Being part of the RCMP Musical Ride isn’t something a lot of people can say that they’ve done, and rider Rusty Olsen doesn’t take it for granted.
Olsen grew up in Ontario, and later moved to Vancouver to study sociology at the University of B.C. Shortly after, Olsen joined the RCMP.
“I had a friend recommend joining the RCMP, and it just seemed to make sense for me at the time,” said Olsen, explaining that he worked as a police officer in Burnaby for seven years, and eventually found himself interested in joining the musical ride.
“Growing up, it’s not something I expected I would be doing for work; riding a horse or being a police officer. But after joining the RCMP, the musical ride seemed like a natural fit because I have always loved horses and animals.”
Olsen then entered a five-week audition process. At the end, around 10 officers are selected to join the ride, and Olsen made the cut.
He then started training for his first tour, which took about six months.
During the training, riders learn how to ride and perform routines, build relationships with the horses, and learn how to groom and take care of the horses.
“We would spend three hours a day, five days a week training, and then the rest of the time we would be taking care of the horses, grooming them, cleaning the stables, feeding them, things like that,” said Olsen.
“Building a relationship with the horses is kind of similar to a dog. There’s the affection, where you go in and you give them a treat and a scratch, but there is also the discipline, where you set parameters with them, and build a mutual respect. It really is a partnership, and they are such magnificent animals.”
Last summer, Olsen went on his first tour, which he said was incredibly special because it was the Canada 150 tour. The group visited all 10 provinces in the nation and one territory.
“It was unbelievable. We travelled all around Canada and saw places that we probably never would have otherwise,” said Olsen.
“I love being able to go to these communities and have such a positive experience. As a police officer, often times you are walking into a situation of crisis, but the musical ride is quite the opposite. It’s such a celebration, and I feel so lucky to be part of such an iconic symbol in Canadian history.”
Olsen is now on his second and final tour with the musical ride, which will be coming to Sooke this weekend, with shows on Saturday and Sunday at Fred Milne Park.
“Our Sooke visit will be particularly special for me because my sister and her family live there, so I look forward to having them come out and see the show,” Olsen said, adding that he also has family in Saanich who will be coming to watch.
The riders get the day off on Friday and plan to explore the area.
“Some of the riders have never been out to the Island before, so it will be a lot of fun getting to show them around. I think we will probably check out the Potholes.”
Once the tour is over, Olsen plans to return to policing, and is considering moving to the Island for work.
”The musical ride was such an amazing experience, but it is quite demanding on the body. It was a nice break, but I love my old work as well and I look forward to getting back to policing,” said Olsen.
Olsen’s favourite part about being a rider has been working with the horses, and getting to bring communities together.
“My goal as a rider is to represent Canada in the best light possible, and it has been so great to carry on our country’s traditions.”