Spirit Riders (2014) – An Overview

I get so excited watching these horse movies. Now it’s time for yet another one!

Sadly, this one was actually pretty minimal on actual horse interaction, and I’m going to (grudgingly) admit it’s really not that bad of a movie. If you like stories of criminal teenagers getting their acts together, especially by means of (barely) interacting with a horse, you’d might like it. The acting was decent, the plot was okay, and since the horses barely got any screen time, there was minimal opportunity for them to mess up horse things.

Since I made a personal vow to seek out every horse movie I can find now, I’m going to include this one, but I feel like it’s almost not even a horse movie. There’s just way too much people drama.

5 seconds in, my first impression is that the main character is a hooker. She’s got the ripped stockings, breezy short shorts, midrift shirt, and overdone makeup.

Such a dark and sexy start to a horse movie.
Such a dark and sexy start to a horse movie.

My next thought is that she’s probably just a typical teenager. Kids are so crazy these days!

Turns out, her and her male friend are committing some kind of crime, as apparently this gritty back alley leads to a well stocked pharmacy. She stands guard while the boy steals a small amount (like, tiny CVS bag small). But luck is not on their side, because as soon as they try to leave, the police show up and arrest her. It seems her boyfriend got away, although I didn’t notice how.

She goes to jail, and then to court, where she charged with accessory to robbery, which I find funny because what they committed was burglary. The difference being, robbery is theft committed through threats of violence, intimidation, and burglary is unlawful entering and stealing, without the violent part.

She’s sentenced to 30 days in a detention center, which doesn’t seem that shocking to me. Then, she’s offered the chance to go to Spirit Riders Ranch for 60 days, which if she completes, the charges will be dropped. Her lawyer agrees to it.

Then there’s over dramatization of “WAAAAHHHH 60 days at a horse ranch!! Why don’t you just kill me now and get it over with?!” We also find out both mother and daughter smoke, so that’s a fun activity they can do together.

I guess there was some kind of fire in the girl’s past, as she dreams about it and cries. I’m sure this will come up later. Also occurs to me I don’t know this girl’s name, but I think that’s a reoccurring theme in all movies I watch. I’m just really bad with names.

This is where I first began to wonder when we get to the horse part, because so far it’s just everyone being all upset all the time. The mom thinks her daughter is so terrible at everything, that she’s sure to mess up this horse ranch deal, and for whatever reason her father won’t show up, despite the mom calling him to insist he show up. Also I figured out the girl’s name is Casey.

They drive to the ranch and now there are horses in the movie. Lots of horses are being lead around with no apparent destinations in mind. Introductions are made at the ranch, and then they watch as a horse comes off a trailer, trotting and doing the “I’m in a new place!” snort. Aw, it’s so excited! But the director says the campers don’t work with that one, they work with calmer ones. So why would you acquire this horse that you won’t do anything with, ranch director?!

After a brief, tense, encounter with her roommate, Casey is immediately set to work cleaning a stall. After just looking at the manure in the stall, she is horrified, and runs off to smoke a cigarette on bales of hay. The owner finds her, chastises her for smoking, and confiscates her pack.

He shows her around and they find the director waxing flowery poetry about the mythological beauty of horses. It might be because I’m jaded, but I can’t remember the last time I spoke like that about my magical unicorn horse. Perhaps it’s because I know that horses are animals that poop, and then roll in their poop, and then also poop in their own food and water. But perhaps it’s just the type of horses I have though. Then the owner hands her grossly manure caked pitchfork. It’s much grosser than any one I’ve seen before.

There's something wrong with these horses' diet.
There’s something wrong with these horses’ diet.

They all go to lunch and there’s tons of kids around. I suppose this is a therapy type camp. They kids try to act friendly to her, but Casey acts surly and then stomps off.

The owner shows her how to groom a horse, where he tells her specifically to brush against the hair. I think he’s trying to say to do the circles with the curry comb, but it sounds like he just literally means backcomb against the hair. And then he reinforces it when he walks away “Keep brushing against the growth!” Poor horse.

She’s also wearing a belly shirt, which makes me wonder if she now has hair and dirt on her stomach and if it made its way into her pants, wedging itself permanently under the waist band, until such a time as when she changes clothes to find a band of glued on dirt, bits of hay and hairs.

When she’s done irritating the horse’s skin, she notices a horse running around in their pasture, and is intrigued, but that is short lived. I’m guessing it’s her first interest in the main character horse, but it’s such a brief scene (like, 2-3 seconds), it’s practically meaningless.

Her boyfriend sneaks over to visit her one night, and while they smoke in the barn, he suggests they run away to Mexico to escape the horror of 60 days at a horse ranch. It would mean they’d be fugitives forever, but he’s willing to accept that to allow her to escape this country hell of horses and fresh air. Seems a bit extreme, but I don’t pretend to understand the logic of a teenager.

They hear the owner coming over, and the boy sneaks off. The owner tells Casey late night visitors are not allowed, and she denies there was one, right as they hear a car start up. I think he’s on to you Casey!!

After some more dramatics, Casey runs into the barn to find a horse cross tied in a stall. She is immediately drawn to him and rubs his head all over. Her roommate comes by and exclaims about how amazing it is that Casey is the only person that the horse has let rub all over him. Since he’s clearly tied up, chilling in the cross ties, he seems manageable, so I don’t know why that’s such a big deal. Some horses aren’t all touchy feely, maybe you should respect their boundaries, random girl!?

They decide to brush the horse (going mostly with the hair), and discuss how Rex, who I assume is the gnarled old cowboy owner, retrains race horses, or as the roommate specifies, “reprograms”.

But in what could have been a bonding experience, takes a downward turn when Casey reveals that no one understands her because she watched her brother die in front of her. Pretty harsh. Casey runs away crying.

When sad time is over, Casey is show haltering “Blaze” the racehorse. Rex comments that Blaze, who does not have a blaze, likes her, and asks that she help him train her. At least Casey has the sense to say “I’m not a horse trainer, I just brushed him a few times.”

At least it would seem we’ve finally reached the horse part of this horse movie. The next scene Casey is doing something with Blaze in the round pen, and I don’t understand it at all, because it looks like she’s free lunging him, but Rex tells her she’s not taking it seriously. She tries harder a moment later, by continuing to do the same thing, and manages to walk up to him and attach the lunge line. Apparently this was an exercise in trust. I didn’t know this horse was hard to catch, especially as it showed her haltering him in the previous scene, so I’m kind of confused as to what they are trying to show.

I guess she did well, because Rex rewards her with nicotine gum.

The next scene, she’s back to lunging, and he’s going along nicely, but this is unacceptable, because Rex tells her to bring him in close to her, so she hauls him in and he stops. Then Rex instructs her to do it again. Casey expresses the agony of having to repeat this exercise. I can understand her confusion, because I’m not really sure what they were trying to accomplish the first time.

The next scene, she’s trying to teach him to lead. Apparently, even though he’s been lead the whole time, he no longer knows how to walk. Rex eats an apple nearby and talks with food in his mouth, which is gross, and cements him in my mind as the my most disliked character of the movie. He says Blaze needs to walk with his head down, although it looks to be at a normal height to me. The logic explained is that, as a racehorse, he’s been trained to have his head up to see the finish line. Since I’m not a racehorse trainer, I have no idea if this is a valid statement, but apparently walking like a normal horse is unacceptable if you aren’t a racehorse, so it must be lower. Casey snatches the apple and uses it as a lure to lower Blaze’s head, and they walk over some ground poles. Blaze, concentrating on the apple, knocks several, but it seems mission is accomplished. He is, in fact, capable of taking steps with his nose inches from the ground.

We suddenly jump months forward, and I’m disappointed that there’s no more training shown. How will I know what steps to take next in training?! How do we go from walking with their nose in the ground to riding horse?! But since that’s not important, everyone has gathered to eat lunch and Rex explains that they’ve been teaching Blaze to follow instead of lead. Now it’s time for Blaze to have an audition for some other barn, which is a weird way of saying that someone else is interested in buying him.

Casey talks to Blaze, and by the way she talks, it sounds as though she’s been riding him, but I haven’t seen it yet.

She's super happy now that she has the love of a horse and no longer dresses like a hooker.
She’s super happy now that she has the love of a horse and no longer dresses like a hooker. Let this be a lesson to teenagers everywhere.

Too bad her dad has to show up and ruin things by refusing Casey’s suggestion to remarry her mom. Instead he’s marrying some other woman. The nerve! But luckily Blaze is there to stick his muzzle in her face and whisper sweet nothings to her. I think that must be an OTTB thing, mine does that to me all the time.

Awww, it's just like Berry's big bay muzzle.
Awww, it’s just like Berry’s big bay muzzle.

Then she’s shown actually riding Blaze, so that’s good that she’s learned how to train an ex-race horse, and learn to ride herself, all in less than 60 days. People always have such natural talent in these movies.

They go for a trail ride in the woods, and when it’s time to stop for snacks, there’s some grooms standing by to hold the horses while they all eat. I would like to know where to trail ride to receive this VIP treatment.

Casey interrupts their snacking by remembering her dad getting married, gets upset, and rushes off on Blaze. As she rides away, you can see the results of the months of training. They certainly did a good job getting Blaze to slow down, because he is the slowest racehorse ever, as she attempts to set off at a full gallop. He grudgingly trots before setting off at a reluctant canter. At least it does appear that the actress is actually riding though. They picked a good horse for this movie, big, impressive looking, super docile, and clearly taking care of his rider. The camera goes to her friends who discuss her briefly before it goes back to her. At this point, Blaze has refused to take part in Casey’s dramatics, and broken back into a trot as he goes off camera. He’s way too sensible for her antics.

That night, her gross boyfriend tells her to get her things and meet him at the barn. While waiting for her, he tosses his cigarette into the hay. He tells her they are leaving (which is hilarious because since “months” have gone by, she must be days away from release, so why would she run at this point?), and when she refuses to go, he tries to force her. Casey’s friends show up, there’s a brief scuffle and then, noticing the barn is on fire, the boyfriend rushes away.

Casey decides to be the hero and starts evacuating the horses, by leading Blaze out of his stall, mounting him, and riding like 20 feet to get outside the barn. Seemed like a waste of precious seconds to mount up, but doesn’t seem to matter in the end.

Outside, one of her friends is missing, so she bravely rushes back into the barn to find him. He’s laying in a stall, not anywhere near the fire, and seems to be unconscious. She drags him out of the barn, while the rest of the people stand there and do nothing. What a bunch of jerks! Casey collapses on the ground.

When she’s awake, the camp director declares Casey is fine, except for that smoke inhalation, no hospital visit needed. (Months later, Casey will die of a lung related disease. It isn’t shown, but that’s how I like to imagine it.)

Even though Casey is the hero, Rex punishes her by taking away the opportunity to ride Blaze in his audition. Because she’s somehow responsible for the guy who showed up on his own, and threw a cigarette into the hay. I’m thinking that once again, this boy will end up getting away with no criminal charges filed. He’s a master criminal!

The camp director goes to Rex to complain about him doing this to her, and Rex tells her this audition is important, because if he isn’t a riding horse, it becomes about money, and then the other ranch will have Blaze shipped off to slaughter. Well, he could also not sell the horse to those money grubbing other ranchers, and then the horse would still be under his control. I guess that’s not an option?

Casey has a brief conversation with her friend who attacked her boyfriend, and it inspires her to ride Blaze, so she goes to Rex and demands she ride Blaze. Rex decides that she can. Well, that was easy.

Everyone gathers around, and Casey lunges Blaze for them. Then she mounts up and rides around, to scattered applause at various points of the ride. I’m not really sure why, she doesn’t do anything defining, just trots around a round pen.

The scene is pretty short though, so it’s back to just people drama. But then the dramatic reveal: her dad buys the horse for her!

Casey is so happy, and it ends with her riding around.

But what happened to the barn that burned down?! Did they have insurance?! No one seems to mind so much that it happened, except for a general “Casey is so silly for burning down the barn!” Is anyone going to be charged for the arson?!

And thus ends another horse movie. I rate this one a C for everything that’s not horse related. The horse related content is a D. Passable, but only because I think the horses were only involved for about 20% of the movie.

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