SMT Thrills the 110th Royal Manitoba Winter Fair

By Cpl Crozier

On Saturday March 25th, 2017 while most of the Regiment was enjoying the beginning of spring break, the Strathcona Mounted Troop was hard at work grooming and loading 18 of their best horses.  The Mounted Troop was departing on a two day road move that would take them to the second biggest winter fair in Canada, the 110th Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in Brandon, Manitoba.  After the horses were all loaded, and last minute comfort breaks were taken, the troop mounted a coach bus with the feeling of stardom in the air.  Four movies later were welcomed by WO Pociuk of the Saskatchewan Dragoons, in Moose Jaw, SK. A good harbor for the night where we would enjoy several rounds of billiards, Foosball, darts and old school Halo and rest for the horses.  

The next morning the trek would continue, and a mere five hours later we were pulling horses off the trailer and bedding them in what would be their new home for the next five days.  After an initial tour of the fair grounds and making sure all the horses were secure and provided for, the troop continued on to CFB Shilo, which LCol Cochrane ensured Strathcona comfort was top priority during our stay. We happily settled into our new accommodations, morale was high and everyone was excited and nervous for the earliest first performance in troop history.

Monday morning quickly arrived.  The troop made the 30 minute drive to the fair grounds and immediately began their duties: feeding and watering the horses, mucking out the stalls, grooming, polishing brass, preparing uniforms, keeping the stables clean and presentable to the public, and of course tending to what seemed like the troops primary duty; keeping all the mini donut vendors in business.  

The first day called for multiple rides, a media brief and opening ceremonies. As time drew near for the first show, nerves were beginning to show on the rookie riders while the senior riders remained calm and cool, or at least they seemed so on the outside.  The troop suited up and walked their horses to the staging area just off the main arena.  Once mounted up, lance in hand, each individual rider began warming up their horse, reinforcing the horse/rider bond they had each spent so long building. Sergeant Kruhlak's voice rose above the crowd in the staging area and the troop instinctively moved into position, ready to march into the main arena proudly representing the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), past and present.  The soldiers and horses put on an outstanding show, earning the praise they received from the public.  Sergeant Kruhlak congratulated the troop on a great first show, but as any self-respecting father figure would do, he firmly reminded the troop much work would be required to maintain and improve show performance.  Another show was performed at 2200hrs that evening and after a very busy, but fulfilling 17hr work day, the first day concluded.

The following days at the Royal Fair were very pleasant, with most mornings off with the troop settling into a good routine with shows taking place in the early evening.  Each consecutive show improved as the riders and their mounts became more confident and accustomed to their surroundings. Show after show the crowds grew, as we became the highlight of the fair.  And as the crowds grew, so did SMT’s pride at being able to represent the Regiment.  The last time the Regiment was in the Brandon area, they were training on horseback before deploying overseas to fight in The Great War.  Now, over 100 years later, SMT returned, on horseback, both soldier and horse outfitted fully in WW1 uniforms and tack, proud as hell to recreate new cavalry history in 2017.  

With any luck the troop will return to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, and will outdo their already stellar performance.  After a total of 10 days on the road the troop safely returned to their home stables at CFB Edmonton, ready to begin practicing and training for one of the busiest seasons yet. Honourable mentions go to Cpl Dobson who obtained top sabre for the week in the tent pegging competitions, and Cpl Germann, who beat out yours truly, for top Lancer.  Great job by all!

Until next time.
Cpl Crozier, SMT Ride Instructor, former Lead Rider and all around good lookin’ dude!