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Pair taps into that special bond between horse and human

Toni Cromwell and Mandy Carson join forces to create the Human Animal Relationship Program (HARP) at Springwater Township farm
2020-11-18 Art of Whitespace
Photo supplied

People who spend anytime at all around horses will tell you that they are special. Not only majestic and strong, but horses are also amazingly communicative and known for the special bond they develop with humans.

Toni Cromwell knows from first-hand experience how much her horse, Lucky, has helped her deal with stress in her own life. She opened her mindfulness and life-coaching business the Art of Whitespace in 2019 after leaving an executive position for a big-box retail chain.

Armed with certification courses from the University of Toronto and Wilfrid Laurier, as well as hands-on experience from her previous job, Cromwell began to offer courses in mindfulness, holistic wellness, and breath work to name a few.

When Mandy Carson, owner of Eden Valley, (a horse rescue farm outside Barrie in Springwater Township and where Cromwell boards Lucky) suggested they combine forces and incorporate Carson’s horse rescues to facilitate her courses Cromwell realized how perfect a match it was.

And so HARP, which stands for Human Animal Relationship Program, was created.

The horses that Carson rescues came from a wide variety of circumstances. Some were formerly owned by people who were no longer able or willing to care for them, while others were retired thoroughbreds unable to race due to age, or buggy horses too old to pull carts.

While some arrive intact and healthy, others are not, and a great deal of time and attention goes into making them sound again.

Without intervention, many were headed to slaughter or an uncertain future.

Now, and because of the Art of Whitespace and HARP, the horses have a renewed purpose before being re-homed. And some of the lucky rescues, like Kmoke or Martin, are so good with children in particular, that they stay.

In the meantime, the opportunity to lavish love and attention on the horses before they leave the farm to their new homes, is as beneficial for the clients as it is to the rescues themselves.

With the inclusion of the rescues, courses have expanded into 'forest bathing' through pristine trails on the 100-acre farm and combined with mindfulness training and meditation.

For others with little access to farm animals, grooming and horse care is offered, as well as trail rides and riding lessons, but in a way that teaches clients how to connect with purpose and mindfulness and be in the moment.

In addition, they offer support sessions, healing circles and grieving classes. Special occasions such as anniversaries, celebrations of life and bridal parties can all be incorporated and designed specifically for the client.

“We design our classes to suit the client not the other way around," says Cromwell. “Some people may just want a walk in the forest with one of the rescues, or with Olaf, our resident alpaca, without any set agenda at all, and that is simply fine.

"Our sessions are tailormade based on their wants and goals and can be custom designed for both individuals and groups.”

According to their website, wants and needs could be anything from stress reduction, overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or childhood traumas of loss and or abuse.

Or it could be simply people who need their “horse fix” in nature.

Although Cromwell and Carson get most of their clients through word of mouth and extensive social media, they work with agencies such as Community Living and Camphill, with future plans to expand in other areas like team building with corporations.

Although some things have slowed with the advent of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, Cromwell sees that the pandemic has also created opportunities for them as more people need something meaningful to help them get through the stresses of life.

Their website reflects their beliefs.

“Now, more than ever, our social connections are being challenged and are decreasing dramatically. Animals have the ability to reflect back to us some of our most desired states like love, compassion, joy and kindness. It also takes courage to turn towards animals to find these things you may have felt that you have lost or have not experienced in awhile.”

“It’s Your Life. Design It Well. XO”

To find out more information on how you can participate in one of many courses or programs, contact Toni Cromwell and you can check out their website by clicking here at or check out their Facebook page The Art of Whitespace.