Animals are Heidi Mackay’s passion. She’s lived and breathed horses from an early age and is now turning that expertise into impressive shows for Australian Outback Spectacular audiences.

AOS_HCL_Heidi_Mackay_Red_Portraits_8061As far as interesting people go, Heidi Mackay is up there with the most compelling. Resident ‘Horse Master’ at the Australian Outback Spectacular, Heidi oversees the day-to-day care of the show’s horses and dogs, their ongoing training, the buying and selling of horses across the country as well as coordinating the show’s 25 cast members each night. But this very modest and humble animal enthusiast has a life story of impressive depth and celebrity.

Heidi says, as a kid growing up in New Zealand, horses were simply in her blood. Horse posters adorned her bedroom walls and she’ll proudly tell you she’s seen the movie Phar Lap 21 times. When she was 6, Heidi received every six-year-old girl’s dream Christmas present – a pony. Coco was of the Welsh Mountain variety and “really naughty”.

“He ran away even before I received him on Christmas Day!” Heidi laughs.

IMG_1535While her working life started in a solicitor’s office, it was through a chance opportunity that her real career would unfold. Heidi was invited to spend three months travelling around Australia working as a horse trainer on the mid-1990s film In Pursuit of Honor starring Don Johnson. The production required the management of 300 horses – the largest cast of horses of any movie at that time. The film would open doors for Heidi in the United States and see her spend a big chunk of her career training and managing animals on sets of movies such as Dances with Wolves and Gladiator. She’s even trained ferrets for the US TV series BeastMaster (“One thing about ferrets is that when they bite, they don’t let go!”), hybrid wolves for The X-Files (“I don’t get starstruck much – what I do remember about The X-Files was how big the food trucks were!”) as well as other tigers, elephants, dogs and even wedge-tailed eagles. Among her other film credits are Inspector Gadget and Little Rascals.

Back on the Gold Coast, Heidi’s claim to fame is as an original cast member at the Australian Outback Spectacular. Previous to this, she was an animal trainer for the Animal Stars show at Warner Bros. Movie World. She’s been with ViIlage Roadshow theme parks for 22 years now. While she’s worked with some quiet exotic creatures over the years, horses and dogs are Heidi’s all-time faves.

“I’m that crazy dog lady!” she laughs.

Heidi says that one of the most memorable and rewarding moments of her career so far was when her own beloved Beagle, Scooter, was chosen to star as ‘Brains’ in the Inspector Gadget movie.

“I was just so proud of him,” she says.

“I really am working in my dream job and I do know how lucky I am. I really love going to work everyday and I know not a lot of people can say that and mean it.”

Visit www.outbackspectacular.com.au


Belinda Glindemann

Belinda Glindemann  

Belinda knew she was destined for a career in communications and publishing from the age of 11 when her Year 6 teacher introduced her to poster projects and glitter pens. She completed her journalism cadetship in the Whitsundays and went on to hold various newspaper and magazine editor roles across Brisbane in a media career spanning more than a decade. When Belinda's not writing for haven, she runs her own PR agency, kid-wrangles two young daughters and drinks way too much sweet tea.