‘Heartland’: The Actors With Real-Life Ranch and Horseback Riding Experience

The TV show Heartland premiered on CBC in 2007, and the series is currently filming its 16th season. Heartland follows the life of Amy Fleming (Amber Marshall) and her natural gift of working with horses. In addition to Marshall, multiple actors on the show have experience riding horses.

Amy and Lyndy sit by a stream with a horse in 'Heartland'
Amber Marshall in ‘Heartland’ | Courtesy of CBC

Amber Marshall plays Amy Fleming on ‘Heartland’

Heartland airs on the Canadian network CBC, and the show is based on a book series of the same name by Lauren Brooke. 

On Heartland, Amy helps traumatized horses through natural horsemanship on her family’s farm, Heartland Ranch. Because horses play such a central part in Amy’s story, it was important to have an actor comfortable performing with animals.

Like her character Amy, Marshall also lives on a ranch and has horses of her own, along with dogs, cats, and various farm animals.

In a 2019 interview for CBC’s official Heartland blog, Marshall shared how her real-life experience with animals influences the show.

“I believe that over the years my character Amy has become more like myself and vice versa. The writers seem to gravitate to stories that of happened in my real life, and by living on a ranch in Alberta myself, I have intern adopted similar traits to my character. It makes what I do come easily and I love being able to bring a realism to the character,” Marshall said.

‘Heartland’ actor Alisha Newton has lots of experience riding horses

Alisha Newton joined the cast of Heartland in the show’s sixth season. On Heartland, Newton plays Georgie Fleming-Morris, the adoptive daughter of Amy’s sister Lou Fleming (Michelle Morgan).

Georgie is a natural with horses, much like Amy, and in later seasons she sets her sights on becoming an Olympic show jumper.

In a 2018 interview with Heels Down Mag, Newton revealed that she had two horses of her own at the time of the interview.

“Riding has become an escape. I can just spend my own time at the barn. It’s very peaceful compared to my busy days on set. Riding has become very important to my sanity,” Newton told the magazine. “It’s difficult to have competitive goals when I’m working all the time.”

She continued, “My goals are just to ride for as long as I can, and Heartland has helped me to do that. So I’m really grateful for that. I just enjoy riding as a hobby, and I try not to take it too seriously like I do the other things in my life.”

Because of her extensive riding experience, Newton does not have to use a stunt double as much as some other actors do while filming riding scenes on Heartland.

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Shaun Johnston has a background in ranch work

While Amy is the main character in Heartland, her grandfather Jack Bartlett (Shaun Johnston) is the family’s patriarch. In the show, Jack is a working cattle rancher and the official owner of Heartland Ranch.

Like his character, Johnston has experience with ranching and horseback riding. He frequently shares updates with Heartland fans about what it is like working on the show on his Instagram.

Johnston is also transparent about which scenes show him riding horses and which scenes use a stunt double, giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at making the show.