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Saddle up for these horsey dramas
At 15 seasons strong and counting, there's a reason Heartland is one of TV's longest-trotting series. The wholesome Canadian series stars Amber Marshall as Amy Fleming, a woman who trains and heals horses on her Montana ranch. We've watched Amy grow up from a young girl mourning the death of her mother to a mother herself over 14 years, along with all the family and romantic drama between. Season 15 ended late last year, and though there has been no word on a Season 16 (cross your fingers), we're sure an announcement will be coming any day now. But what should you watch while you await word?
We've lassoed the best shows for horse girls and fans of Heartland to watch next, including family dramas set in small towns and on ranches, series about young women and their special bonds with horses, and shows about persevering through the struggles of life.
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Looking for more recommendations of what to watch next? We have a ton of them! We also have hand-picked selections based on shows you already love, as well as suggestions for what to watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+, and Peacock.
Beautiful country, wholesome romance, caring for animals... that's all part of Heartland, sure, but it's also available in spades on PBS's delightful All Creatures Great and Small. The latest adaptation of James Herriot's books about the life of a veterinarian in northern England features many similarities with Heartland, but through the lens of British period dramas. The daily cases may deal with sick or injured animals, but the series hums along with beating heart of its romance between James (Nicholas Ralph) and Helen (Rachel Shenton), the daughter of a local farmer. And yes, there are horses!
If you love Heartland but don't watch for the horses, then first of all, are you sure you're OK? Second, you can still find the ranch family drama that's so key to the series in Paramount's Yellowstone. But I had better warn you right now that the drama is a bit more on the heavy side, with a lot more murder and deception at the root of the family's problems instead of unruly horses and stuck-up horse boys. Yellowstone stars Kevin Costner as John Dutton, a Montana rancher who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his land from the greedy fingers of government, developers, and Indigenous tribes who claim the land as their own. But his real enemy might be members of his family, who have their own aspirations.
The horse-meets-girl, girl-falls-in-love-with-horse story is perhaps no better exemplified than in Dreamworks Animation's Spirit Riding Free, an eight-season, two spin-off, two specials kids juggernaut for Netflix. Before you think you're too good for an animated show about girls and horses, think again. Loosely related to the Oscar-nominated animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Riding Free instead focuses on Lucky, a 12-year-old girl from the big city who moves to a small frontier town and bonds with a wild mustang named Spirit. Over the course of the series, Lucky makes friends, competes against snooty rivals, and goes on many adventures. This is the gateway TV show for young girls to become horse girls.
This totally "horsesome" (horse + awesome, according to one of Free Rein's plucky characters) show is aimed at younger audiences than Heartland, but the similarities with Heartland will cross all age boundaries. The series follows 15-year-old Zoe (Jaylen Barron), an American who spends a summer in her mother's hometown, a small, pastoral town in England that just so happens to include one of the best horse stables in the area. Like Amy, Zoe has a preternatural way with horses and bonds with a particularly rowdy but beautiful black horse named Raven, who only seems to be chill with her. Along the way, Zoe makes friends, competes against snooty rivals, and makes eyes at some of the cute British boys. I sense a theme here.
A horse only plays a small part in this family drama that ran on the WB from 2002 to 2006, but not every show on the list has to be about horses. (Or does it?) Everwood starts in a similar place as Heartland, with a husband mourning the loss of his wife and a family shaken without its matriarch. A renowned New York surgeon (Treat Williams) moves his 9-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son to a small town in Colorado to rebuild all of their lives, leading to a lot of emotional drama for every member as they adjust to their new surroundings.
The Australian series The Man From Snowy River, also known as Banjo Paterson's The Man From Snowy River down under and Snowy River: The McGregor Saga in the United States, is a classic of pastoral television. The wildly popular award-winning modern Western was essentially a four-season soap opera set in the late 19th century about a rancher in Australia whose life is upended when his old flame returns from England, while also following the romantic adventures of his son and the family's struggle to keep their land.
Maybe you love Heartland for Ty's storyline of redemption and second chances via horses. Horse girl, do I have the show for you. ABC Family's 2005 drama stars a pre-Padalecki Genevieve Cortese as a teen female convict who gets a conditional release after getting a job at Raintree Ranch when an employee notices her ability to soothe even the most bucking bronco. Her new life at the ranch brings her face-to-face with obstacles, including the ranch owner's two sons, forming a love triangle that's hotter than a horseshoe at high noon! (Is that a saying?) However, unlike Heartland, the horsies in Wildfire aren't being trained to become show horses; they're being saddled into horse racing. Still, horses!
Like Wildfire, Caitlin's Way chooses to watch our heroine blossom from troubled lawbreaker into a beautiful horse girl, but even further down the timeline. Caitlin is a 14-year-old punk rock girl from Philadelphia with a passion for photography who's in and out of foster homes, but like the Fresh Prince finds her life turned upside down when she leaves Philly to live with her distant family in Montana. There, she befriends and rescues a horse named Bandit and is welcomed by her incredibly kind mom's cousin, her husband, and their goofy son. Caitlin (and the show) takes a while to warm up to her surroundings, but she eventually learns that ranch life is a lot better than juvenile hall. The Canadian series, which aired on Nickelodeon from 2000 to 2002, was a few years behind its time, as it's dripping with goofy mid-'90s teen angst. Whereas Heartland feels timeless, Caitlin's Way is definitely a time warp back to the '90s. It's not available to stream on any major services — curse you, streaming gods! — but the episodes are available on YouTube.