It may be the dog days of August, but we're talking horses. After all, we had another Triple Crown winner this year with Justify, and the annual Thoroughbred-racing season is well underway at the historic Saratoga Springs Racecourse in my hometown in upstate New York. So, let's get horsey -- take it away, guest blogger Adrienne Thorne!
...Kate O'Hare (editor)
When it comes to non-animated fare, it might feel like there’s just not a lot out there that you can watch with your kids. There’s one little sub-genre, though, that I’ve found to be refreshingly clean, on the whole. That sub-genre is horse drama.
My kids happen to love watching shows and movies that have lots of “horsies” in them. And I’ll admit that sometimes these types of shows and movies do run a little on the cheesy side, or a lot on the cheesy side in some cases. But here are five picks that are actually pretty entertaining.
This 11-season Canadian horse drama is about a teenage girl who loses her mother and decides to carry on her mom’s work of rehabilitating damaged, untrainable horses. There’s lots of family and relationship drama, plenty of storylines revolving around problems with the horses, and an abundance positive values.
On the downside, it’s a bit cheesy here and there (especially the first season — but it gets quite a bit better later on!), and the later seasons tend toward the edgier end of the PG spectrum, with occasional discussion of things like unwed pregnancy and substance abuse — though it’s all treated in a pretty family-friendly way.
This Netflix original series is about a 15-year-old American girl who spends the summer on an English island with some family and discovers her natural ability with horses.
I have to admit that I started watching this G-rated series expecting it to be unwatchably cheesy, but I was pleasantly surprised. There’s a bit of silliness here and there, and definitely more cute teenaged boys crushing on the heroine than feels realistic, but over all it’s not bad.
I remember watching this B&W comedy series about a talking horse named Mister Ed when I was a small child. And as a parent now, I can definitely see why my parents let me. Like most comedy shows of the late 50s and early 60s, this one is pretty clean. And littler kids will probably get a real kick out of the fact that that palomino horse is talking!
“Mister Ed” is currently streaming on Hulu.
This is one of those little movies that look like they could be pretty hit or miss quality-wise, but it’s not bad at all. It’s a PG drama about a feisty pre-teen girl whose unknown father is a rodeo star. Without ever really intending to follow in his footsteps, she discovers she has a knack for riding and begins training with a trick-riding team.
Cowgirls ’N Angels is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
If something educational is more your taste, you might enjoy this documentary about a post-World War II Dutch immigrant who bought a horse bound for the glue factory and trained him into an elite jumper. The film takes a look at their training process, the surprising victories they went on to achieve, and the bond between man and horse.
"Harry & Snowman" is streaming on Netflix right now.
And a bonus from the editor -- since I'm a huge Thoroughbred-racing fan, I couldn't close this out without including two of my favorite films in the genre: 2010's "Secretariat," about racing's second "Big Red" and the 1973 Triple Crown winner (after a 25-year drought), which is on Amazon Prime and Netflix; and 2003's "Seabiscuit," about the legendary underdog champion of the Great Depression, available on Amazon Prime, HBO GO and HBO NOW.
"Secretariat" is PG and suitable for all audiences; "Seabiscuit" is PG-13, for some mature themes, and is probably best for middle-schoolers and up.
And my favorite bit from "Secretariat," featuring a gospel arrangement of a classic hymn:
Images: Courtesy Netflix
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