More than a horse person, Heidi is also chief dog trainer for Australian Outback Spectacular. “The Kelpies are so amazing, they make me look good,” she laughs. “They know each person and will interact differently with each lead actor… sometimes they will take the mickey out of them!
“I now have three Kelpies – Red, aged 10, Oi, aged nine and new recruit Spud, nine months. Oi, he was Red’s double and therefore had to be called Red in the show. The dogs live with me at home, and I couldn’t have two called Red. We called him Oi so that when the actors called him, they could say “Oi, Red, come out here!” People laughed at me when I did it. Now when I’m at the dog park, I’m yelling out “Oi!” and everyone turns around.”
A LIFELONG LOVE
Although Heartland is in its fourth year, a lot of downtime courtesy of Covid means it’s planned to continue for another two years – and besides, it has been incredibly popular. “We’re so busy at the moment. We’re sold out every show!” says Heidi, who has been through many show changes over the years.
“Starting a new show is an exciting – albeit massive – job. It’s heads down, bums up for at least 12 months, and then it’s at least six months after that until you can start to relax and the show begins folding into itself. It’s really exciting for the cast to be involved in something new and so big.”
Heidi says she couldn’t imagine working anywhere else, and it’s a sentiment shared by others in the team, including a stablehand who has been there 17 years, Heidi’s 2IC of eight years, and the Village Roadshow Theme Parks General Manager, Shane Phillips, who has been with the company for an incredible 35 years. Australian Outback Spectacular has also been a launching pad for many in the equestrian industry: “I’ve seen lots of people come through our show and go on to do bigger and better things, and now they are really thriving in the horse world,” observes Heidi.
Landing the job with Australian Outback Spectacular 17 years ago really was a dream come true for Heidi, and she has no intention of doing anything else. She credits the animals for her longevity in the job: “It’s why I’ve stayed for so long. I will retire here; I have no doubt!”
ANOTHER AUSSIE ICON JOINS THE CAST
Outback farmers, Australian Stock Horses, Kelpies… Outback Spectacular really is quintessentially Australian. In August, the production welcomed another fair dinkum Aussie cast member in RB Sellars, with the rural outfitters named as the new presenting partner for the iconic Gold Coast show. Not only will RB Sellars outfit all team members at Australian Outback Spectacular, but a new on-site store will allow audiences to peruse their hard-wearing workwear and down-to-earth wardrobe essentials pre- and post-event.
The human cast members are enjoying the benefits of the partnership, with the brand’s workshirts in demand by the team: “I’m dressed in RB Sellars shirts, I really love them,” enthuses Heidi. Not to be outdone, the savvy equine stars have of course requested their own RB Sellars apparel!