Thursday, August 24, 2017

An Adult Equestrian's Review of Free Rein

Much to the amusement of my husband, I spent the past couple of days watching Netflix's newest equestrian series Free Rein. He took every chance he could get to make fun of me, calling it "Zea's new favorite TV show," but I didn't care because it was wildly entertaining.

I have always loved all things horse, and that included media like novels and movies. Give me a sappy story with some nice action riding shots and I'm a happy camper, so for the most part I really enjoyed watching Free Rein. That being said, as an adult, and as someone who knows quite a bit about horses and riding at this point, there were some moment of cringe-worthiness. This is my review of Free Rein, warning - spoilers may lay ahead although I will try to be good about avoiding them.
Netflix's Free Rein

The Plot

The basic plot of Free Rein is that an American girl, Zoe, goes to visit her grandfather in England (mother and sister in tow). She quickly finds a local barn, Bright Field Stables, with an eclectic mix of horse people and a mysterious black horse named Raven. The 10-part series is filled with many plot lines involving ghost ponies, horse thieves, horse showing, and relationship issues.

The Good

  • Casting & diversity. The casting was very well done on this show. The cast was diverse with Jaylen Barron, a Hispanic-African American girl, as the lead. This is awesome, because the equestrian field is pretty white in general, especially in media, and is needing representation of diverse peoples. The acting was fairly decent & believable (keeping in mind that this is a show aimed for children & teens) if not a bit over-exaggerated at times.
The cast of Free Rein
  • Story lines. This show had plenty of action with its big main plot and many subplots. The pacing never felt slow and each episode had a nice arc to it.
Black Stallion flashbacks anyone?
  • Charlotte Dujardin. There was a guest appearance by the queen of dressage. It was a shorter guest appearance (she wasn't riding, alas), but how awesome is that!
  • Good messages. If I were a parent, I would totally be on board with having my kids watch this show, because it does have some really great moral messages about the value of kindness & hard work. 
  • Strong females. I also really appreciated the presence of strong female characters in this show. There is a female business owner, a wife who chooses to leave her husband to figure out what she wants in life, a smart hacker girl, and a strong & brave female lead. These characters provide great role models to all the young girls who will watch this show.
  • Nice horses. There are many pretty and talented horses in this show. Obviously Raven is the main horse lead, but I loved the Gypsy Vanner Bob who served as great comedic backup.
Raven & Zoe

The Bad

  • Riding edits. Due to the fact that the actual actors definitely were not the ones galloping around and jumping the jumps, thank you stunt riders, the workaround to make it look like they were was to have some strange editing. In the jumping scenes for instance there would be a look at the actor's face as they "rode" and then it would cut to a scene of the horse's legs clearing a fence. The effect was a bit jarring and made the action scenes a little bit less exciting to me. That being said, I don't know how the producers could have worked around that. Perhaps by hiring actors who already ride?
The cast of Free Rein on horseback
  • Unnecessary love triangle. Am I the only one who is a bit sick of love triangles in YA media? Zoe is torn between two boys at her barn, Marcus and Pin. There is a lot of drama revolving around this, but it seems pointless to me. The show didn't try to focus on this instead opting to give more attention to other plots, but that just makes the scenes featuring the love triangle plot seem out-of-place and rushed. Either go all in, or leave it out (and I vote for leave it out entirely). My biggest problem with love triangles is that it eliminates the potential of a boy and a girl being just friends. We do see a boy-girl friendship in the show, but it is between the younger siblings of Zoe & Becky.

The Ugly

  • Unrealistic time frame. So I know that suspension of disbelief should allow me to watch Zoe progress from never riding a horse to jumping 2'6"ish oxers in the span of one summer, but it was just too much. Our sport is hard work and requires a lot of time so it is annoying to me when TV shows and movies portray a brand-new rider effortless galloping around. 
Marcus training Zoe on Raven
  • Treatment of Mia. Without going into too much detail, Mia is a villain-type character. She is the spoiled rich girl who owns Raven. She is portrayed as being bratty & entitled for not wanting to let Zoe ride Raven, but this is where the show lost me. Mia OWNS Raven. If she doesn't want Zoe to ride him that should be the end of it. She's the owner and gets to decide what happens with her horse. I couldn't believe in her character as a villain because the entire time I just agreed with her. Now, if I were a kid/teen/person who doesn't own a horse, this point probably wouldn't have bothered me, but I couldn't help but feel irked every time people treated Mia like she was being unreasonable.

Mia & Susie


I really did enjoy watching Free Rein. It was solid entertainment that was about equestrian life, a solid plus in my book. Although it had some flaws, overall it was a really great show and even as an adult I had fun watching it. Hopefully Netflix will renew it for a second season!


  1. I totally binge watched this for the scenery...I felt like the countryside was the star of the show! Agree with all your points, particularly Mia. Also, I was annoyed when Marcus (?) was schooling a 2'6" ish course and everyone was ohhing and ahhing and cheering because it was apparently SO amazing. Why don't my barnmates do that for me? lol

    1. I could definitely be down to live on that island! So pretty! Especially with all of the great riding fields... I thought it was pretty funny when everyone was so impressed with Marcus. Especially because Zoe jumps that height and she's supposed to be a brand-new rider as opposed to Marcus who is a trainer. Even with its flaws, it was pretty binge-worthy though!

  2. I watch this show bc of my two daughters who LOVE horses and I was really annoyed by Zoe. She basically stole Mia's horse and acted victimized by Mia like Mia was the bad guy. This girl (Zoe) shows up, all but steals Mia's horse AND boyfriend even though she doesn't really want him, and butts her nose into the stable's business, wrongly accusing Pin of stealing horses, like she's the director and due some answers. She had been there for a week or so at that point. Like, who even ARE you Zoe? Does she even pay for the lessons she's receiving? Her mom didnt know she was riding so who paid for these lessons on this horse that isn't even hers? She was also very self centered and didn't listen. She rode Raven against her trainer's recommendation and yells at the horse like it was the horse's fault after he threw her. She is a very entitled feeling little girl and I don't like her character at all. She basically DOES take everything from Mia. In my opinion, Mia was nicer than I would have been because she continued to let Zoe ride her horse everyday and pretend like it was her's. Zoe is not a likeable character for me.

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  4. Basic handling skills of horses for all interactions with horses and these skills abilities can only be developed over time.