hear Houstonian Bailey Gambertoglio lend her voice in the new animated series Spirit Riding Free, which airs on Netflix this Friday, May 5. Inspired by the Oscar-nominated 2002 film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, the six-episode spinoff follows the adventures of Lucky and her two best friends, Pru and Abigail. Through the series, Spirit highlights practical life lessons for kids, like making new friends, learning from mistakes and how to overcome fears.

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Gambertoglio, a 17-year-old Bayou City native, plays Abigail, a goofy yet kind-hearted girl whose horse Boomerang embodies a similar personality. Like her character, who she describes as a “kindred soul,” she also loves horses.

“When I was little, we would go to this ranch and ride horses," says Gambertoglio. "There was this one horse that my babysitter told me was 'my horse.' Her name was Nature.” 

Like horses, she also has a fondness for her Spirit costars—and real-life best friends!—Amber Frank and Sydney Park.

“We're always laughing, screaming and Snapchatting. Whenever we hear news about Spirit, we have this group chat and we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! Did you hear this?’” says Gambertoglio. “It definitely helps when we are recording to have those real-life friendships.” 

Showrunner Aury Wallington spent a year working on the pilot of Spirit. Wallington, whose writing credits include Sex and the City, Veronica Mars and Heroes, departs from older content to channel her childhood passion for horses. While Matt Damon voiced the original character of Spirit in the film, Wallington says this new version has its own personality. Set in the American West at the turn of the 20th century, Spirit focuses on strong female characters and more lifelike horses. But at its core, it's a tale about adventure and friendship.

“The girls have adventures that are only possible in the West, like running into bandits, avalanches, blizzards and racing about," says Wallington. "While we have the adventure and the comedy, we worked really hard to make a grounded, relatable story about friendship.”

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