Amber Marshall – the Heartland star opens up about life, love, and horses!

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Amber Marshall – the Heartland star opens up about life, love, and horses!
All photos courtesy of CBC.

This young Canadian actress has managed to thrive on and off screen for the past 13 years. Her secret? Create a life you love!

As any Heartland fan can attest – time flies when you’re having fun! Amber Marshall, the star of this beloved show, couldn’t agree more. Having recently celebrated 13 years of playing the role of Amy Fleming, and seven years of marriage to her real-life cowboy, the budding teenage actress we once knew is all grown up. And she’s loving every minute of the life she’s built for herself! To celebrate this year’s milestones, we sat down with Amber to reminisce on the past, and learn more about her current life both on and off set.

A focus on family

Since Heartland first aired in 2007, this Canadian family drama TV series has become a favorite of horse lovers around the globe. Its success can largely be attributed to the cast, a fun-loving group that Amber is proud to be a part of. Having landed the role of Amy at the young age of 19, Amber has spent nearly half her life on the show, so her co-workers feel like family! My time on Heartland has been incredible so far, and I think that is one of the main reasons years go by with such speed,” she says. “I feel as though I blink, and another year has flashed by.”

Over the years, Amber’s big-happy on-screen family has grown even bigger! Amy is now a mom, which has given Amber the opportunity to act alongside children – an experience she says has been deeply gratifying. “We are so lucky to have found the Spencer girls,” she says. “These incredible twins make our interactions on screen so real and enjoyable and I cannot imagine not having them involved! Ruby and Emmanuella Spencer share the role of Amy’s daughter Lyndy, and both are equally excited and involved in the stories.”

Amy (Amber Marshall) with Spartan (Stormy) in Season 13 of Heartland.

According to Amber, acting with kids is similar to working with horses – both require patience and are equally as rewarding! “There is a very natural and innocent energy that accompanies children and animals,” she says. “They are always present and in the moment. Acting with kids and animals forces you to adapt to the situation, and in turn, become more open as an actor. You essentially are no longer acting, but living in the moment with these improv players who continually steer you off track in the most natural and fluid way.”

Some things never change

Though Amber has seen Amy through a great deal of character development over the years, one thing has remained the same – her love of horses. It’s a reflection of Amber’s off-screen life as well. The Alberta-based actress has always managed to make plenty of time to spend with her herd when she’s not working, a passion she claims will always be a top priority. Her and her husband, Shawn, have five horses of their own, and much of Amber’s free time is spent with them. It’s no wonder that she appears so natural with horses on the show.

Amy (Amber Marshall) with Ty (Graham Wardle) on horseback in Season 13 of Heartland.

“I was very glad to have had a good working foundation with horses coming onto Heartland,” says Amber. “I was also lucky to have done both English and Western disciplines prior to the show, as my character seemed to do it all and do it well.” For Amber, the biggest challenge wasn’t learning to ride the horses, but learning to adapt to their reactions while filming. “Horses don’t read the scripts, but they do react to the situation they are in,” she says. The crew spends a lot of time properly setting up each scene so it feels natural for the equine actors, and Amber carves out time to get to know each of the horses she acts with.

Hundreds of horses have graced the set of Heartland, and many have played various different roles. Each horse is vetted and deemed “set safe”, which makes the filming process much safer and less stressful for all involved. “Stormy will always have my heart,” says Amber, when asked if any favorite horses come to mind. “He has played the role of Spartan for 14 years now, and he and I have both put in a lot of long days and nights working together.”

Work-life balance

Over the past decade-and-a-half, Amber has become an expert at maintaining a healthy work-life balance. She has a busy schedule, but somehow always manages to find time for her family – four-legged members included. “On a typical day, I wake up at 5am, brush my teeth, splash water on my face, and head out to the barnyard to check on the animals,” she says. “I grab breakfast, get dressed in Amy’s wardrobe, then head to the hair and makeup trailer. We usually complete six to eight scenes, and before filming each we do a blocking – which involves the cast (horses and human) and the crew going through the scene step by step and figuring out the movements, actions, props, and locations of the actors and camera.”

The cast rehearses on camera a few times, then begins shooting the scene. Each scene take three to five hours depending on length and complexity, which makes for long days. Though some people like to unwind after work by scrolling through social media, reading a book, or watching television, Amber heads to the barn. In addition to their five horses, Amber and Shawn have four cows, three cats, two dogs, an alpaca, several chickens, turkeys and ducks, and a couple of rabbits. One of Amber’s favorite pastimes after a long day is to sit back and watch her animals interact with one another. “When set up to live a natural life with outdoor space and companionship, they seem to thrive,” she says.

Fortunately, just as she’s done for her animals, Amber has created a life for herself that she loves – and that makes every day enjoyable. With Season 14 of Heartland scheduled to air in early 2021, Amber plans to continue full steam ahead. But she isn’t counting the years, or even the seasons. She’s counting the moments, the memories, and the humans and animals that have made it all worthwhile.