There is always an array of spectacles at summer festivals — crazy costumes, extravagant art installations, strange dance moves — but never before in Canada have crowds seen horse-mounted security guards on patrol.
That’s about to change this summer at the Pemberton Music Festival. Alpha & Omega Mounted Security Patrol, a company based in Texas, is currently recruiting Pemberton locals with horses to interview for jobs patrolling the perimeter of the festival, controlling traffic and offering up information to festivalgoers.
“It’ll be all locals, but we will bring in supervisors who have festival experience to teach everyone the business,” said Frank Keller, founder, president and CEO of the company. “We started in the late ‘80s. We pretty much have built a reputation around doing festivals in the States. When one of our clients down here reached out and said they were doing a festival up there we said, ‘Sure, we’d love to do it.’”
Keller said he was surprised to learn that no similar security companies existed in Canada. After visiting the Pemberton festival site in the fall, he decided they would establish a permanent office in Vancouver, which will be staffed by locals, including — he hopes — Pemberton riders and their horses.
“The RCMP were fascinated by what we’re doing, so we got excited and we decided we’re going to open up an office up there,” he said. “The interest that’s been generated around this festival and our mounted security services, it’s exciting to have people excited about these things. People are used to it down here, but in (Canada) there’s excitement.”
The company’s clients include big names on the festival circuit like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California and San Francisco’s Outside Lands.
“The mounted security is not meant to replace security on foot,” Keller said. “It’s to augment it. A person on a horse sits eight or nine feet in the air and can see over cars and tents. They’re mobile and able to get in between cars where someone on foot or bike couldn’t.”
Currently, the company is collecting applications from Pemberton locals through its website (www.mountedpatrol.com). With an interview location in the valley secured, they plan to return to do extensive interviews that will test both the applicant and their horse.
“I don’t want to scare people off, but our standards are very high,” Keller said. “Out of every 10 people on horses, we may hire two because of the requirements… We’re looking for horses that can handle loud noises, rough terrain, long hours, access to crowds of people — things that the horse would not normally be exposed to. Same for the rider: they have to be able to not get overloaded by what’s happening. There are lights, music, smells, sounds, people and you have to be able to multi-task.”
The Pemberton Music Festival will serve as a trial for the company, he added. “We hope we’re going to establish a base of folks who want to continue with this,” he said. “I want to retain 100 per cent of them. The Pemberton festival is going to get us exposure… We’re using it as a springboard.”