Netflix’s new original series may be titled Free Rein but the series took complete control of this viewer’s (and my mom’s) heart. I was cautious when beginning the show—Netflix had already deeply disappointed the little cowgirl in me with its spinoff of one of my favorite movies, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron—but I was raving about the show even before all the characters were introduced.
The story begins with a 15-year old girl named Zoe who, as cliche as the storyline is, has to spend the summer in the English country where there’s barely Wi-Fi and a completely different lifestyle due to issues between her parents. The cliche continues with the free-spirited horse that can only be tamed by her, perfect best friends, two attractive boys to fight over her, and the mean girl with family issues of her own.
Yet, the cliche isn’t shoved into the viewers’ faces and there’s a mystery happening at Bright Fields Stables: someone is stealing the horses and it’s definitely not the fault of the 500-year old Ghost Pony that Becky loves to talk about. Zoe learns to look beyond what is in front of her in order to catch the horse thief and save the horses, including her troubled stallion named Raven.
All the while, Zoe’s little sister, Rosie, is on a mission to resolve the problems between her parents and get back to her home and the glamorous she had in Los Angeles. Giving horses makeovers and coming up with mischievous plans can be fun but there’s nothing quite like the expansive shopping district of L.A. for the 10-year old diva.
One of the greatest aspects of the series is the beautifully diverse cast that aren’t only characters used for filling the background.
Set in the English countryside, Zoe is the new girl from the United States, a description that fits the actress, Jaylen Barron, well. Barron has Latin American and African-American heritage and is known for acting in Disney and Nickelodeon shows, yet she landed the the star role in this British series.
Her co-stars include Manpreet Bambra, who plays one of Zoe’s new friends named Jade; Navia Robinson, who plays Rosie; and Natalie Gumede, who plays Zoe’s mother. The leading guys are less diverse but “Mr. Perfect” and “moody horse boy,” Marcus and Pin played by Bruce Herbelin-Earle and Freddy Carter, are wonderful as well.
I did face a heartbreaking, dream-crushing reality: Zoe doesn’t choose the obviously perfect guy for her, the one I thought she would choose due to their easy chemistry and adorable banter. Other than that minor twist, my mom and I were overall addicted to the show and pleased with the storyline and characters.
Free Rein is a beautiful combination of the technicalities of the equestrian lifestyle with the natural bonds of riders and their horses as well as the everyday struggles of a group of teens striving for independence, popularity, and the feeling of fitting in. It is easily appeals to my thirst for knowledge of the equestrian world and keeps me on my toes with every twist.
For someone who spends her free time looking for horse-related movies and shows—going as far as watching actual dressage and jumping competitions—I loved how the typical story was taken, twisted and transformed into something that can be extended beyond a person’s love for horses and the countryside.
With only 10 episodes that are about 30 minutes, the show was far too short and I anxiously await the second season. I recommend watching the series with caution; the show draws in its audience with gorgeous oceanside cinematography and charming characters and captures them with a captivating storyline, breaking their hearts with a cliffhanger that won’t be answered until the second season’s premiere next year.