OTTAWA - Red-coated riders and their black steeds have returned to Parliament Hill.
And, as it should be, the Mounted police are mounted.
The iconic sight of an RCMP officer riding under the Peace Tower had been a huge summer attraction for three decades until officers ordered the Mounties to dismount for safety reasons in 2007.
The concern reportedly centred on an uneven and painful match between an unidentified foot and a hoof.
It was either that or the potential risk to riders themselves, according to House of Commons sources and official Mountie statements at the time.
Hector and Ike, two retired musical ride veterans who served as the mounts for the Mounties, spent the last two summers watching the tourists watch them inside a small corral beside Centre Block.
It was a secure site, but cloistered, tranquil and definitely not as much of a hit with visitors.
"There was a concern," said Sgt. Jerry Mayo, one of three musical ride trainers who returned to the Hill with the horses this week.
"If somebody gets too near him (Hector) or a child goes under him, something could happen."
The solution? The Mounties got their man - an extra man to be precise.
To the delight of the crowd this week, Hector and Ike were clip-clopping the precincts once more. Being retired, they took turns.
One young Mountie was in the saddle and another stood beside the stirrup, in case enthusiastic admirers pressed too close.
"At least now we have someone to say 'Ok, don't stand there,"' said Mayo.
Supt. Bruce Whillans, in charge of the entire RCMP equine program including the world-famous ride, is equally pleased.
"It's part of the Canadian image," he said.
Hill visitors agreed.
"We're from the United States, so we feel like this is a part of Canada," said Cathy Schmid.
Schmid came in from Minnesota with her 10-year-old daughter Kate, who got very close to Hector, 16-year-old twins Scott and Sander, and husband Bill.
Uthayam Siba from Toronto surrounded Hector with his wife and nearly a dozen relatives visiting from Denmark.
"It's our country's tradition," he said about the mounted Mounties.
"When I said these are police, they didn't believe it."
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