News and notes: Alumnus presents a gift fit for a queen

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Matthew Quilley (Criminal justice 2007) has made three tours throughout North America and Europe during the four years he has spent with the RCMP’s Musical Ride. “But I can say without a doubt that the Royal Windsor Horse Show in England is the most memorable place I will have ever shown,” he said. “It helps that we met the Queen!”

Not only did Quilley meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in May during her 90th birthday celebrations at the horse show, but he presented her with a horse from the Musical Ride’s breeding stock, a tradition which has spanned most of her reign.

“This was the sixth horse the RCMP has given the Queen – a gelding named Fergus who has been renamed to ‘Sir John’ by Her Majesty as a nod to Sir John A. Macdonald, our first Prime Minister,” says Quilley. “To present the Queen her horse, the full troop of 32 riders and horses walked up to the main gate into the private area of Windsor Castle. After we formed a horseshoe, the Queen came out to receive her gift. After a few photos, she took the time to walk around and see each rider and horse. My roommate and I happened to be next to each other and spoke very briefly with Her Majesty about the wildfires that were currently affecting Fort McMurray and the wildfire that devastated Slave Lake, where I was posted prior to the RCMP and was working the day the fire hit.”

The Windsor Horse Show was just one stop on the Ride’s 18-day tour of England – and the logistics of transporting horses and riders was a challenge. “The horses were transported via truck to the Toronto airport, flown to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, then trucked into the U.K. via Belgium, France, a short train ride through a long tunnel underneath the English Channel, and finally into Windsor in the shadow of Windsor Castle. As an experienced member of the Musical Ride, I was selected to travel with the horses. The rest of the riders flew direct.

“Flying with the horses is a challenge as it is new to them and there are a lot of dynamics involved in the travel,” Quilley adds. “The crates that they are shipped in are small. There are three horses to a crate with a small space at the front for hay nets to be hung and for grooms to stand in. Our job was to keep the horses calm as they were loaded into the back of the airplane as well as during takeoff and landing. The horses did great and we arrived without any major incidents.”

Quilley, whose brother Derek (Criminal Justice 2003) was also a member of the Musical Ride, will likely be transferring out of the Ride and back to Alberta at the end of this year. If that happens, it will be bittersweet. “I love horses and meeting new people – it’s as simple as that. We are actually a public relations unit and I feel I have found my niche in promoting a positive image of the RCMP and Canada. I find a lot of pleasure in showing in the small towns and seeing the impact we can have.”

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