House Of Games: The Saddle Club Show Jumping Game

John continues to explore what happens when you take popular culture and throw dice at it…

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I love horses. But I can never eat a whole one. It’s an old joke, yet it’s true. Spooky, no?

horse crazy

The source material: The Saddle Club began life as a series of tween-skewing book published by Bantam between 1986 and 2001. Presumably intended as a Sweet Valley High-type series for lonely girls named Jacinta, they were ostensibly written by Bonnie Brayant, but were reportedly churned out by a number of ghostwriters. There were 101 titles in the main series, plus spin-off series of Super Editions, Inside Stories, Pony Tales (get it!?!) and Pine Hollow.

The books are set in the fictional town of Willow Creek, Virginia, and follow the adventures of Carole Hanson, Stevie Lake and Lisa Atwood who all ride together at Pine Hollow Stables. The first book is entitled Horse Crazy, which gives some idea of what’s to come. The girls are 12 years old at the beginning of the series, and they remain that way for the next fifteen years. Perhaps Willow Creek is one of those vampire towns.

The books were made into a highly successful television series in 2001 (and by “highly successful” I mean “highly merchandised” – the show spawned an alarming amount of tie-in product, including a surprising number of half-arsed singles, such as Hello World and Hey Hey, What You Say). The series was an Australian/Canadian co-production – surely a phrase that instills fear in most people – and 52 episodes were produced over two seasons, with a third season reviving the franchise last year (while the third season is considered a continuation, it has been entirely recast due to the original stars unprofessionally refusing to stay 12-years-old for the last seven years –  it’s not surprising women can’t get decent roles on Australian television if they insist on ageing).

saddleclub

The Wikipedia page for the TV show claims the characters were brought together through “recognizing their love for horse riding“, which makes it sound a bit like Brokeback Mountain. Only with horses. The article goes on to say “Throughout the series, The Saddle Club has to deal with Veronica, dressage training, and competitions, as well as the troubles of their friends and staff in the fictional Pine Hollow Stables. Through perseverance and friendship, The Saddle Club always comes through. The Saddle Club also has a mission set before them: get Veronica to take care of Garnet. The Saddle Club wasn’t successful in their attempts to get Veronica to take care of Cobalt, Veronica’s earlier gorgeous horse, due to him being put down because of a jumping accident“. No wonder this article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards.

Based on my intense knowledge of the TV show – the five minutes I just watched on You TubeThe Saddle Club appears to be a handsomely-shot children’s show with virtually no appeal to anyone outside its tight demographic. It also suffers slightly from the “nowhere” syndrome that affects Australian co-productions – while most of the cast are Australian, there’s no indication as to where they are, or why those Canadian kids are living among them. It would appear, however, that we’re probably not in Virginia anymore.

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The show has divided critics – or at least, the crazy semi-literate ones you find on IMDB.

Alyssa V from Maine said “I personally get annoyed to death of the acting of the characters Stevie, Lisa, and Carol and whenever they break out in song on the TV show I change the channel for a few minutes and return, I have noticed that the horses jumping are not the same ones that are walking around and that all the horses conformation is practically flawless. Which does disappoint me“.

While Raven Unknown fron Texas took umbrage with an episode featuring the controversial subject of horse marriage. “To me, this show is very unrealistic. Things that rarely happen in life are always happening on the saddle club. Normally, the girls always here something they misinterpret and they go and try and fix it. Normally, like I said, they misinterpret it. I would recommend this show for younger kids (10 and down). There was this one episode I was watching, and they had either a stud or a brood mare coming to the farm/stable/barn/whatever to be bred. Stevie, Carole, And Lisa decided to throw a wedding for the two horses. Max, knew someone who was due to get married, but they had to cancel the wedding. Guess what happened! That’s right! The wedding that the girls planned for the horses got used for Max friends. To me, that is very unbelievable. I don’t recommend this show, but that is only my opinion“. And apologies for the spoilers there.

MELINDA responded with “i am sick of all the ppl his are baggin it out you all need to get i life and i speak for all the ppl who love the show so get over it all u losers who thinks its a waste of time your a waste of time“. Strong thoughts indeed. But perhaps aimless-46 from Kentucky summed it up best: “If you don’t want or need a straightforward story about the values of friendship, personal responsibility, and saddle club hugs; then don’t watch“.

“Saddle club hugs” = Brokeback Mountain. With horses.

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The game: Purchased at the truly brilliant Also Fabulous op-shop in downtown Smith Street, Fitzroy, The Saddle Club Show Jumping Game was in immaculate condition. So immaculate we decided it was owned by a girl called Mikhala who guarded it with a ferocious love (finding some long blonde hairs in the box only confirmed this idea). All the original parts were there, even the stickers!

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The board represents a show-jumping course with eight obstacles you must clear before completing the course. Charmingly, the game pieces are plastic horses, although they’re not the most graceful of quadrupeds – they tend to fall over when left unattended. They’re also brightly-coloured, which rarely happens in real life, perhaps proving Raven Unknown’s point. This is also the only game we have looked at which has eschewed the traditional “green” piece in favour of a “hot pink” one.

The game play is straight-forward enough – the players must complete the course, including all jumps, as well as collecting cards from the Ticket and Judge spaces. Once they have done this they must roll the exact number to land on the finish line. You can choose to go in any direction and the jumps can be attempted in any order. The “jump” mechanism is also simple – arriving at an obstacle, you take a card to see if you see if your jump was successful. Most of the time, you will fail. Exactly what this does to a small girl’s self-esteem is uncertain.

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Looking through the score cards we discovered that the game had not been previously owned by a Mikhala at all, but by Monique. Monique‘s arch-nemesis appears to have been Eliza, although Sinead, Mum, Nanna and Dad have also played the game, as well as Hugo in what appears to have been a severely truncated session. We wondered what became of Monique – the group consensus was that she probably grew up to be the marketing manager for a major bank, finally realising her dream of owning a real horse, but due to her her work commitments she rarely gets to visit it. Did you win, in the end, Monique? Or did you lose?

Does it match the source material? It’s a game about horse jumping, which is a good start. Beyond that, however, it is a fairly generic horse-related game. There’s not a lot to definitively tie the game to The Saddle Club and not any other horse-related drama, such as National Velvet: The Next Generation, or that modern re-imagining of Mister Ed where it’s all dark and gritty and a metaphor for Iraq, or something. I certainly didn’t learn anything about the values of friendship, personal responsibility and saddle club hugs, but I did have a nice time.

Verdict: The test team expected this game to totally suck and were pleased to discover it didn’t. A surprisingly enjoyable game, The Saddle Club Show Jumping Game would be a perfect gift for a small girl with a gymkhana fixation. And certainly more pleasurable to hearing any of The Saddle Club songs ever again. Like this one:

Final thoughts: “I could imagine playing that again”, “I liked the way the horses kept falling over, it gave you something to do with your hands”, “I got the second-quickest time in AM7!”.

Read the previous entries in this series – The James Bond Secret Agent Game, the Thunderbirds International Rescue Game and The Young Talent Time Game. You can also listen to the Boxcutters episode about TV-themed boardgames. Leave your comments below!

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22 Responses to House Of Games: The Saddle Club Show Jumping Game

  1. StephBG says:

    Real pony books are British and full of mud, snow, depression, disappointment, slog and poverty. With a grudging allowance of happy ending.

    You’d like them.

  2. Narrelle says:

    Real Australian horse books are about wild brumbies and striving for freedom in a harsh landscape, and there is little or no singing. (Yes, I read a lot of horse books as a young girl. Don’t you dare judge me). However, I think Real Australian Horse Books would make dull board games, and having ponies winning ribbons sounds like the kind of fun I would have approved of when I was 10.

  3. Michael says:

    I would really like to be in the next session for test playing a game.

  4. Janice says:

    The original cast recorded 3 albums from 2003 to 2005, here’s a compilation:
    http://rapidshare.com/files/244852416/SCH-0304.rar.html

  5. caitlyn hirschy says:

    i lov the saddle club movies there so exciting and i just love the horses and my most favorite charater is probably veronica beacause she is mean and has anger in her its like really cool how she is so seirous and my second is steavie beacuse she is so funny when she put that rubber spider in veronicas magazine you guys are a great club hey maybe you could teach me how to ride just kidding but i do luv horses so maybe will you send some of those pictures of camanchi and starliht and dont for get patch he is special! so are the others.

  6. Caitlyn Hirschy says:

    um will send me a saddle club game for wii caus iwant it or the pc game i dont care!oh yeah does it caust

  7. please can you send me some saddle club games for wii or a cd of all songs and a goodie bag pleaseeeeeee i am a fan of the saddle club and some gamessss and tell lisa happy birthday for 30 july

  8. grace says:

    Dear saddle club girls iam a big fan of your show i hope you could teach me some of the horses that you rode I have ridden sence I was about a year old I am takeing jumping leasson at KJM Equerstion IN Tulsa OK
    so how did you get the part ? was it that easy mabey I am a 11 year old girl who is about to turn 12 so how long have you girls ridden for me it took about a year to get to jumping did it take you that long to get there or somewhwere like that I wish you could visit me and my riding school IN tulsa ok we have a small riding school is used to be a big but they sold some of the land to other people . Good luck on the espoides

  9. outlandinstitute says:

    Originally I thought these last comments were gag ones, but now I’m not sure…

  10. manistee says:

    Hiya saddle club my name is missy and i must say im such a big fan.you guys are great and amazing actors.My fave saddle club girl is carol and her horse stsrlight,i love the way you canter through the forests.My second fave actor is Steevie I was laughing my but of when steevie played practical jokes on Lisa,and have you seen her horse commanchie he beatiful.My last fave actor is Lisa she is very pretty but not so funny and prancer is pretty aswell,cas u give a shout out to my friend shannon smith ,she loves this programe aswell

  11. manistee says:

    hi popgirl its missy,i am a big fan of your show,Carol is the best because she is caring and have you seen her horse he is the most beatiful animal i have eva seen. my second fave person is steevie she is so pretty and belle is very pretty to.my last fave person is lisa,but i must admit she is very funny,.I love the saddle club so much infact i always watch it .maby if its ok with you ,you could send me some pictures P.S id be very greatful.

  12. Sophie says:

    These must be fakes. If they’re not *says a prayer for humanity*

  13. saif pambra says:

    saddleclub is really cool i just love the way all members of pine holl0w understands these beautiful horse . veronica is really irritating

  14. georgia says:

    hi sophie my name is georgia and i live in scotland

  15. Stinky50 says:

    It appears they now have a chance to debate, so how Plimer treats this moment should be revealing. ,

    • outlandinstitute says:

      How true, Stinky 50 – IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME. Honestly, what the hell happened with the comments on this page?

  16. cally says:

    Hi saddle club if this is real this should have gold medles that the way they jump is professionly oh and i’m cally.

    I love the saddle club love you all.

  17. cally says:

    hi’ya agian you must be sick of me but just want to say series 3 i watch everyday so well done whens series 4 out see you’s later

  18. Hannah says:

    I WANT THE OLD SADDLE CLUB CHARACTERS BACK!!!!!!!!!!!
    Sophie Bennet, Keenan Macwilliam and Lara Jean Marshall, they were such good actors. I hope they come back. I’M SUCH A BIG FAN OF ‘THE SADDLE CLUB’!!!!!!. I’VE WATCHED EVERY SERIES. I’m not impressed by the new saddle club, I just liked the old ‘saddle club’ better. PLEASE SAY THEY WILL COME BACK ON THE SHOW AGAIN!!!!!!

  19. amy says:

    hi i hate the new saddle club i lov the old one i saw all of them

  20. amy says:

    i like the new saddle club but i love the old one so so so so so so so much better

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