Feb 28, 2012

Heartland 1.10: Born to Run

Heartland
1.10: Born to Run

So I overdosed on Heartland, meaning that I finished season one and then splurged on season two...finishing all twenty-two episodes in a matter of days without posting one recap.

What does this mean? Countless hours rewatching episodes and actually having thoughts on them other than mindless consumption, that's what.

So what's going on here? Let's break this down by character.

Amy is starting to grow out of her storming out on hard conversations phase, but naturally the next stage is acting righteous all the time. I actually like this Amy, since she is a) the voice of reason in the first five minutes of the episode, b) doesn't completely freak out when Lou tells her that Nick Harwell wants to buy Spartan, c) has completely lost patience with Ben in a way that is awesome, and d) saves mustangs from certain doom. +4 for Amy! Bonus of +5 for pointing out to Ben that he sucks as a rider, and as a human being.

But actually this episode provides all the proof I need that Lou is the most awesome character on the show. Okay, admittedly this proof is wrapped up in my love of her plaid coat and her quick thinking at the end of the episode. What does Lou do when all the men have lost their senses and resorted to fisticuffs? She finds Jack's shotgun, fires into the sky, and then pumps it for added effect. And yells confused threats.  +10!

Then we've got Ty, who is projecting his issues on the horses around him. When Wes, evil character for the foreseeable future, smacks mustangs with ropes, Ty comes at the guy and then he gets all emotional about not standing by while innocents are abused. Nice insight into your past family life, Ty. I'll give you +2 for that.

And then there's Jack and Tim, forever locked in a competitive battle over past slights and fairly large family problems. In a previous episode, they came to blows while Tim mocked Jack for being old. Great times were had by all. This time Jack threatens others while Tim checks up on his progress, indicating to me that they are in fact best friends. They just don't know it yet. You'll get there eventually, guys! +2!

Oh, and Mallory. Look, I like this kid. I like her random appearances when she shows up in the house wearing nothing but a bathrobe and a towel. I like her insistence that she's taking a mental health day when she decides to skip school. I don't like her middle grade horse book plot of assuming Lou is selling Copper, so she decides to steal the horse and trek out into the snowy wilderness with nothing but peanut butter, saltines, and two juice boxes. Good luck with that, Mallory. At least you took your cell phone so you'll be useful to the plot later. -3

In other developments, Ben decides to leave Heartland because Nick Harwell also points out that he is a horrible rider. And also he is a bad person. Ashley, insisting that Ben is the opposite of these things, convinces him to go ride at her barn, thus ridding me of Ben and his attitude. +2!

So that's 25-3.
1.10 Born to Run: 22
1.9 Ghost from the Past: 39.1


Feb 27, 2012

The Saddle Club # 87: Show Jumper


The Saddle Club # 87: Show Jumper

Cover:

Honestly, this cover doesn’t bother me too much. There are several things I’d like to see tweaked, but overall (and especially compared to “Secret Horse”), I give it a thumbs up. It clearly depicts a scene from the book, including the dreaded “pink” coat. Lisa’s hair should be kept neat under a hair net (despite the near-constant implications in this series that French braids are sufficient) and her helmet does NOT meet safety requirements – it needs to pulled down over her forehead more and include a chinstrap. I would also like her to be wearing field boots instead of dress boots. I wish Samson’s form was a little crisper and Lisa’s equitation leaves something to be desired (to say nothing of the doofy look on her face), but nonetheless, a solid effort in the cover department.

Blurb:

(to be added momentarily - as soon as I can figure out where the book went...I suspect my nine month old son of shredding it...)

Summary:

I’m not going to go into a massive amount of detail in this summary. The plot of the book is pretty simple, albeit adorned with a steaming vat of melodrama and multiple slaps in the face of realism. The Saddle Club is off to the Macrae Valley Open, where Carole and Lisa will compete in the Junior Jumper division. Before they leave, Lisa lets her mother drag her to the tack store to buy a whole new riding ensemble. They leave with a new riding jacket that will cause Lisa nothing but embarrassment and despair – but at least she puts her foot down about the custom boots. Once at the show, the Saddle Club runs into a trio of girls whose snobbery and malevolence rivals Veronica’s – fitting, then, that Veronica and the leader of this Evil Trio are friends from riding camp. Anywho, Carole and Lisa (and Veronica) all jump clean on day one of the competition, ensuring that they will make it to the second round the next day. Naturally, Lisa cannot bring herself to enjoy this measure of success because a.) everyone is all aflutter about what a stellar horse Samson is, leaving Lisa out of the picture entirely, and b.) she committed the ultimate horse show fashion faux pas and wore a “pink” coat into the show ring. Lisa’s self-esteem really takes a beating – which Veronica and her three evildoing cronies plan to exploit to no end, in order to trounce her in the competition. They drop many a snide remark about Lisa’s experience (or lack thereof) and poor choice in show attire. They succeed in rattling her and Lisa enters day two of the show emotionally in tatters. Somehow, she makes it to the jump off in a daze, but once there, commits a grievous error and getting herself thrown. Feeling like she now has nothing left to lose, she gets back in the saddle, finishes the course, gets a second place and falls to pieces because she cost Samson the blue ribbon. Carole and Lisa scold her for (rightly) being so hard on herself and remind her that if it wasn’t for her, Samson would still be at home in Willow Creek, trotting around the pasture, wasting his life – you know, until a more experienced rider like Red trained him properly and in a more appropriate timeframe. Okay, I added that last part, but it’s implied in the text – I swear. Lisa pulls herself together and the three girls spend the rest of their time at the Macrae scoring famous riders’ autographs, sneaking into the VIP box to watch the Grand Prix event and finding out about the respective past love lives of Max and Mrs. Reg. All’s well that ends well, and I’m left praying that Lisa goes back to counseling.

List:

  • Page 2: The book opens with Lisa daydreaming about winning the Junior Jumpers at the Macrae Valley Open. In said daydream, the judge awards her the blue ribbon and trophy while announcing to the crowd something about “this poised young rider” and “one of the most promising horses we’ve seen in a long time.” Boy, Lisa really does live in her own little world, doesn’t she?
  • Page 6: My suspicions are aroused – here is my first inkling that this book was not written by the same person who wrote its prequel, “Secret Horse.” In “SH,” we were told that Red was off being a working student in Vermont for a month. Here, we’re told two weeks. Hmmmm. More inklings to come.
  • Page 9: “Lisa couldn’t even imagine how high the fences were going to be.” Something you might want to look into before entering a big show with a totally green horse, wouldn’t you say, Lisa? (I mean, seriously!)
  • Page 15: Stevie not only likes dressage, she’s a “star performer” in dressage. “Star performer!”
  • Page 21: Since Lisa is late for her lesson, Carole and Stevie volunteer to get Samson ready for her. They tether Starlight and Belle to a fence in order to do so. Am I the only one who thinks Pine Hollow has a serious lack of cross-ties?
  • Page 24: Lisa says “thanks but no thanks” to her mom’s offer of brand new custom boots. Even though I know Lisa would never have them broken in in time for the Macrae, I would have an extremely difficult time saying no to custom boots. I would eat nothing but Ramen noodles for the next two years if it meant I could get custom boots.
  • Page 26: Gah! What part of “I can’t be late for my lesson, Mom” does Mrs. Atwood not understand? Is there a reason they can’t go to the tack store AFTER Lisa’s riding lesson?
  • Page 27: I know I said this before, during my review of “Secret Horse,” but Lisa, honey, your mom doesn’t want to buy you all this stuff because she’s proud of you. She’s not even excited about you going to the show because she’s proud of you. She’s excited because she has an excuse to buy a couple of new outfits for herself and she wants to treat you so you’ll fit in with all the other spoiled society princesses.
  • Page 29: I kind of resent this attitude of “anyone who knows ANYthing about horses knows what ‘pink’ coats are all about.” I’m pretty sure folks who ride western pleasure or saddleseat don’t know and don’t care. Furthermore, I’ve heard Jimmy Wofford say (while doing commentary for the Rolex stadium jumping) “the ‘pink’ coat means (s)he’s competed for his/her country.” Not to mention that traditionally, only gentlemen in the hunt are permitted to wear pink coats – but there’s no mention of this in the book. Finally, I must point out that there have been several Saddle Club covers that picture riders in red/pink hunt coats – off the top, “Silver Stirrups” and “Stable Witch.” Just sayin.’ Don’t be so condescending, BB!
  • Page 34: I will never cease to be amused that Bonnie Bryant (or whomever) refers to lateral work as “dressage moves.” I mean, I can only assume we’re talking about lateral work here (shoulders-in, haunches-in, leg yielding, etc.), but the way it’s written makes you think Carole, Lisa and Stevie warm up by doing tempi changes, pirouettes and a passage or two. Which I guarantee you they do not.
  • Page 36: We are reminded that, this being the junior JUMPER division, form doesn’t matter. What matters is clearing the jumps and getting through the course quickly. Just what you’d want to do with a young horse who’s green over fences and going to his first show. *eye roll*
  • Page 54 (almost twenty pages with nothing to snark at? I’d better go back and read those again…): Each of the girls have a Walkman to listen to on the drive to the show. My brain automatically replaced “Walkman” with “iPod.”
  • Page 61: What the heck is this “pleasure horse class” that Max won a blue ribbon in umpteen years ago? Western Pleasure? Country English Pleasure? Do explain, Max.
  • Page 64: Max explains to the girls that the Macrae has been going on all week but they came just in time for the junior jumper division because he thought they “could use the extra practice time.” I would think that, given that this is Samson’s first show, it might be beneficial to let him get used to the warm-up ring, grounds, etc. Just my opinion – but then, I wasn’t in Pony Club, so what do I know?
  • Page 66: I have to say this somewhere and it might as well be here. I didn’t show as a junior – I’ve only been riding hunter/jumpers for three years now – but I make it to at least two or three ‘A’ or ‘AA’ rated shows per year and am pretty familiar with the barns and competitors in our area. I have never seen any of our junior riders “act as if they hate one another.” I’m sure this is the case some places, but fortunately, not in the environment where I show.
  • Page 72: Two of the snotty Macrae girls are named Belinda and Melinda? Seriously?
  • Page 74: I’m starting to get annoyed with Stevie and Lisa for constantly deferring to Carole on all “big horse show” matters. I know I haven’t read *every* Saddle Club book ever written, but near as I can tell, Carole’s riding has pretty much been limited to Pine Hollow/Pony Club events. Sure, a show or two here and there (Briarwood, for one), but when was she supposed to have been learning the ropes about these huge rated shows?
  • Page 75: Carole, Lisa and Stevie are wearing “old” riding clothes at the Macrae. To be fair, we’re not talking about their show clothes, but still – whenever I go to a show, I make sure I look well put together.
  • Page 87: BB comes right out and says it here – “Carole had been to several major horse shows before…” Where? When? Am I missing something?
  • Page 92: There’s something wrong with this book’s rehashing of the “Lisa and Prancer Briarwood” story. We’re told here that Max expressed “reservations” about Lisa taking such a green horse to the show, but “because of Lisa’s hard work and practice” she ended up winning him over. Actually, I’m pretty sure Max’s sole comment was “interesting” when Lisa picked Prancer to ride at Briarwood – even though Lisa had ridden her just once, and that one time happened to be her first time under saddle since the mare recovered from the injury that ended her racing career. In short, Prancer was almost fresh off the track when Lisa started working with her and Max didn’t even try to stop her from taking the horse to a big horse show (can you tell I had some problems with book # 25, “Show Horse?”). Anyone else think Max exhibits a pattern of frighteningly negligent instructor behavior? Thank God he has that lucky horseshoe in his stable!
  • Page 97: The dreaded pink coat has made its public debut. Again, I have to wonder about the viability of the information presented here. “Only members of hunt clubs and USET members who compete in the hunting divisions wear pink jackets,” Carole says. Someone should really tell Karen O’Connor that, then, because I’m sure she would be mortified if she found out she wasn’t allowed to wear a pink coat because she rides eventers, not hunters.
  • Page 113: Aaaargh! Carole, you have NOT seen “that blond girl on the gray horse” at “a few shows!” You spend all your time at Pine Hollow, riding your horse and cleaning tack! For the LOVE!
  • Page 118: Lisa’s attempt to describe to Jock Sawyer the Saddle Club’s training of Samson falls pretty flat if you ask me. She’s like a little child, prattling on…for instance, when Jock asks how high their schooling fences were, Lisa holds out her hand and demonstrates. “This high,” she says. Dear Lord, Lisa. What happened to using units of measurement? Are you “this many,” too?
  • Page 121: Oh dear, another one of those situations that makes me want to pull Lisa’s parents aside and ask, “she still sees her therapist, right?” Lisa’s sitting outside Samson’s stall, all woebegone and ridiculously nervous. She’s drowning in a whirlpool of self-doubt, thinking that this is her one chance to make it in the big leagues. If she doesn’t do well this one time, she’s doomed to be a green rider forever and ever, cleaning out stalls and riding in Pony Club rallies.
  • Page 124: Just when I thought I couldn’t be more annoyed with the drama and overreacting, enter Mrs. Atwood. I really, really cannot stand this woman. It is unforgivable the way she uses Lisa riding in the Macrae – the realization of a dream, the accomplishment of a goal, the reward of many years of hard work – to try and elevate her social status. Instead of letting Lisa get dinner with her friends and score the autographs of famous riders, she forces her to go to some stuffy French restaurant with three of the most deplorable teenagers on the eastern seaboard – who just so happen to be plotting against Lisa. Mrs. Atwood goes out and buys a dress for Lisa to wear to dinner, insists that she get her hair done at a beauty parlor and won’t hear any excuses. Apparently, she’s “worked very hard to make friends” at the Macrae, the event being about her and all. Ten bucks says Lisa starts drinking in high school.
  • Page 128: More Mrs. Atwood ridiculousness. Heck, I’m about to start drinking, just reading about her!
  • Page 136: Stevie and Carole have a plan to protect Lisa from Margie, Belinda and Melinda. If the little snots come near Lisa, S and C will bark at them until they go away. That sounds…mature.
  • Page 149: It’s day two of the Macrae and poor Samson is confused. Apparently he is “used to either jumping the same course again and again…or getting a day in between to adjust to a different course.” While I understand the whole “green horse is nervous at his first show” bit, this sentence perfectly illustrates why three teenage girls shouldn’t be allowed to “train” a green horse over fences by themselves – and why the junior jumper division is a foolish place to have him make his show ring debut.
  • Page 152: Uh, apparently Bonnie Bryant is not aware that if a rider falls off in a show jumping competition, the horse and rider pair is disqualified.
  • Page 153: I hate to break it to Lisa – and to Carole, who consoles her – but…yeah, you are too inexperienced to be riding at this level. I’m guessing these jumps are in the 3’6” range and even at the 3’ level your riding has to be very precise. Letting your hands fall to your horses neck and becoming dead weight on your horse’s back while he speeds up and launches himself at a fence is extremely dangerous. Lisa’s lucky she and Samson did not get hurt much worse. Also, where is Max when this talking-to is happening? Worst. Instructor. Ever.

My Verdict:

I love jumping. Love it. I’ve been riding and showing in the lower (2'6") hunter and equitation divisions for the past three years and I can say without a doubt that I have never been more committed or dedicated to anything else in my life – with the exception of my marriage and raising my son. This passion created an interesting dichotomy between enthusiasm and disgust as I re-read this book. I enjoy pretty much any book that revolves around my chosen equestrian discipline – but I will also hold said book to extremely high standards in terms of factual realism. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good underdog-beats-the-odds/sickly-foal-goes-on-to-be-a-champion story as much as the next person, and I appreciate that this formula is not repeated ad nauseum in the Saddle Club universe, but when the plot revolves around a simply ludicrous premise and the characters manage to get away with a scenario that, in the real world, would probably get them severely injured, I have to shake my head. Not to mention, there are a few instances of eyebrow-raising interpretation of FEI rules – murky understanding at best, blatant contradiction at the worst.

Feb 8, 2012

The Saddle Club # 86: Secret Horse


The Saddle Club # 86: Secret Horse

Cover:

This has to be one of my least favorite SC covers – at least out of those done in this particular style. I have…so many questions when I look at the front of this book.

  1. Who is this horse supposed to be? Spoiler alert: this book is about Samson – Delilah and Cobalt’s son, who is unfailingly described as black. So who is this giant, nondescript chestnut?
  2. Why is his halter askew/why is he wearing a stud chain?
  3. Why are the girls wearing tennis shoes to the barn?
  4. Finally, why are Stevie and Carol looking so…morose and vacant, respectively? Lisa’s expression is the only one I can remotely comprehend. She’s clearly marveling over the horse’s disproportionately large head. Or maybe she too is wondering who the heck the horse is.

Blurb:

“THE SADDLE CLUB HAS A SECRET!

Stevie Lake, Carole Hanson, and Lisa Atwood are hoping to compete in a prestigious horse show. To that end, they’re doing everything they can to stay on stable owner Max Regnery’s good side – including doing extra chores around Pine Hollow, such as exercising stable horses.

Veronica diAngelo is sure she’ll be making the trip to the horse show – just as she’s sure she’ll be bringing home a blue ribbon. And of course Veronica has no intention of lifting a finger to help anyone.

The Saddle Club would love to beat Veronica, but how? She and her horse are tough competition. Then Lisa takes one of the horses over a jump, and he’s a natural. Now the Saddle Club has to keep their secret weapon under wraps and teach Veronica a lesson she won’t forget.”

Summary:

The Macrae Valley Open is apparently the show of all shows – the kind of competition that attracts all the best riders from everywhere and has the USET members turning out in full force. It’s the kind of show the Saddle Club has only ever dreamed of going to, which explains why we’ve never heard of it before. Well, actually, Carole has but that’s to be expected. Stevie apparently can’t even pronounce it and Lisa gets butterflies at the mere thought – also par for the course.

Once the girls find out that Veronica is going to the Macrae, they immediately swing into “me too!” mode and set out to prove how indispensible they are to Max and the general running of Pine Hollow. You’d think by now Max would realize that his stable would fall apart without the hard work, dedication and know-how of three middle school girls. At least they’re not yet sleeping in the barn like they would be if they lived in the Thoroughbred series. This flurry of barn work comes at just the right time; Red, Pine Hollow’s head stablehand (I always assumed ONLY stablehand) is heading off to a famous rider’s farm to be a working student for a month. Because apparently, being Max’s right hand man/Veronica’s servant for umpteen years hasn’t taught him enough.

Spending their every waking moment the barn has its upside. When they’re not raking the driveway, cleaning endless piles of dirty tack and scrubbing water buckets, the SC girls get to exercise horses. This includes the Prince William of Pine Hollow, Samson. After learning the basics at a nearby trainer’s, Samson has turned into a fine riding horse and the girls can’t wait to try him out.

Lisa exercises the gelding first and after a great schooling session on the flat, she decides, in an uncharacteristic lapse of judgment, to try him over the jumps. Naturally, he’s phenomenal and Lisa starts dreaming of taking him to the Macrae, since that is the logical place to start a baby green, as a junior jumper in an A-rated show. (Note: in the hunter ring, Juniors compete at a height of 3’6” – I don’t know if that is the same height in the jumper division, but I’m willing to bet that it’s close. In contrast, Baby Green Hunters and Pre-Green Hunters compete over fences that are 2’6” and 3,” respectively.)

So, of course, once Carole and Stevie realize how talented Samson is over fences, they throw themselves into “Project Secret Horse” with reckless abandon. The plan seems to be threefold: train Samson over fences, prove their indispensability to Max by making Pine Hollow so clean you could eat off the barn aisle and spy on/befriend Veronica to stay on her good side so she won’t rent out the entire Pine Hollow van for herself – or something like that. I’ll admit, I’m not really clear on the third part of that plan – but then, what good is a Saddle Club project if it doesn’t involve a little espionage at Veronica’s expense?

Meanwhile, Lisa combats some inner demons. She wants to ride Samson in the Macrae but isn’t sure she can or that she’ll be allowed. She also thinks that Carole will probably want to ride the gelding herself and doesn’t want to step on her friend’s toes. Oh, and she falls off Samson during a training session and that sends her into the classic Lisa Atwood spiral of paralyzing self-doubt. Which reminds me – how’s therapy going there Lisa?

Long story short, they debut their plan to Max (earlier than they would have liked, since he happened upon a training session one morning – the one morning he sets foot out of his office in weeks, apparently) and instead of being livid that they jumped his homebred youngster without his permission, he hears out their plan. Lisa gives a little speech, Carole vouches for Lisa to ride Samson, Stevie gets even with Veronica (somehow – doesn’t she always?) and Max agrees to let Lisa ride. It’s off to the Macrae Valley Open which we’ll read about in the very next book!

List:

  • Page 1: Huh. Right here on the first page, a reference is made to “stable employees.” Employees, plural. Who are these mysterious employees and why don’t we ever get to meet them?
  • Page 3: There goes Red, off to Vermont for a month. I’ll have to ask around – I wonder if one month is the average length of time for one to be a working student…seems like a pretty brief period to me, but then what do I know. I am interested, however, in what Red will do with his newly honed three day eventing skills when he returns from Toby MacIntosh’s farm. Surely he doesn’t need to go all the way to Vermont to become better at tacking up Veronica’s horse for her or teaching the little kids how to pick out a pony’s hoof.
  • Page 6: We make it this far before being reminded (a) how the girls formed the Saddle Club and (b) that there are only two rules, etc., etc. Also on this page, Carole mentions that the SC will pitch in to make up for Red’s absence. Pay attention to how much work they do. Red must be freakin’ Superman if it takes three able-bodied girls to do what he can do in a single bound.
  • Page 9: Ugh, how could I have forgotten Danny’s show name. Who names a show horse “Go For Blue?” I mean really.
  • Page 12: Here’s where the scheming begins. Call me na├»ve, but if Carole, Lisa and Stevie want to go to the Macrae in the Pine Hollow van, why don’t they just…ask? I know if I wanted to hop on board and go to a horse show, all I’d have to do is say “sign me up!” cut a check and pack my trunk. Pony Club must be different.
  • Page 16: If Carole wants to live up to the expectation that she will make “the Team” (USET) someday, girlfriend had better get a move-on in the junior division at rated shows! Scrubbing water buckets is only going to get her so far in life.
  • Page 18: Oh dear God, Stevie just found out that some riders – gasp! – pay someone ELSE to braid their horses for them!
  • Page 20: Lisa wonders aloud if Prancer’s girth will fit Samson. This launches Carole into a mini-lecture on tack fit and conformation. Boy if I was this girl’s friend in real life, I’d learn to tune her out in a hurry.
  • Page 24: Lisa’s out hacking Samson and after twenty minutes of “dressage” (because that sounds more impressive than “shoulder-ins, leg yielding and collection/extension,” which is, I guarantee you, the closest Lisa gets to doing “dressage”), she decides to take Samson over a jump. Here are my thoughts on this: (a) This horse doesn’t belong to Lisa, nor is he a school horse, (b) he is Max’s horse and he is young – she does not have permission to jump him and (c) there’s no one around – you wouldn’t catch me jumping a horse I’d never ridden before unsupervised.
  • Page 26: After trotting and cantering Samson over the small jump “several” times, Lisa decides, in her infinite wisdom, to jump the brush jump that is alternately described in this book as “big,” “huge,” and one that “only the best riders at Pine Hollow” practice over. *head smack* Oh dear, oh dear, Lisa. If anyone ever pulled a stunt like that at my barn, you can bet they’d be out the door in a heartbeat. I don’t want to overstate this but let’s be logical here: you’re on a horse for the first time, you don’t know how much training it’s had, you trot it over one fence and it completely over-jumps, proving that it’s completely green. Naturally, the next step is go galloping pell-mell toward the biggest jump on the property just for the thrill of it.
  • Page 36: In a nice little blip of continuity “an Olympic horse” Carole has ridden is mentioned. Based on the context, I can only assume we’re talking about Southwood.
  • Page 37: Apparently, “Max doesn’t need another show horse.” I wasn’t aware that Max actually HAS any show horses. Doesn’t the man run a Pony Club branch? Who rides these “show horses,” I wonder?
  • Pages 39 and 42: Lisa never learns. Just once I’d like her to say, “Actually Mom, these Greek vases are about the most boring things I’ve ever seen” and “You know Mom, Veronica’s a bitch.” But oh no, we mustn’t make waves. It’s always “maybe you’re right, Mom.”
  • Page 52: Here is the only time you’ll read about any of the girls second-guessing their decision to train Samson as a jumper. Carol wonders if what they’re doing is “stupid and reckless.” In a word, yes.
  • Page 56: Oh man, Carole tells Lisa that “no matter how talented a horse is, you don’t want to rush him.” Yeah, ‘cause you guys are really going at a snail’s pace here. From totally green over fences to junior jumpers at a top-rated show in about a month – that’s standard, right? Riiiiiight.
  • Page 58: Again, I’m a little flabbergasted at the amount of work these girls are doing around the barn. From sunup to sundown, sometimes staying after dark…I’d love to see their tans at the end of the summer.
  • Page 83: No, Carole, Lisa isn’t “very sensitive to other people’s feelings,” she’s a doormat who doesn’t have the stones to come right out and ask for what she wants. “Hating conflict” doesn’t even scratch the surface, darlin.’
  • Page 84: Geez, just how big IS the brush jump? BB makes it sound about five feet tall!
  • Pages 85 thru 87: These three pages pretty much convince me that everyone in this book is totally clueless. Lisa lets Samson get too strong during her ride because she doesn’t want to hamper his enthusiasm. So, like green horses are wont to do, he blasts over a fence and jumps Lisa right out of the saddle. At no point do Carole or Mr. Grover (an actual horse trainer) call out to her to collect him or slow him or any variation of “whoa!” Then when Lisa (rightly) says that the mistake was hers, Carole brushes it off and basically says it happened because Samson is green and this was bound to happen eventually. Because God forbid we shatter Lisa’s confidence.
  • Page 103: Why is Stevie surprised that Veronica’s bedroom is one giant display of ostentatious frivolity?
  • Page 112: I actually really enjoy Stevie’s response to Carole and Lisa asking why she doesn’t want to ride Samson in the Macrae. I have the feeling that writing Stevie must be very enjoyable.
  • Pages 115 thru 117: Max discovers what the Saddle Club is up to. Dun dun DUN! Lucky for them he’s not mad – although I can’t fathom why. I also can’t fathom how he didn’t figure it out earlier.
  • Page 119: Ha ha! Max is “a horseman” who is “responsible for his horses and his students.” Again, I have to ask how he didn’t figure out what the girls were doing, responsible hands-on horseman that he is.
  • Page 121: I can’t really explain why, but when Lisa says “Samson by Cobalt out of Delilah” I grind my teeth a little. She knows that his sire and dam aren’t famous, right? I mean, they’re both really nice horses and everything, but what does she think she’s proving by throwing that out there? Maybe it’s just supposed to add an unnecessary flourish to her little speech.
  • Page 138: I get a migraine just reading Mrs. Atwood’s dialogue. She. Is. Such. A. Moron. Her daughter just told her she gets to achieve a life goal and ride a fabulous horse that she’s been helping train herself in a hugely important show and the woman goes on and on about how important a society event this is and how she’ll need a haircut and if Lisa wins “the trophy” she’ll get to go to the winner’s circle (Mrs. Atwood clearly doesn’t realize this isn’t the Kentucky Derby), and on and on. Again, can I get a “cram it, Mom!” Lisa?
  • Page 141: No, Lisa, you didn’t “get into a fence wrong,” you let the horse get too revved up and it got you dumped.
  • Page 143: Carole mentions that once, at one of these top-rated shows, a girl cut Carole off in line at the toilet even though she knew Carole was on deck to ride. I have a question and a comment about this – when did Carole go to all these fancy schmancy shows? I know I haven’t read EVERY book in the series, but I don’t seem to remember a lot of A-rated horse shows in between riding camp, Pony Club rallies in England, teaching a movie star to ride, learning to wrangle cattle, etc. Oh, and I guess that’ll teach you to use the bathroom before you leave the stabling area, won’t it Carole?
  • Page 149: Veronica can’t join the group at TD’s because she’s at home with her coach, discussing “strategy.” What the heck kind of show jumping “strategy” is there to discuss when you haven’t even seen the course?
  • Page 150: The girls act surprised that making a living in the horse industry is tough. Carole’s in for a rude awakening when she’s not able to simultaneously be a vet, a trainer, a competitive rider and a breeder isn’t she?

My Verdict:

You’d think, with the amount of sniping I did throughout this book, that I hated it. Well, you’re kind of right, but not totally right. I don’t understand how the girls pulled off Project Secret Horse for as long as they did. I can’t believe we’re supposed to buy that a horse that’s never jumped before spends a month being trained by three 13 year-old girls and is suddenly ready for the big time. I’m really confused as to why Stevie needed to spy on Veronica/pretend to be her friend. Oh and Lisa got on my nerves. All that being said, I like Saddle Club installments where the minor characters are kept to a minimum and the plot revolves mainly around Stevie, Carole and Lisa. Stevie has some great moments in this book, and Veronica is deliciously snooty. If this book was a movie, I’d be able to look past the inconsistencies and occasional lapses in credulity because I liked the characters. Most of the time.

You think you can double cross people...like our Muslim president from Kenya?!

Luck
1.2: "Episode Two"

You know, I don't think I can fully support a show that doesn't bother to appropriately title their episodes. Are you above actual titles, David Milch?

Okay. Episode Two brings us some updates on these people that populate Luck's less than rainbows and sunshine world of horse racing. Ace meets his probation officer, who seems "decent" because he turns on the sink faucet when Ace has trouble urinating into a cup. Although I did like the little detail when the officer asked Ace what he did while he was in prison, because if you can't pee when someone's watching it must be horrible being male. Ace simply says that people made adjustments, which goes a long way in showing that this sweet little man who appears so polite and clean cut (who doesn't like it when his trainer curses, for instance) is actually very frightening.

But then there was a lot of random talking I didn't follow. I think someone wants to buy Santa Anita Park, in which case I'm sure there will be more random talking that I will completely tune out. I basically heard blah blah Santa Anita blah blah buy blah monies blah.

Speaking of monies, The Degenerate is busy blowing his portion of his pick six earnings on poker. Because he sucks at poker. This nameless guy keeps taunting him about it, which I think was my favorite part of the episode. Oxygen Man is pissed that The Degenerate keeps blowing their randomly earned dollars, because they went to great effort to remain anonymous. Oxygen Man can't have The Degenerate out there losing thousands of dollars a night. They have crappy reputations to maintain! The others do not agree. In fact, Third Wheel wants to claim the horse that won them the money (more on this in a minute), and Dick wants to buy spiffy suits so he can please the women. Women, as well all know, are all about shiny packaging.

So let's talk horses for a little bit. Nick Nolte grumbles some more about this horse that is the son of the previously awesome (now dead) Delphi. He decides to talk to Gary Stevens about how Delphi is actually Alydar. People insured him for $30 million and then broke his legs to collect the pay out. Gary Stevens, naturally, gets to ride Delphi's colt instead of Exercise Girl From England Or Somewhere.

And then we get to this claiming race, and the horse who shouldn't have been in the claiming race anyway. The trainer, who is completely crazy and I have very little patience for, gets pissed off that he was claimed and I just want to slap people when they make these decisions and then get angry when the very obvious outcome happens and they vow revenge. Which is basically what happens. Only Third Wheel does not wind up claiming the horse, as someone else had a claim in on it, and I think it's apparent that this quartet has crap luck when not gambling on horses.

Speaking of crap luck, Dick gets roofied by the women he's trying to seduce...I'm not sure why...and then they try to attack him during their unsuccessful threesome. He manages to escape and winds up bloodied and roofied outside of Oxygen Man's hotel. However, The Degenerate manages to hit a win streak at the poker table after losing yet more money, walking away with some amount of cash and reclaiming a little more of his dignity.

And then we wind up in bed with Ace again, as he monologues about something. I guess it was important. I, however, was too busy wondering if we were going to end every episode with Ace talking to his chauffeur as he lounges around on his bed in his PJs.

I just don't know about this show. I can't tell if it's really going anywhere, or, if it is, that I'll actually be interested in these people when it finally gets up to speed. For what it's worth, I liked this episode better than the pilot, but that's probably just because it's benefiting from all the ground work the pilot laid down.

It still makes me feel dirty after watching it, though. It's very good in this regard.

Feb 7, 2012

Heartland 1.9: Ghost from the Past

Heartland
1.9: Ghost from the Past

Psst. Did you know Ty knew actual people during his shady past full of group homes? Well, he did. And they are, shockingly, also shady. From this, I conclude that all orphans or otherwise abandoned youth are criminals in training.

But not to worry, Ty is a juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold, and isn't about to let some trashy memory with horrible taste in jewelry derail him from his goal of non-probation. This trashy memory is named Kerry-Anne, and she's working in the kitchen at Briar Ridge, home of resident antagonist, Ashley.

However, we're going to back up a second and witness Mrs. Bell have a heart attack, which I suppose is her graceful exit from the show. Mrs. Bell's pony, Sugarfoot, is transferred to Heartland, where he decides that he is above living in stalls and barges into the house to watch Lou shower. Lou, who has had a horse related epiphany thanks to her fond memories of Sugarfoot when she was a child, decides that this is all just great. In fact, they should never give Sugarfoot back. And when Mrs. Bell's niece comes to collect the pony, Lou has a panic attack and comes up with a lame reason to keep the pony right where he is...in the bathroom, in the house.

Meanwhile, Kerry-Anne is planting the seeds of discontent, or trying to, by being super outgoing and horrible to all around her. Somehow she manages to get in on one of those group dinners I love so much, casually chatting about how much sex she and Ty were probably having back in that group home, and also that they are super awesome together, and Amy had better watch herself. No one is impressed, but she keeps talking, and is rudely shot down by Ty afterward. Just what is Kerry-Anne thinking? Ty is a responsible horsey teen now! These people don't steal cars, Kerry-Anne. Pick up a horse book and you'll understand.

Rebuffed, Kerry-Anne immediately runs into Ashley, who takes her under her wing so she can hear all the Ty gossip. Kerry-Anne provides, and then steals Ashley's ugly horseshoe pendant. Ashley immediately decides that Ty was in on the stealing, so Ty has to go hunt down Kerry-Anne on her way out of town, fix her car, and take back the necklace. He arrives back in time to sit down with his probation officer, reputation still intact.

This episode was dull. I think I will probably resort to random point giving in the next installments, and I will now randomly assign points to this episode as a whole. That number will be 39.1.

Feb 6, 2012

Heartland 1.8: Out of the Darkness

Heartland
1.8: Out of the Darkness

Yet another episode tied directly to a series book by the same name, Heartland gives us serious trauma in the form of Gallant Prince and his trainer. Gallant Prince was once famous, in that he won something. Amy likes to casually watch his race to find motivation, during which the race announcer says, "and Gallant Prince pulls away! He's going to win...the race!"

Oh, yeah? He's going to win "the race." I always find attempts to rewrite race announcing hilarious, if not completely maddening (Secretariat, anyone?)

Anyway, Lisa's ex-husband (shhh, we don't know she has an ex-husband yet) trailers Gallant Prince over to Heartland and Jack goes off about how the ranch isn't equipped to hold a stallion. Just what are they equipped to handle? I am exceedingly unimpressed with this operation. Nevertheless, their unequippedness doesn't keep Gallant Prince away. Amy takes him on, and the first night a storm rolls through and completely pushes the horse over the edge. Gallant Prince, you see, was once involved in a fire and his trainer was "on watch" that night, and was also severely burned. But not to worry, Amy is on the case!

Meanwhile, Mallory tells Ty that he needs to just come out and tell the object of his pining affection all about his turgid love. For, you see, Mallory loves Ty and seems to be very bad at taking her own advice. Why can't Ty understand her nonsensical girl crush on him? Damn Amy and her stupid, perfect hair and her stupid, perfect face! Ty doesn't get it at all, so Mallory walks off in a huff and yells at Jack that he and Lisa are equally annoying and they just need to come out and tell Lisa he wants to date her and not do this stupid dancing around each other and pretending that they're only going to a horse auction. YOU ARE OLD, Mallory proclaims. YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO BE STUPID, LIKE TY.

Jack does not listen, and consequently he winds up stranded on the side of the road with Lisa and a picnic involving turkey sandwiches. And it was beautiful. I wanted to be there and soak in the beauty, and I probably would have yelled at them to shut up or go make out in their truck or something so I could appreciate the beauty in peace.

Eventually they get the auction, and Lisa's ex-husband pops up to say, "Hey, you know my wife!" And Jack plows out of there faster than he could (probably) spit tobacco onto the ground, abandoning Lisa in the middle of nowhere.

While this is happening, Amy is trying to talk Gallant Prince's owner out of his man cave. His wife stands by, utterly useless, and in a huff, Amy gives up and is subjected to Ty's attempt to be open about his feelings, nearly kissing her before Amy tearfully proclaims that she doesn't want their relationship to be ruined because kissing ruins lives.

Eventually, the trainer guy shows up anyway and bonds with Gallant Prince, who is thrilled to see him. But then Lisa's ex-husband shows up to yell about how the trainer cannot be near the horse, since it's all the trainer's fault the horse is crazy. Amy is all SEE SENSE, to the guy, but Lisa's ex-husband is blind to sense and orders the horse into the trailer. Lisa tells her ex-husband he is a complete ass, and then yells at Jack for leaving her at the auction, because if he'd stayed around he would have clearly had a better shot with her. And now...well, yeah, he still has a pretty good shot. Maybe Lisa has low standards?

But then it comes out that his assistant trainer or whoever/pathetic excuse of the ex-husband's son set the fire, and Gallant Prince knows. Of course he does. So ex-husband offers the trainer his job back, and all is well.

Oh, and Amy and Tim go on a horseback ride together. It was also pretty.

Feb 5, 2012

Heartland 1.7

Heartland
1.7: Come What May

Out of nowhere I started watching Heartland again, because I am, sadly, just a little bit in love with it. It's just so pretty, you guys. And there's teen angst, and storming out of family dinners, and riding that looks halfway competent if done by people who aren't Ty. How can one resist temptations such as this?

So I gave in.

I haven't read the book that corresponds with this episode, but having seen the back of the volume in question it looks like a mirror image. The ranch is taking on a pregnant mare, and they all freak because the ranch isn't equipped to have a pregnant mare. But take the mare they do, because they're all such adorable bleeding hearts. Meanwhile, Mallory -- the extraneous kid who is always there and seems to have no relation to anyone -- is teaching Ty how to ride and this results in galloping across the Canadian wilderness, hysterics, and falling. Only Ty loves it. He wants to gallop, be hysterical, and fall some more! For then he will be able to ride in the upcoming round up and be respected by Amy and finally, finally, he can put away the baseball cap and know the sweetness of the cowboy hat.

But because of this pregnant mare, Amy and Ty decide that she can't be trusted with her pregnancy and watch her like super parental hawks in four hour shifts. Meanwhile, Ben (who was previously seen in a domestic dispute with his horse) is attempting to avoid his aunt, and is put out that Amy decides the mare is more important than his show and he can just be an adult for once and go train himself. Except he's too busy being irate that his aunt sent him jumps from France and is acting out by storming out of the kitchen and throwing around half-peeled potatoes when Amy tries to persuade him to chat to the woman on the phone. Who will peel those potatoes now, Ben? You said you could cook and you are full of lies!

So Ty skips out on the pregnant mare, leaving Amy on double duty so he can go wave Jack's cowboy hat at cows. Jack is pissed that the lead on the round up is Tim, Amy and Lou's absent father, who points at Jack and informs him that he is old and one day soon he'll be asking good old Tim to help him onto his horse because Jack is too frail to mount by himself. Jack retaliates with physical violence, Ty falls down a ravine after doing something stupid with his horse and a cow, and then everyone doesn't chuckle later when Tim mends Ty's cracked ribs, because cracked ribs are not a joke, Ty. You are a horrible rider.

While the men of the story are off punching each other and taping up injuries in the dark of the Canadian wilds, the women are playing midwife to Melody, who decides she's going to give birth early and Scott, being a typical vet, is too busy and tells them to deal with it. They have all the shoulder length gloves they need. They'll be fine! *click* Lou, put out by this whole thing, shoves her hands up there with Amy and hauls that baby out of there to agonized squeals.

Eventually it all ends with Ben's aunt, Lisa, getting the side eye from Jack, Ben and Lisa bonding over his third place ribbon, and Amy deciding to name the foal Daybreak...although I'm pretty sure the foal isn't hers to name. So, for all of us just catching up on Heartland, Amy didn't storm out at dinner in this episode, Lou did something disgusting and lived through it without soiling her pristine tank top, and Ty earned his cowboy hat by falling off a cliff. This is probably not the best story for him to tell to his future children, actually. He should seriously consider lying.

Watching She-Ra

Claire, who has contributed her comedic take on horse books and various Thoroughbred series installments around here, is taking on She-Ra (yes, you heard me, the whole series) on Tumblr: Watching She-Ra.

Go.

Feb 2, 2012