A Summer of Parades

By Trooper Curtis Paquette

All I could hear were the thousands of voices cheering and shouting out at once, almost deafening my senses.  The Calgary Stampede Parade was upon me and, in that moment, I never felt more proud to be a Canadian soldier in the Strathcona Mounted Troop.   


Waking up to the ringing of my alarm at 0330 hrs was not a pleasant feeling at all.  However, I knew I had to get out of bed to start what would be an intense and busy day.  The entire Strathcona Mounted Troop gathered in the lobby of the hotel at 0430hrs for our first timing of the day and we were off.  After making a quick but mandatory stop at Tim Horton’s, we arrived at the stables at Spruce Meadows and began preparing for the day.  At the stables, we went immediately to our tasks to ensure that everything was completed and that the horses would be ready to load when Bison's transport trucks arrived.  The horse stalls were cleaned, the horses were groomed, and all of our equipment was loaded up on to the trailer to ensure the Troop would be ready when we arrived at Fort Calgary for the parade.  Twelve of the Troop's twenty horses were loaded onto the horse trailer and, after ensuring everything was safe, the Troop loaded up into the vans and headed for the parade marshalling area.


An hour’s drive and a few traffic jams later, everyone finally arrived at the marshalling area.  The trucks and vans pulled into the park, we off-loaded the horses, got them settled with some food and water, all the while surrounded by crowds of curious bystanders. 

 

Once the off-loading was complete, we quickly groomed the horses again, polished the brass on our uniforms, and cleaned the horse's tack all in preparation for the big parade that was about to kick off.  Every year the Calgary Stampede Parade holds competitions for the various groups participating in the parade. This year the Strathcona Mounted Troop was entered in the “Commercial Mounted Colour Party” category.  This required an inspection of the Troop before the parade commenced.  When the command was given to mount up, I got up my 7-year old horse, Supremacy, and the Troop formed up for inspection.  The troop was formed in half sections and as a group we walked into the inspection area.  After meticulously being inspected by the judges, the Troop was able to return to the marshalling area for the parade.  Just before stepping off, the judges drove up and informed us that the Strathcona Mounted Troop had won 1st place in our category!  The judges handed the award over to the Troop Leader, Captain Brandon Frizzell and Troop Warrant Officer, Sergeant Paul Kruhlak.  The Troop took a few pictures with the award and then it was back to business.


As we marched down the streets to the thundering roar and cheers of the crowd, I was fighting to keep control of my mount.  He was terrified and trying desperately to break ranks.  Many of us used the skills that we learned during the Basic Equine Riding Course to keep our horses under control to stay in formation.  After a while, the horses eventually gained some confidence and started to settle down.  The parade eventually ended and we all rode back to the assembly area.  We tied off our horses, took off our brass helmets and scarlet tunics, un-tacked our horses, cooled them down, and let them drink.  We then loaded the horses back onto the horse trailer and headed back to Spruce Meadows to finish the rest of the day as by this point it was only 1130 hrs.

 

The rest of the day was routine for the Troop.  We completed the tasks at Spruce Meadows with pride and professionalism as we have always done.  Then, before we knew it, it was time to pack up for the night.  Back at the hotel room I immediately cleaned myself up, got some supper, and then passed out on my bed after an exhausting day of work.  It was a long, tiring day of sweating in the sun, but ultimately it was an experience that was worth the hard work.  At the end of the day, how many people can say they rode a horse for the military down the streets of Calgary in the Stampede Parade?


Little did I know that the Stampede Parade was but a warm-up for the chaos of the K-Days Parade in Edmonton.  On Friday, July 18, 2014, the Strathcona Mounted Troop participated in the K-Days Parade through the streets of downtown Edmonton.  Once again, we had an early timing of 0530 hrs to prepare for the parade.  We all groomed our horses, loaded them up onto the trailer, and headed for downtown.  When we arrived downtown, the horses were groomed once again, our uniforms were shined and polished to perfection, and our tack was prepared for the parade.


Finally the hour was upon us and the Troop mounted up and proceeded to the marshalling area to start the parade.  The troop was led by Captain Brandon Frizzell down the streets of Edmonton.  In front of us were the reservists from HMCS Nonsuch.  A LAV III and soldiers from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment proudly marched behind us.  We went through the streets of Edmonton with thousands of people cheering us on and showing their support.  The Troop Leader called a quick eyes right while we passed the military VIPs and then we continued marching down the route.  Eventually the parade ended and we returned to the marshalling area and dismounted our horses.  We once again groomed and brushed the sweat of our horses, had a quick lunch, and loaded the horses onto the trailer and left the area to return to base.

 

Parades are always special for the Strathcona Mounted Troop.  They allow the Troop to raise public awareness and build relations with organisations that in the future, may support us.  The days are long, the work is tough, but in the end it makes the training received in the Troop worth it, as all the hours of pain and hard work are put into action and create spectacular results!