07/26/2013 08:54 EDT | Updated 09/25/2013 05:12 EDT

5 facts about the RCMP Musical Ride

The red serge, Stetson hats, and horses are just a few of the images associated with Canada's iconic national police force, the RCMP. When you put them all together in an equestrian ring, you've got the famous RCMP Musical Ride. Here are five facts that might surprise you about it:

- Riding to music: The Musical Ride originated from the North West Mounted Police in 1874, after officers used the drills and accompanying music to entertain themselves during the evening or while off duty.

- All the horses are black: In 1937, Assistant Commissioner S. T. Wood headed the RCMP contingent at the coronation of King George VI. Wood was impressed with how the red tunics were emphasized on the riders in the Household Cavalry who were on black horses. When Wood became Commissioner in 1938, he ordered the RCMP to use only black horses.

- The RCMP breed their own horses: After Commissioner Wood's decision, it soon became apparent that the RCMP would need to establish their own breeding program. The first breeding farm was established in 1939 on a 720-acre ranch at Fort Walsh in Saskatchewan (the same site as the Mounted Police Fort built in 1875). The farm provided horses for mounted training in Regina and Ottawa.

- Saddles come from Germany: For a period of two years (1968-70), the RCMP tried just about every saddle on the market. John Stubben came over from Germany and agreed to modify his saddle cut. This produced a more versatile saddle since the RCMP couldn't afford both a jumping and dressage saddle. He named the first ones "Kanada model". They have long skirts/flaps, fit the majority of horses and help place the rider's leg where it is functional.

- Riding is a full time job: All the members of the Musical Ride are full-time policemen and women who have volunteered for this special duty for a period of three years.