Catch Rider

Book review by
Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media
Catch Rider Book Poster Image
Riveting story of determined teen who can ride any horse.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Though Sidney doesn't have much respect for formal education, she studies everything she can about horses and their riders, trainers, and traders, and she passes much of that knowledge along to the reader. She makes an effort to read William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying for her English teacher, and is surprised to find that it contains interesting observations about human nature.

Positive Messages

Drive and talent are important, but sometimes they're not enough to lead you to success. Though Sidney seems well able to live up to her goal to become a catch rider who can ride any horse, her determination must be balanced with a willingness to take help when it's offered, even if it isn't exactly the help she was hoping for.

Positive Role Models

Sidney can be quick-tempered and arrogant, but she's fiercely driven by her desire to become a "catch rider," a rider who can ride any horse. She doesn't let others' opinions affect her focus, and she's staunchly loyal to the few people she lets come close to her. Although Sidney meets plenty of vindictive snobs during her competitive riding experiences, she doesn't become bitter and is able to befriend others in the riding community.


Sidney's mother's boyfriend has a reputation for being abusive. He lives up to it when he threatens and ultimately hits Sidney. Sidney pulls a gun on him when he hurts her mother.


One innocent first kiss.


One of Sidney's classmates is taunted for being a "lesbo."


Though some brand names are mentioned (a Hermes leather bridle, Vogel riding boots), the emphasis is on the attitudes and assumptions of monied horsing society. Sidney's constantly reminded that no matter how great a rider she is, she can't compete if she doesn't have the expensive equipment and accoutrements of the other riders.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sidney's Uncle Wayne is an alcoholic. Although he cares for Sid and is one of the few people she can count on for emotional support, he is unreliable when he drinks, and he drinks often. However, when Sidney really needs him, he does come through and ultimately decides to quit drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Catch Rider is the fast-paced story of 14-year-old Sidney, whose goal is to be able to ride any horse. She has a hard life: Her father died recently, and her mother has taken up with an abusive, controlling boyfriend who doesn't like Sid. Her Uncle Wayne helps her with her horse training, but he's an alcoholic and isn't always reliable. Sidney lives in a depressed mill town in Virginia where there aren't many opportunities for young people who don't have money. People at school make fun of her for being poor, although she doesn't care what they think. And she won't quit until she exhausts every hope.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old July 30, 2015

Has Good Messages. Book Is Centered Around Horses.

I really enjoyed this book and read it many times. Educational: The book has a lot of information about horses. Positive Messages: Has messages about dreaming a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Sidney's home life has been a mess since her father died and her mother took up with an abusive boyfriend. The only relief she finds is going to Uncle Wayne's barn to ride and train horses. Growing up in a depressed mill town, Sidney is surrounded by people who have no hope of a brighter future, but Sidney has dreams: She wants to become a \"catch rider,\" someone who can ride any horse. When Sidney gets a job at a fancy show-horse barn, she works hard and is given an opportunity to make good on her dream. But just when everything finally seems to be going her way, she discovers that opportunities can be taken away as freely as they're given. But a catch rider can ride anything, and Sidney decides to live up to the title.

Is it any good?

What makes protagonist Sidney likable is that she's as hard on herself as she is on the people around her, and she won't quit until she exhausts every hope. Sidney has a hard life and is surrounded by depressing situations, but her sarcastic, no-nonsense observations make it clear she won't let herself be brought down by her environment. The fast-paced story doesn't let up, as Sidney must continually confront the challenges of both her troubled home life and her life in the competitive world of the riding ring.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Familes can talk about horse stories. Why are they so popular? What other books you've read or movies you've seen feature horses as part of the plot?

  • Sydney doesn’t care much for school but reads plenty of books about them. What subject interests you enough to read about it outside of school?

  • Sidney's friend encourages her to tell someone that her mom's boyfriend hit her. What would you do if you knew your friend was keeping a secret like that? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age and horse stories

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