Amber Marshall guest blog: Heartland Horseshoe
This week we have a special guest contributor to the blog: our Heartland star Amber Marshall! I'll let her take it away, and as always, leave you with a reminder that you can watch the show anytime in Canada now on CBC Gem! Thank you Amber, and I hope everyone has a good week!
Heartland is a show that has captivated audiences around the world for well over a decade now. There is a certain magic that accompanies this family drama, and I do believe the horses have a big part in that.
We often refer to the "Heartland Horseshoe" when a moment comes together so perfectly. There is lots of preparation and training that goes into the horses for each scene but at the end of the day there is also a certain amount of luck. That is the Heartland Horseshoe.
Ever since I was young, I was drawn to horses. It started at the age of four when I took a pony ride at our local fair. Seeing the ultimate joy I had being around these majestic hoofed creatures, my parents communicated with the owner of the horses and set up a time for me to visit "Tony the Pony" at his farm.
This turned into a weekly event and I had so many amazing memories learning to ride there. As time went on, I began taking English lessons at a different stable, and at the age of 12, I was able to get my first horse. It was because of this beginning that I believe Heartland took me into their fold. I recall saying at the start of my audition tape, "Hi my name is Amber Marshall and I have two horses of my own." As they say, the rest is history.
I remember my very first day on the Heartland set. I was in a new place meeting everyone for the first time, and in the unfamiliar I found comfort with the horses. Heartland is a unique experience in the world of television. With so much of our time spent outdoors, and with animals, there are more variables than studio-based shows. This is what I believe gives Heartland the freshness that has kept it's cast, crew and stories energized throughout the years.
The horses, in combination with the beautiful mountain vista, are the perfect stress reliever and keep all of us grounded. There is a calmness on the Heartland set and I do believe that is directly related to our equine friends. It is a general understanding on set that our agitation and energy openly affects the animals around us. All who are involved in the making of Heartland know to keep voices and energy calm. This not only allows the horses to feel comfortable but creates a pleasant working environment for all.
There is a reason they use horses for human therapy. Just watching the them running free on the television screen is enough to give anyone goose bumps, but when you are there in person and can feel the ground rumble under the power of 4 hooves it truly takes your breath away.
There is also a realness that the horses bring into the scripted world of Heartland. I often have people tell me that they are so caught up in the show they feel as though we are a real family being filmed working our ranch. Animals are always living in the moment and therefore react to the situation, not the words that are in a script. That is what brings true realism into each horse scene. Knowing and trusting the mind of a horse goes a long way when working with them.
For example, if we need a horse to run wildly in the round pen, then pressure is applied through human body language. If the horse needs to slow to a stop, then the pressure is released. This is as simple as knowing a horse's comfort or flight zone. For some horses it is as gentle as raising your hand and walking into their space to send them away, and others may need more vocal cues. Knowing the horse you are working with goes a long way when on a television set. I am so fortunate to have had a strong background with horses prior to Heartland and they continue to teach me so much every day.
As this has been an incredibly strange and unpredictable year for all, I find comfort in my own horses. This summer has allowed me time to enjoy those who mean the most to me. Although the filming of Season 14 has temporarily been put on hold for the protection of everyone involved, I have found great enjoyment in life on my farm.
Waking up with the rooster to milk my Jersey cow or lying in the lush pasture as a warm breath filled with the smell of fresh grass hits my cheek. All of these simple pleasures are what we find great contentment in when we allow ourselves. I know we will be back filming on set when the time is right. Until then I am taking the occasion to recharge and learn from the world around me. There are still so many stories to tell and the Heartland Horseshoe has not run out of luck just yet.