Strathcona Mounted Troop 2007 -  “First Half of Season Complete”

By: Captain Darryn Gray
August 2007

The Strathcona Mounted Troop (SMT) has been tasked since 1974 to demonstrate the Regiment’s history and traditions while providing an entertaining display of teamwork and skill between the horses and riders. The Troop had been dramatically affected by the increased operational tempo of the Regiment with Leopard Squadron deployments to Afghanistan, and had only five soldiers taking care of the Horses by the end of 2006. In January 2007, the Troop was repopulated and tasked to instruct nine new riders including myself, who then began the Military Equine Course under the direction of the Ride Master Sergeant Wade Alexander. Once the course was completed the basics of the Musical Ride were instructed. The new Troop members had quite a steep learning curve in a short period of time but were able to retain all the knowledge and skills taught on the course with ease. They were able to learn and master the skills much faster than anticipated, and subsequently by mid May the Musical Ride was reestablished. All of the new Riders participated in the Musical Ride and learned the skills necessary to become Tent-Peggers. With the addition of seasoned SMT members, Coroprals Randy Todd and Dermot Samms and the skilled Tent Peg placing of Trooper Danny Slade, the Troop’s strength was brought to 12 riders and three ground crew, enough to present a Musical Ride.

The Troop participated at the Saskatchewan International Tattoo in Regina 24-26 May, providing a 20 minute Musical Ride and Tent Pegging demonstration. Regina’s performances were a great season opener for the Mounted Troop and also gave the Troop an opportunity to bond with the RCMP Musical Ride who also participated in the Tattoo. While the Troop marched on for the performances, a Video with pictures and text of the Regiment’s involvement on operations in Afghanistan was displayed on the Jumbo-Tron to educate the public of the serving forces and members of the Regiment. Trooper Kate MacEachern as the Mounted Troop’s Master of Ceremonies performed remarkably well under the stress of the 4000 people in attendance at the Tattoo. Although quite apprehensive at first, she adapted to the situation and represented the Troop with grace and style. With note, while in Regina the Mounted Troop showcased Trooper Stevie LaFontaine as the first female rider in SMT history to compete in the sport of Tent-Pegging. Also in May, Corporals Pete Fedyshyn and Rob Sarmiento were added to the Troop’s strength after recently returning from combat in Afghanistan on Op ARCHER Roto 2 with B Squadron. They were quickly integrated into the Musical Ride bringing the number of Horses participating in the Ride to 14.

Following the Regina Tattoo, SMT had a number of smaller scale ride performances at the Edmonton Garrison Officers Mess as part of the 1 June Business Luncheon, Crystal Kids Youth Centre on 2 June, and the Newbrook Agriculture Society Rodeo on 24 June. All the performances were extremely well received and the Mounted Troop was requested to return in following years.

SMT, being the Official Colour Guard of Spruce Meadows, participated in full force at the “National”(6-10 Jun), “Continental”(14-17 Jun), “Canada 1”(28 Jun-1 Jul), and “North American”(4-8 Jul) Competitions. At each of the competitions the Troop performed Musical Rides, Vedettes, and Radetzkies to escort the winners of the Horse Jumping Competitions. Despite the inexperience of many of our riders, they performed extremely well and represented the Regiment proudly. In long standing support to the Mounted Troop the increased corporate sponsorship from the ATCO Group and Spruce Meadows for 2007 has enabled the Troop to enhance it’s appearance by purchasing many items to complete the historical representation.

In addition to the Musical Ride Performances the Troop participated in the Calgary Stampede and Capital Ex Parades. In both parades the salute to the military was greatly received and the Troop was presented first place as the Commercial Mounted Colour Party at the Stampede and first place as the Ceremonial Mounted Group at the Capital Ex.

Overall the season is half completed and the Troop is refitting for the remainder of the August and September season. The Troop will be performing at the Ralston Rodeo in Suffield (4 Aug), conducting a Musical Ride to Mozart’s music played by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in Canmore, AB (26 Aug), performances at the PNE in Vancouver (27-30 Aug), and the Spruce Meadows “Masters” Competition (5-9 Sep). The Troop has progressed remarkably well after only six months together and has presented a positive performance enhancing the public’s view of the Military, and the support of the soldiers overseas. The Troop will continue to improve upon their equine skills, and continue to produce a spectacular show displaying the drills and techniques of the Regiment’s history.