Because Australia and Canada seem to have so much in common, the ABC commissioned this pony-themes series about three pre-teens (Canadian-to-Aussie ratio: two to one) who, uh, loved to ride horsies. They rode horsies all day, every day. "But what about school," the more responsible reader will ask. School schmool! There's no time for school when there are horsies to ride! Set in the stables of Pine Hollow, Stevie, Lisa and Carole form their titular Saddle Club. Depite being seemingly ridiculous to the average-aged viewer of this blog (why do all girls love horsies so damn much?) this show dealt with its fair share of over-dramatised themes, from friendship to love to just how to cope when your favourite horsie breaks its leg and takes a trip to the glue factory.
I have a very small but very embarrassing confession to make -- I loved this show, even though it came out when I was like eleven and probably past the key age demographic. Really, REALLY loved it. I used to write my own Saddle Club fanfiction before I even knew what fanfiction was. Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't a Mallory Pike-esque horse freak or anything. I didn't even read the books. I just adored loved this show. Looking back, as I have today, it definitely falls into the Captain Planet-inspired, 'we thought it was a good idea at the time' category. None of these kids can act, the characters are bland, and how is it possible that these three girls keep facing disasters every week? Falling off your horse is one thing, but falling down a mineshaft, getting bitten by a snake and plummeting off a cliff should be once-in-a-lifetime fare, yes? Not if you're the Saddle Club, it's not!
Let's do a quick meet of the characters:
Stevie Lake (Sophie Bennett) -- the Kristy Thomas of the group, and Canadian #1. She's kind-of a bitch to anyone who happens to not be in the Saddle Club, but she also holds the Mary Anne title for getting a boyfriend before all the other girls.
Carole Hanson (Keenan MacWilliam) -- the wannabe-vet with the dead mother, and Canadian #2. (Everyone else from here on in seems to be decidedly not Canadian.)While all the girls love horsies, Carole loves them just a little bit more, thanks to her late mother, who was a veterenarian.
Lisa Atwood (Lara Jean Marshall) -- the nice richie. Don't let her wealth fool you like it fooled Stevie and Carole that first episode. Lisa's down-to-earth and pleasant, and also a bad luck magnet for some reason. Truly. In the first season alone, she ends up being bitten by a snake, thrown down a mineshaft, almost killed by a bout of appendicitis, and goes into a coma. A freakin' coma.
Veronica DiAngelo (Heli Simpson) -- the mean richie. She's the girls' main nemesis, the smarmy blonde who needs everything to go her way. She also kinda looks like Leonardo DiCaprio, which is weird but I think worth mentioning, no?
Kristi Cavanaugh (Kia Luby) -- Veronica's lackey, and totally my favourite character. She was cool in her own right, though, and her main character trait was that she was in love with Red the stablehand. She, uh, developed a little quicker than the others, so she was probably a lot of the older brothers' favourite, too.
Red O'Malley (Nathan Phillips) -- the sexy stablehand. He's kind and sexy and good at his job, and...and sexy. I had such a crush on this guy, and I actually got to see him in the flesh once when he filmed a movie in my suburb. (He bowled at the bowling place where I bowl!) He was recast in the second season, but thankfully I'd stopped watching by then. Oh, and Americans -- he was the guy from Snakes On A Plane, the one who wasn't Samuel L. Jackson.
Max Regnery (Brett Tucker) -- the stable owner. He's a little bit strict, but generally nice as pie. And ladies, he really does make Red look like a boy. He was definitely the eye candy of the show for the mums/older sisters/Lorelai 2010.
Mrs. Reg (Catherine Wilkin) -- Max's mother and Pine Hollow's co-owner. She's the sweet older lady who, by the looks of her, squeezed out Max at the ripe old age of nine.
Phil Marsden (Glenn Meldrum) -- the guy of the group. He ends up being Stevie's boyfriend, but at the start is just a nice shot of testosterone in an otherwise female cast of characters.
Ashley (Janelle Corlass-Brown) and Melanie (Mariska Sieta) -- the younger girls. Melanie is Lisa's little sister, and Ashley is her friend who always hangs around for the cred. In the second season, Mariska was replaced with the more looking-like-Lisa-esque Jessica Jacobs, who actually died not long ago in a train accident.
Pine Hollow is gearing up for a special mystery weekend. Not to be confused with the overnight trail, which was last week's episode. Stevie, Lisa and Carole are checking out Phil's horse, while Veronica is checking out Phil's mate Greg. Nice. Phil and Greg walk over to the ladies and start giving us some exposition about how the mystery weekend is supposed to raised enough money to save their beloved pony club. A...a pony club? Really, Phil? You try and pick up girls by talking about how you're in a pony club? What kind of queer shit is that? To save Phil from any more questions about his sexual preferences, Max appears in a Sherlock Holmes-esque outfit, yammering on about how a crime has been committed and a horsenapping needs to be solved. Aw, jeez. My thoughts go out to Brett Tucker, who's actually quite a good actor when he's not whoring himself like this.
Credits time! See, this is where this show differs from simply every other one I know about -- the main version of the theme song is actually sung in the closing credits, while the opening credits are accompanied by a modified instrumental version. Isn't it usually the other way around?
All the kids are getting ready for their ride, except Phil, who tells Stevie that he's feeling sick. Cough*bullshit*cough! Ahem. Anyway, Stevie runs into some really snappy girl named Nia who acts all shady. Is this part of the mystery, or is she just it a bitch? That's the question you must answer if you want Saddle Club bragging rights. (I'm assuming you do.) Greg the random friend seems to think that it's the latter. He goes into Mrs. Reg's office where his father (the cold businessman type) is talking on his mobile. His dad pretty much ingnores him, because, seriously, kid's in a pony club. Clearly daddy dearest ain't exactly thrilled. Veronica comes up to Greg and offers to let him ride on hers and Kristi's team now that Phil's chucked a sickie.
Ashley rushes in and tells everyone in her little munchkin voice that her brand new saddle is gone as well. Gone from the room where that bitch Nia was loitering around before, too. The sociopathic Saddle Club decide that it must be a clue to the mystery. Carole's like, "Ashley was great. Those looked like real tears!" That's because they fucking were, Carole. How many small children do you know that can cry on cue?
The kids all get on their horsies and start looking for clues. So...is the plan just to let these twelve-year-olds ride around in the bush by themselves with absolutely no help or guidance or anything? Because that doesn't really seem safe. Did they not watch the episodes with the cliffs and the mineshafts and the snake bites? Stevie sees a figure running through the bushes, and swears that it looks like Phil. Carole and Lisa think she's delusional, or maybe it's wishful thinking. (At this stage in the series, Stevie and Phil have a sort-of Kristy Thomas/Bart Taylor relationship.)
Meanwhile, Veronica is trying to get up close and personal with that sexy pre-pubescent Greg fellow. Greg complains that his father only sees his pony club as a business deal; he never actually comes to watch his son prance around on a horsie. Greg, this is an easy fix: stop calling it a pony club and put on a copy of The Man From Snowy River. There's nothing more manly than The Man From Snowy River! He's a freakin' stockman, for goodness' sake! He has a hat! And a whip! Veronica and Greg try to out-deadbeat-dad one another, and while all this is going on, Kristi finds a clue in a golden envelope. Dang, Kristi, I knew there was a reason you were my favourite. The clue suggests they head towards the creek for the next one, and Kristi takes the envelope off the tree. Greg's like, "Sacrilege! How will the others find the clue if we take it?" Veronica tells Kristi to put the clue back, then takes it when Greg's back is turned. Not even true kiddie love can stop Veronica's Veronica-ness. It's oddly comforting.
The Saddle Club girls are riding around aimlessly, looking for clues that aren't there anymore. Stop for a second and think how funny that is. They're just wandering around in circles! It's awesome! Lisa finds some hoofprints in the dirt and think they're a clue. Hint: they're not, but it makes it even funnier that they think that. Just when the girls think they've caught a break, the bell rings and they're forced to retire for the night. Wow. Short mystery day.
Back at Pine Hollow, the kids are having dinner. Stevie approaches Phil and asks him if he's feeling better, and he acts all shifty and says that's he's not. Right, 'cause he's not up to anything at all. Lisa talks to Sam (a tertiary character there's no need to care about) and he complains that his group has hardly found any envelopes. Lisa's like, "What envelopes?" Heh. At least Sam's found some. Greg rushes in and yells about how his tack's gone missing. I'm not sure what a tack is, but I heard it enough times during my Saddle Club phase to know it's some horsie crap. (How helpful am I?) Lisa's like, "Ha ha, another clue," and Max is like, "No, Lisa, you insensitive little jerk. The clues are in fucking envelopes. You'd think you would understand this by now, seeing as how Sam literally just told you that."
It's time to hit the hay. Literally. The kids are all camping out in sleeping bags on top of haybales. That can't be sanitary or comfortable. Veronica is going on about how sad it is that someone stole Greg's tack, and bitchy Nia comes along and tells her that his tack was flashy and overpriced anyway. Way to act like suspicious, Nia. Unless of course Nia's actually a red herring -- then she's actually doing her job really well. I'd probably be stumped if I was eleven again and hadn't already seen this episode. Mrs. Reg comes along and tells them that it's lights-out time, and Ashley, scared that there could be a thief in the building, asks her to leave them on. Mrs. Reg's like, "Uh, no." How kind you are, Mrs. Reg. It should also be noted that Ashley's wearing a hat to bed, which is a little odd, no?
Lights out apparently means nothing for the Saddle Clubbers, who start talking about how screwed they are re this whole mystery thing. Lisa, ever the optemist, suggests that the hoofprints they found could be clues to the real mystery of the tack-thief. Hmm, I like how Lisa thinks. Are you coming last in your pony club's mystery game? Don't worry, just make up your own and win that by the default of you and your friends being the only people who know about it! Carole suggests that since the hoofprints were made by special horsie shoes (or something -- I'm failing in horsespeak right now, aren't I?) then it can't possibly be anyone from Pine Hollow. Steve suggests that Phil's the tack thief, and all the girl gasp. How dare she accuse her sometimes-boyfriend!
The girls go downstairs to look for clues. Lisa complains that the tack room's locked, so Carole gets the spare key. Whoah, check it out, Stevie -- Carole knows where the spare key is! By your shitty logic, she must be Phil's accomplice! They go into the tack room and Lisa, with a confused look on her face, announces, "Everything here's safe and sound!" Well duh, Lisa, the door was locked. It was locked up nice and tight until you and your friends unlocked it. The girls then go into Mrs. Reg's office and guard the (locked) door. Just in case that whole lock thing doesn't work. The second they fall asleep, a shadowy figure picks the lock and goes a'stealing, naturally.
Morning comes, and Veronica wakes to find her tack gone. Who could need this many tacks? (Unless they're like, disposable, but then I don't really see what the big deal is. God, I really need to work out what a tack is.) The Saddle Clubbers come see what all the fuss is about, and Veronica accuses them of stealing her tack. It seems that Nia saw them go downstairs in the middle of the night and unlock the door. Max tells Carole off, probably because she's black. I'm just saying. Stevie and Lisa come to Carole's defence and say they were all in on it, so Max disqualifies them all from the mystery weekend. Dum dum DUUUUM! No great loss, considering they were coming last anyway.
Greg is walking his horsie around the stables when Phil comes up and asks him why the thief stole his tack and not his bridle. Joy, another horsie term. I just know that it's all stuff you put on a horsie pre-ride. Greg admits that it doesn't really make sense, and maybe the thief doesn't know what he's doing. I'll say. While this is going on, the Saddle Clubbers are mucking out the stables. Whoah, so their punishment is to sit out the mystery AND shovel crap? Can a riding school even make their students do that? I mean, I used to take group keyboard lessons when I was eight, and I was behind my share of class disruptions, but not once did they ever make me clean the toilets. Anyway, Veronica comes along and tells them, "Max lent me some tack." So it's some tack now, as opposed to a tack? Is...is this tack they speak of shapeshifting? Can it spontaneously multiply? I should Google it, but by this point, my stubbornness has well and truly taken over.
Max comes along and ushers the remaining contestants to their trusty steeds. He tells the girls that he hopes he can trust them not to leave the stables until they're done with all the shovelling. Right, Max, because that's what I'd do with my prime suspects -- I'd leave them alone, unsupervised and with the knowledge of a spare key to the scene of the freakin' crime. Think about it, Maximilian. The girls seem devastated that Max is disappointed in them, and to be honest, I would be too. His 'disappointment' face is truly heartbreaking.
Phil comes by, walking his horse, and Stevie's like, "Hey Sickie, WTF are you doing if you're so sick, Sickie?" Phil tells her that maybe getting some air will help him feel less sick, and then expresses his disappointment that they're not in the comp anymore because he knows he didn't do it. And how does Stevie react to these kind words? By saying behind his back, "Of course he knows we didn't do it, because he's the real thief." Gee, that's nice. There's the Kristy Thomas in her coming out again.
In the office, Mrs. Reg asks Max if he really thinks the Saddle Clubbers stole Veronica's tack, and he admits that he doesn't. But they did go into the tack room after curfew, which warrants a punishment in his books. I like that Max actually has the nerve to punish his best students. All too often, a teacher/parent/horsie instuctor in the YA genre will give us some shitty reason why he can't possibly reprimand a certain invidual, even though the truth is that he simply likes 'em too damn much. (I'm looking at you, Mr. Collins!) In fact, we actually get this exhange, which I am quoting verbatim:
Max: Veronica's right, Mum. If it were any other students, I would have
disqualified them. I can't show them special treatment.
Mrs. Reg: Of course you can!
Mrs. Reg, for shame! I used to like you. In fact, Mrs. Reg looks and speaks exactly like one of my high school teachers, except this bitch I'm talking about had balls of steel. She was awesomely evil, and totally my second-favourite teacher. (I really can't look past the gay, musical theatre-loving Legal Studies teacher who fell asleep when we went to the supreme court to watch a trial.) But enough about me. Just as Mrs. Reg is singing the praises of the Saddle Club, they're sneaking out to find the real tack thief.
The girls saddle up their horsies and follow the strange footprints...straight to Phil. They confront him about being the tack thief, and he's like, "Seriously? You girls call yourselves the smart ones, and you still think it's me?" Lisa yells about how she can't believe he stole from the Pine Hollow peeps, and he has to reiterate that he didn't steal anything -- he's the one who's been planting the clues. Phil is in on it, y'all. Yell out if you didn't see that one coming. *Crickets* Yeah, that's what I thought.
Stevie calls bullshit on Phil's excuse, because why would he be going around on Day 2 leaving clues? Phil tells them that he's now trying to clear their name -- he thinks it's Greg who's stealing all the tacks. Just then, they spot Greg riding like the wind. I'm not sure what he's doing by himself without his mystery group, but there he goes. I totally remember how this Greg thing ends, because this was one of the episode I based my fanfiction on. I'm not going to tell you who the perp is, though; you'll just have to wait and see like everyone else. Or you could use logical thinking and reasoning to work it out as well, if that's what floats your boat.
In the ensuing chase, Greg falls off his horse. I don't think it's supposed to be suspenseful, because they've got this weird fruity flute music playing in the background. Carole rushes to catch up to his horsie, while Phil, Stevie and Lisa corner dear Gregory and take him back to the stables. I guess the mystery weekend's over, then.
In the lounge, Phil asks the girls how they could possibly think he was the thief. You know, if I were him, I'd be a bit more upset about their false accusation. Lisa's like, "So what about that chick Nia? Why was she acting like a heinous bitch-monster?" and Phil tells them that she was helping him hide Nickel for the mystery, or in Lorelai's words, "being a red herring." Hold on, wait...they actually hid the horse? Isn't that a bit literal? I'm not sure what the need was for hiding the horse, but okay. Max comes in and yells at the girls for disobeying his orders and leaving the stables, but they tell him (and Mr. Greg's Businessman Dad, who just happens to be there) that they caught the tack thief -- and it's Greg. Just then, Mr. Greg's Businessman Dad's phone rings, and Greg storms out dramatically. Because all this was about a little bit of child neglect! Of course! Stevie suggests that he go talk to his ne'er-do-well son instead of answering his phone, and suddenly Mr. Greg's Businessman Dad sees the error of his ways! Nothing like some hard truths from a twelve-year-old with an unkind face. Nothing really happens with this whole Greg thing, though. I guess he just gives everyone their tacks back and leads an unhappy, tackless life. Eh, whatever. Nobody really liked him anyway, except for Veronica, but she's pathological so she doesn't count.
It's time for the presentation of the mystery weekend trophy. Mrs. Reg announces that Veronica and Kristi are the winners, and everyone kinda groans and mutters under their breaths. Heh. The girls go over to congratulate their nemeses for plot contrivances' sake, and Phil (I included him in the collective 'girls' at the start of the sentence) notices that Veronica has a bunch of gold envelopes in her pocket, and the two get disqualified. Mrs. Reg decides to give the trophy to the Saddle Club. Fuckin' why, Mrs. Reg? How is that fair? They didn't even participate! And everyone in the lounge cheers for them, even Sam and Co. who actually found a couple of envelopes. The look on Kristi's face at the end there is pretty much the look on mine as well. Screw the brown-nosing Saddle Club, man.
And that's where this episode ends. I should make mention that this is actually where my favourite Saddle Club fanfiction started -- Red the stablehand (who wasn't even in this episode, but that didn't stop me) gets mad at Kristi for cheating, but then Sam falls off a cliff and she ends up saving his life and redeeming herself. I think Max may have even given her the trophy for it, too. Also, I'm embedding the end credits in here for you to take a look at, mainly because the song is bloody catchy and if I have to suffer, so do you.