they trotted in on the backs of 16 black horses. Historically, the RCMP bred horses that were mainly thoroughbreds and in March 1989, they added black Hanoverian broodmares and stallions to help improve the stock's bloodlines. The RCMP have used black horses since the ride was first introduced in 1901.

As the 16 officers lined up to begin the show, the Riding Master introduced the officers to the crowd and made a special announcement.

“I understand we have a member of our Musical Ride that is from the area,” she said. “Constable Andrew Briscoe, please advance forward.”

With no chance of anonymity, Const. Briscoe and his horse, aptly named Impressive, advanced five feet forward and he acknowledged the crowd with a wave and a smile.

Among those in the crowd who were cheering on the local boy were his parents, Alex and Betty Briscoe. Lifelong Ottawa Valley residents, they are now semi-retired after many decades owning and operating Briscoelea Farms located outside of Douglas.

They made the decision two years ago to slow down and ease into retirement, while passing on farm-related responsibilities to younger workers and family members. Among the many workers who have spent time milking cows and other chores related to the farm were the three Briscoe children, William, Andrew and younger sister, Melanie.

Today, Andrew Briscoe, who joined the RCMP in 2006, is one of the elite few RCMP officers who qualify as a member of the musical touring group. Only 32 officers are selected annually to take part in the tour and it requires a lot of training.

“Growing up on a dairy farm and being part of the 4-H movement, Andrew grew up surrounded by animals and he loved going to exhibitions to showcase his animals and being part of the Musical Ride is something he has wanted to do for a very long time,” Mrs. Briscoe said. “This is so natural for Andrew because the ride is all about interacting with the public, and he is like his dad in that he loves to talk.”

She said her son was first posted to Manitoba and has made a home for himself, along with his wife and three daughters. They also have a small farm located near Ashern, Manitoba.

At the end of the ride, the 16 officers made their way to different areas of the main ring to interact with the crowd and pose for photographs. They are given a certain amount of time to mingle with the visitors and must report back to the barns to get their horses ready for the drive back to the RCMP Ottawa stables.

By 4:30 p.m., most of the riders were making their way back to the stables to get ready for the drive home. However, one of the last to leave the ring was Const. Briscoe. He was smiling and appeared to be truly enjoying himself interacting with the crowd while posing for photographs.

However, Mrs. Briscoe laughed and shook her head and said her son would be lighter in the wallet when he got back to the stables.

“Each of the riders avoid being the last to the stables as they have a pool of money and whoever is last has to pay into the pot,” she explained. “It is all in good fun and like I said, Andrew is just like his dad and he can talk. I think he may have paid the most into the pool this year.”

CAS President Lariviere said she was not aware of the total amount of money raised, but much of the proceeds will be used for the 165th edition of the annual Cobden Fair scheduled for August 23-25.

Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader