Horses on TV: ‘Heartland’

The TV series Heartland has everything you could want from a horse flick: headstrong girl, hot stable hand, family drama and a pretty backdrop. And HN film critic Amanda Ronan is eating it up.

From Amanda:

Here we go again… Amanda has happened across a sappy, sentimental, overly dramatic, but perfectly WONDERFUL horse TV show. This one, Heartland, originally began airing in Canada in 2007 and is based off of the book series of the same name written by Lauren Brooke. I am told there are several key differences from the book series, so I wouldn’t really use the books to judge the show. The USA is also three years behind Canadian viewers, which is the reason I can only review Seasons 1 and 2.

The Heartland Ranch is set on 600 acres in the Calgary, Alberta, Canada area, which looks breathtakingly gorgeous. The main characters are Amy Fleming, played by Amber Marshall,
Ty Borden, played by Graham Wardle, ‘Grandpa’ Jack Bartlett, played by Shaun Johnston, Lou Fleming, played by Michelle Morgan, and Mallory Wells, played by Jessica Amlee.

The main focus of the story is on Amy and her job as a “horse healer” using alternative therapies, flower essences, and a whole lot of deep insight about horse-human interactions
which she learned from her recently deceased mother.

Amy famously says, “We don’t whisper things to horses, we let them speak to us.”

I was very skeptical of this main plot line at first. They were really laying it on heavy the first few episodes with the “T-Touch,” “joining up,” and the use of valerian extract on horses feed, but as the show caught its stride they keyed it down a bit and it felt more natural when Amy “healed” a horse. By the end of Season 1 and well through Season 2 it became more about Amy healing relationships between the horse and its owner, rather than using flower extracts, etc.

Amy’s personal relationships, however, are predictably chaotic. Let me introduce you to Ty Borden. He’s the young newly hired stable hand, of course, with severe mommy and daddy
issues, obviously, who works at Heartland per the terms of his probation.

He lives in the loft above the barn, he usually wears grey sport boxer briefs, rides motorcycles, he has a heart of gold despite his troubled past, is fairly clueless about horses but willing to
learn, and will do absolutely anything to help, protect, care for Amy.

Their relationship isn’t always peachy, but very obvious from the beginning and pretty darn adorable by the end.

Amy also struggles to maintain the relationship with her Type A, OCD older sister, Lou, and her estranged father, Tim. Through all this family drama, two of the real show’s highlights, Grandpa Jack and neighbor Mallory, always offer sage advice. These two characters always seem to show up at just the right time to give us comical relief or bits of wisdom.

One of the best lines of the show was Grandpa Jack in reference to Amy and Lou’s strained sisterly bond. He says, “If she was a horse, Amy, you’d still be out there tryin’.” Wow, that
struck a heart cord.

Overall, I think this TV show is lovable and perfect for a family to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Yes, it’s predictable. Yes, it’s melodramatic. But it’s just good, clean fun! One of the more interesting things about the show is that Amy is always riding something different. We see her showjump, team rope, cattle drive, trick ride and everything in between. A few horses, like her beloved Spartan, consistently show up throughout the series but we also get to see a “horse of the week” that we can fall in love with including ponies, race horses, Grand Prix jumpers, wild Mustangs, and police mounts.

I give Heartland 3 out of 4 Golden Horseshoes and can’t wait to watch the 3 remaining seasons. Don’t give us any spoilers Canadian folks!

Watch Heartland on CBC on Sunday nights at 7 p.m. Visit the website for more information and to view previously aired episodes.

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