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

Overall

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!

31 comments:

  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

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    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!

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  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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    1. I totally agree with this. While she improved over time, she always acts uneccessarily rude and jumps to conclusions every time. Although there are so much good values in this show, as it is directed towards kids, I don't think Zoe serves as a good role model.
      She is exceptionally good, okay, but does that excuse bad behaviour? No.

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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. www.horsescout.com

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  5. I like this show but the riding is soo bad... I dont know why shows always hire not riding actors to these shows

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  6. This show is just amazing i watched the whole second season in 1 late night, already waiting for season 3.

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  7. Season 2 came out and the kids and I just binged it. The new "know it all" trainer asks Zoe what breed Raven is.... and then gets all condescending and tells her he's a Kiger Mustang. I am not a huge horse person, but have spent my fair share of time around draft horses, and a friend with Friesians. AND the trailer in the last episode of season one says Friesian on it. Not sure why this bothers me so much... but it absolutely does.

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    2. Raven looks to be friesian in reality, but 1994 black beauty went from friesian, to quarter horse and a few others as I seem to recall lol!

      What really bothers me is the woman in the last episode says Ravens dam (technical term for mother) was this fancy racehorse and Zoe when she said he was an expensive racehorse, the woman didn't say "actually he's a cross", instead saying he needs a trainer, insinuating Zoe had to train him for racing! But then within the 1st episode he becomes a mustang!!
      Now in the UK a racehorse is a pure thoroughbred (you can get away with something like 1/14th of another breed, but after that many generations back crossed to tb's you are unlikely to spot what that cross was back in its great great great.... .Parents)!

      Now if he's meant to be a TB mustang cross then there are still some big questions!
      A top class racehorse will be used to try and breed more top class racers. Now a top Tb stallion might be able to cover racing, sport and happy hacker mares in the same year. BUT a mares breeding life is a very precious and valuable thing if you have such a great mare and while embryo transfer gives the ability to have a handful of foals from a mare each year, it is usually reserved to breed hopefully more top quality valuable horses due to it being expensive! So it's unlikely a mare supposedly that good would be crossed naturally or via surrogate with anything other than another top quality racehorse! In the slim chance they had been trying to make a sport horse I can't imagine why they would have used a mustang when they aren't known for their Olympic grade dressage/jumping/evening abilities and owning a racer that good would give them plenty of money to use a good, if not great sport horse stallion!
      I also doubt it was an accident, partly because a wining mare is unlikely to be kept in fields with easy to clear fences and there aren't exactly a large amount of mustangs in the UK and I can't imagine there would be one kept on the same yard or neighboring yards as high class racing mares lol!

      I also don't believe a girl that adores her horse wouldn't have taken a second look at his passport which will have shown his breed!

      I can over look things like every gawking at Pins position when he's slumped like a sack of potatos, the numnahs/saddle pads in the tack room being immaculate (actually that made me laugh lol), hell I can even let it slide when they use the wrong breed for the script (although it is a little harder to forgive with shows/films aimed directly at horsey people that are likely to notice), BUT to have the on screen breed change within the space of 2 episodes is ridiculous, especially when it's put on a platform were most people will watch through first season again before starting 2nd, so will notice this instantly!!
      Honestly I don't get why they bothered! Was it to show incompetence of the trainer? If so it wasn't clear! Maybe it was so American audiences could relate more, or because she is an American in UK, so they needed to make him and American breed too?! Or was it because they thought the only 3 breeds non horsey people know of are the 3 he listed, Tb, quarter horse and mustang! They'd have been better saying he was quarter horse given their American racing lines and all round abilities, or better yet, just call him by his real life breed so all the horsey girls and few boys could applaud them for not trying to pass off a cow as a dog lol!

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    3. I got here after posting about this on the Facebook page.
      WHY LIE? Why say ANY Mustang is 17 hands high?
      My theory is somebody looked at a list of breeds and thought Kiger Mustang was the coolest, and was willing to imply, as you noted, that no characters could read, or didn’t bother.
      To say nothing of ALL the writers and show runners having SMARTPHONES IN THEIR POCKETS. WITH PICTURES. LOL.

      In the end this is about having zero respect for their audience. BLECH.

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    4. No, it bothered me too. The first season it was implied he was a friesian. Now all of a sudden he's a Kiger mustang? Confusing.

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  8. I have not watched this series yet but heard about from my cable providers actually one of my friend works there and they watch a lot of shows so he recommended me this.

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  9. Does anyone know what the breed of Raven is?

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    1. he's a Kiger Mustang.

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    2. No he is not a Kiger Mustang. They say he is but Kigers are Duns with tiger stripping on the legs and a dorsal stripe as well.

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    3. And they are no taller than 15.2

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    4. Kigers can be bigger than 15.2 as I own 16.1 16h 15.3 and 15.3 and two other 15.2h kiger mustangs all branded from the wild lol
      They can also be black, as you can't get dun and grulla without the black base. A dun is simply a black horse with agouti and dun gene and a grulla is a black horse with a dun gene.
      Just very weird they are calling it a kiger in this show

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    5. Raven is a Friesian horse.

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  10. What type of horse breed is raven?

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  11. What type of horse breed is raven.?

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  12. I like the show as well. It's in the tradition of Black Beauty and Black Velvet. Girl meets horse and falls in love. However, as a YA program they show only a small picture of the downside of horse breeding and the equestrian world. The reason they allowed Zoe to ride Raven was because he was on borrowed time. Pin says so in first episode. He couldn't be tamed. Sure we would all like to believe every beautiful horse has a happy ending, but if Mia's father couldn't make money off him. Raven would have been sold. Since he was sold illegally, without papers backing up his lineage. This did not bode well for him. They used Zoe to tame the horse, most likely with Mia's father permission since he legally owns Mia's horses.

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  13. What type of horse is Raven in real life?

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  14. What type of horse is Raven in real life?

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  15. It's a cute show.....but soooooo unrealistic. The lead character is perhaps the worst actress I've ever encountered. As a life long horse owner/rider....I agree with others....when referencing the harsh tack and situations/treatment of the horses. I wouldn't want any of my children looking up to Jayden whatever her name is (Zoe) in a real life, role model situation.....not everything revolves around race....we don't need ANY more people like that.... there's already more than enough.

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    1. the character that plays zoey she also played in shameless she didnt really act in shameless that much but her acting is sometimes a bit too much but its a good show

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    2. I'm curious, what does race have to do with anything in the show. It's never brought up. None of the situations involve it, so what "race" are you speaking of?

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  16. All the craziness surrounding the discrepancies and contradictions on what type of horse Raven is aside, I was hoping they would redeem Zoe's character a little this season, but they did not. She is just as annoying, self righteous, and aggravating as she was in the first season. The nerve of her to tell Gabby to stay away from HER horse, and give some big self righteous speech on beinh herself and not wanting what other people have is almost infuriating considering she did the exact same thing to Mia. It's STILL wrong too because Raven STILL isn't her horse! I kind of wanted Pin and Marcus to dump her. My husband didn't want our girls watching that show anymore after seeing Zoevs character after an episode or two, because he felt like Zoe was not the best example to be set for our young girls. I agree with him. Zoe is kind of the worst.

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