MAINE — A type of horseback riding named liberty or bridleless riding is becoming more popular, thanks in part to a woman who grew up in Pittston.

Avery Allumbaugh Sullivan gave a demonstration of liberty horseback riding Saturday evening, Sept. 23, at the Farmington Fair. The Franklin Journal reached out to her beforehand to learn more about liberty horsemanship and her horse journey.

“I started riding at a lesson barn at six and was quickly hooked,” she replied. “When I was a little older I joined 4-H and participated in many of the 4-H fair shows each year. I represented the state of Maine at ESE [in West Springfield, Massachusetts] for two years. I competed on the 4-H Eastern States Exposition team two years in a row.”

Allumbaugh was reserve champion in showmanship and grand champion in equitation in 2012. “4-H is a great way to be a part of the community and learn life skills,” she said.

Avery Allembaugh Sullivan rides Indigo using no bridle and a saddle pad without stirrups during a liberty horsemanship demonstration Sept. 23 in the pulling ring at Farmington Fair. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Allumbaugh had seen liberty horsemanship at different equine expositions growing up, but always viewed it as a “magical” part of horsemanship that she wouldn’t be able to do with her horses.

“I participated in a Double Dan Horsemanship Intro to Liberty clinic in the fall of 2018 and learned some of the horsemanship behind the magic,” she told the newspaper. “After that I knew I wanted to learn more. I interned with Double Dan in Kentucky the next summer, and then went back in 2020 and stayed in Kentucky to work and learn for a year and a half. After my time there I went to Texas with Gamilah Unbridled and have been working with different horses and expanding my liberty knowledge as much as I can.”


While working at Gamilah Unbridled, Allumbaugh met Patrick Sullivan. They were married last month at Acadia National Park.

Patrick Sullivan is the founder of Modern-Day Horsemanship, whose purpose is providing liberty education around the world. In 2021, Sullivan rode Gamilah MJA, his Egyptian Arabian mare bridleless from California to Kentucky. During the 2,500 mile trip, they stopped at 17 different non-profits, raised $50,000 for non-profits, and helped to rehome over 15 horses.

From that experience the non-profit Gamilah Unbridled was created. According to the website, “Each year it takes on a different project to help others and promote the power of liberty.”

When asked about the differences between liberty and traditional horsemanship methods Avery replied, “Liberty is by definition the art of being free. We find one of the most powerful things it gives the horses is the freedom to choose. When you take the ropes away, the truth comes out. With liberty we give the horses the ability to be very honest with us and tell us where they’re at and what they’re ready for. Because of that, we find our relationships grow far stronger.”

She noted there isn’t a huge difference in the time needed to train a horse using liberty methods. “Often, in the first liberty session a horse will be following its owner around,” Avery wrote. “Of course as we get more advanced with the maneuvers, it takes more time, but that applies to non-liberty horsemanship as well.

“It’s definitely very horse specific as well. We’ve worked with a wide variety of horses, from high level performance horses to very feral [wild] rescues. Each horse is different and with liberty we progress on their time table.”


When asked about the benefits of using liberty methods Avery replied, “For the rider, because the horse is listening to our body language and energy it teaches awareness. It helps us improve our horsemanship because we’re truly listening to our horse and trying to have a two way conversation with them.”

There is something indescribable about connecting and communicating with a horse completely at liberty, Avery noted. “Communicating with them with very little tools requires us to be very aware of our energy and body language, it’s a challenge we really enjoy,” she stated.

The Sullivans are still finalizing details on programs focused on connecting youth through liberty that will be available through Modern-Day Horsemanship. The plan is to announce them in January.

Regarding youth programming, Avery stated, “The past couple of years have been more focused on spreading liberty and helping the rescue horses. We’ve had clinics at several youth programs and will be adding more youth events this next year.”

The Gamilah Unbridled website [listed above] gives a good synopsis of previous projects.

The Sullivans undertook a horse rescue project in 2022 where they selected horses based off an application process. “We had some age and health requirements, but otherwise were looking for the most challenging horses we could find,” Avery noted.

The Farmington Fair demonstration was one of the Sullivans’ last events in Maine this year. They will be holding a clinic Oct. 7-8 at The Horse Barn in Norridgewock.

The couple lives in Texas for the winter, comes to Maine for the summer. “Those are our two home bases, but we travel all of the country for different clinics and events,” Avery noted. “We don’t have a “facility” that we run a program out of, instead we try to bring the education to other facilities.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story