Barn stormer: Animated series shines humorous light on equestrian life

Some of the characters of Mesquite Grove.
Some of the characters of Mesquite Grove.

The creators of an animated series that shows the “humorous stereotypes and dysfunctional relationships” of equestrians at horse barns the world over are seeking a producer to bring the show to life.

Created by amateur rider Patti Brown Standen, Mesquite Grove is a satirical animation with a humorous take on barn life.

Brown Standen concocted a storyline along the lines of “A reluctantly aging former Olympian maneuvers to maintain control of his tiny equestrian fiefdom of moneyed misfits in small-town Texas.”

Brown Standen began putting pen to paper more than two decades ago after observing the antics at the Texas boarding barn where she rode. She realized the barn was a “unique setting” that was worth sharing.

“[Even if you’re not an equestrian], you can recognize all the characters [at a barn],” Brown Standen said. “There are humorous stereotypes and dysfunctional relationships, just like [in the TV programs] Parks and Recreation and The Office.”

With colleagues Kirk Berlin and Allen Griffith, she formulated the concept of an animated series, full of eclectic characters created through an exaggerated conglomeration of personalities observed at the barn and the horse show.

The main character is Earl Norris, a “former US Olympic Equestrian Team member” who follows his wife to Texas and builds a new business at a place called Mesquite Grove. Brown Standen describes the show as a fusion of Best in Show and Blazing Saddles, as the “nouveau riche culture of the English riders interfaces roughly with that of the local cowboys”.

The creators are seeking a producer to help take their idea from concept to full-fledged animation. While they initially tried to get their idea off the ground in the early 2000s, the recent rise of social media inspired Brown Standen to restart the project.

Mesquite Grove native Guy Patrick and Miko, "the outrageously expensive warmblood horse".
Mesquite Grove native Guy Patrick and Miko, “the outrageously expensive warmblood horse”.

“Social media — we didn’t have that opportunity before,” Brown Standen said. “Our website is a marketing piece. If we can get it in front of a producer or decision-maker, it is our pitch. We need someone to do the animation and put the show together.

“Along the way, we’re hoping [fans] will get a kick out of [what we have],” she added.

In Mesquite Grove, even the animals have personalities and are able to talk, from Dalai the retired show pony and Miko “the outrageously expensive warmblood horse” to Helmuth the snake. What Brown Standen enjoys about the episodes most is that while there is exaggeration in the show, a lot of the storylines are based on real-life events — including an incident where a character, attempting to give kisses to her horse, is suddenly grabbed by the horse — at her orthodontia.

“It’s funny how many of the episodes or things we have people saying did actually happen,” she said. “I think that I like holding up a mirror. Whether or not we can see ourselves in some of those characters, we can certainly see other people in these characters! Also, the animals — equestrians are very tuned into our animals. A lot of us often say what we think an animal might be thinking or saying. I love giving a voice to the animals.”

The team has a plot for the pilot episode and ideas for future episodes.

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