TUSCARAWAS TWP. –A man from Texas traveling across the country marrying the man-horse friendship visited a Massillon-area nonprofit this weekend to share training tips.
Patrick Sullivan is backpacking – “mostly bareback and rimless” – from Sacramento, Calif., To Lexington, Ky. He left California on April 16 and is due to travel to Kentucky on October 27.
Sullivan is the Judging Coordinator for the International Liberty Horse Association, which seeks to “showcase horses’ physical and mental ability to work in freedom, without gear or gear,” according to the association’s website.
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Along the way, he visited charities and other nonprofits that involve horses, hoping to “help people realize that horses heal people” and teach horse riding without constraints. It is the method of “dressage to freedom”, which consists in building a relationship of trust with the horse.
As of Saturday, Sullivan said, he has traveled just over 2,200 miles, raising more than $ 50,000 for nonprofits.
He arrived in Stark County with two Arabian horses – Gamilah and Hal – at Whispering Grace and Freedom Farms to talk about the importance of this relationship and the therapeutic benefits for horses and the people who work with them.
Sullivan’s girlfriend, Avery Allumbaugh, drives the truck and horse trailer while Sullivan rides. They also brought a dog, Fen, whom they rescued along the way.
How did Patrick Sullivan get to County Stark?
Bill Shearer, who owns Whispering Grace Horses and Freedom Farms with his wife Marcia, said he met Sullivan through a group of Christian men. When Sullivan left Indiana for Kentucky, Sullivan took a detour, riding his horse to Massillon to visit the Shearers and demonstrate the Freedom Method to the association’s volunteers as a clinic of equestrian training.
About 300 families visit and work with the horses here every week, said Bill Shearer.
Marcia Shearer said five of their horses belong to the Freedom Farms portion, which aims to serve veterans and their families, and another six belong to Whispering Grace, which provides therapy to children and their families.
Lined up alongside a barn, the volunteers watched Sullivan show them on Saturday morning what he said was the need to develop a positive relationship with the horse, a relationship “without the use of ropes or constraints.”
It is a relationship without hitting or shouting on the horse, a relationship based on patience and trust.
“I’ve seen so many times people trying to turn these horses into robots,” a method that doesn’t encourage the animal to trust, Sullivan said.
Develop a relationship of trust with your horse
Climbing bareback to the top of Gamilah, he took a deep breath and it immediately stopped.
“His job is to pay attention to the little things,” he said. “Our relationship is based on trust. I trust her with my life and she trusts me with her life.”
The freedom method involves controlling the direction of the horse, changing direction, and allowing the horse to “pull” towards you.
Inside the ring, Sullivan worked with Jesse, a tall Quarter Horse that Bill Shearer playfully described as “boring and annoying.”
Sullivan declared Jesse as “curious”. As he spoke, the horse seemed interested in sniffing the two loin sticks Sullivan held under one arm.
Sticks, which Shearer says only serve as an arm extension during training, aren’t used for hitting but for guiding.
Sullivan held one in each outstretched hand, guiding Jesse as he spoke to the horse, circled the ring and asked the horse to follow him.
The horse obediently followed Sullivan, not without kicking the ground or shaking his head.
Sullivan didn’t punish or correct him for it, but instead stopped and stroked the horse, speaking softly and praising the horse. The horse responded by following again, this time much calmer.
“You don’t want to punish him for that. It’s just who he is,” Sullivan said. “It’s just his personality, an extrovert.”
Contact Lori at 330-580-8309 or [email protected]
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