The Tomten Farm and Sanctuary "People Project"
Who Will You Partner With?
The Tomten People Project is an important part of our mission of "helping animals, helping humans and making a difference one life at time."
This very special program brings people ages 12 to 112 and animals together to form mutually beneficial partnerships…to find each other, to form a bond and to enhance one
another's lives. Animals enjoy individual attention, stimulating activities and the one-on-one care they deserve. People benefit from a very special human-animal connection, a
natural animal-ship education and a unique opportunity to help an animal in need.
Aileen W. and Falah…
A Tribute to Our First People Project Partners
Every horse deserves his own girl who loves him. He deserves a chance, love, patience, education and compassion.
Before there was Tomten Farm and Sanctuary, before there was
a "People Project," there were Falah and Aileen. This 12-year old off-track thoroughbred gelding was dominant and
hard—even his eye was hard. He had no use for human beings—not on the ground, not on his back. He was done. But
there was something about him, that special something that caught Jenifer's eye. So she paid $800 bail for him. It was too
much but she couldn't stand the thought of where he would end up if she didn't. He may have lost his faith in humans but she
had faith in him and so did his new 14-year old friend.
For all his bad behavior, Falah was rewarded with Aileen. She was ready to move up from her local 4-H club and
eager to have her own project.
For almost two years, Aileen and Jen worked tirelessly with this horse, retraining him from the ground up. Quiet,
gentle and the most patient 14-year old you would meet, Aileen spent endless hours just rubbing him with a fleece
girth until he stopped grinding his teeth at the sight of it. Hours sitting on his back but asking nothing of him until
he would place himself at the mounting block. Numerous rides where he was rewarded for just going forward willingly.
He learned his opinion mattered. He learned compromise. He learned trust. He learned about love and patience
Aileen and Jen did as much as they could together, attended Natural Horsemanship clinics and then sought help
from an amazing professional trainer who helped them take Falah even further. During his year-long residence at
that training barn, Aileen still worked tirelessly with him on the ground and under saddle, eventually campaigning on the A-circuit.
Though "officially" Falah belonged to Tomten Farm and Sanctuary, everyone else knew that in his heart he was
always Aileen's horse and in her heart, she was always Falah's person. We are so proud of the partnership, love
and respect they shared and the program they inspired Tomten Farm and Sanctuary to develop for others who believe that dreams can come true.
Laima has known Mary Matilda since she was baby.
Laima W. and Mary Matilda
Before she got to Tomten, the foal that would ultimately be
called Mary Matilda traveled from Rescue to Rescue to Rescue.
In the spring of 2010, when she was just a few days old, she had the good fortune of being saved by a group that
concentrates on rescuing nurse mare orphan foals from slaughter, their usual fate. From there, she (along with a group
of several other fragile nurse mare orphan foals) was transferred to a Massachusetts equine rescue where Jenifer
was an active Board member. Laima also volunteered there,
stepping up to became one of the human mothers who bottle-fed the foals (round-the-clock initially) and later
worked with Jen and other volunteers to help socialize the sweet little foals and get them off to a healthy start.
When they were old enough to go into foster care, Jen offered to bring three of those nurse mare
orphan foals to her Massachusetts farm. Two went on to be adopted; one stayed… the gawky foal
previously known as "Cinnamon," is now the beautiful bay mare known as "Mary Matilda."
By then, Jen was friends with Laima and her daughter, Aileen (yes, THAT Aileen; see above) and, as luck would
have it, when Jen founded Tomten Farm and Sanctuary, Laima immediately signed up to volunteer for what was then called Open Chores Days. It became obvious that the early bond she had shared with Cinnamon would
continue with Mary Matilda.
Laima is now Mary Matilda's People Project person. Her coat has a brilliant shine from Laima's pampering and her
long, silky mane and tail are the envy of all the other Tomten mares. And while Laima's only past equine
experience was with those nurse mare orphan foals, she has worked long and hard to become a real horsewoman.
She is now confident and competent with skills that not only enable her to safely handle Mary Matilda, but also to
work with every animal at Tomten Farm and Sanctuary. She sits on the Board in the Vice President chair. She is truly the "keeper of the farm." We don't know what we would do without her.
Are You a People (Project) Person?
If you have already done a Tomten Tour, volunteering for our Down and Dirty Workdays is the next step for those interested in getting more hands-on with Tomten Farm and Sanctuary. Attend one, all, or any number in-between and enjoy fun-filled days with like-minded people and beautiful animals while
simultaneously making a difference.
Don't stop there however! Wondering just how hands-on you can be? Well, how about
eventually volunteering with a special animal that you can call your "own" project?
That's right, when armed with the skills and know-how to safely navigate our farm,
experienced volunteers may then be eligible to participate in The People Project, a unique program that allows you to choose a project
animal to spoil, handle, train and enjoy…all without the time, work, money and full-time responsibility that comes along with animal ownership.
It's good for you, good for our animals, good for Tomten and a great opportunity for those
people currently unable or not ready to have animals of their own. (We highly recommend it as a test-run for teens who "really, really,
really" want a horse or other farm animal!) Not only will you regularly be here on the farm enjoying quality time with your favorite animal,
you will be simultaneously learning via our natural horsemanship (or goat-, sheep- cow-manship) sessions.
Of course, the People Project is FREE. All we ask is that you make their day, yours and ours a
little brighter by helping out with a few chores while you're here, like checking waters, picking turnouts, mucking stalls or stuffing hay bags.
Your above-and-beyond efforts allow us the opportunity to take the time to teach you and others all that we can (about day-to-day care,
handling and training) and continue moving forward on this journey. The more you help, the more we can teach you and the more time you
can spend on your own providing peace, protection and possibility as you bond with a special member of our rescue community.
As you might imagine, for both you and your project animal to create and maintain a
successful partnership, a consistent amount of time and care is essential so we must request the following:
- You must demonstrate your commitment to Tomten Farm and Sanctuary by volunteering 4 hours per week/16 hours
per month. (This may include time spent with a mentor on regular farm chores, joining us at Tomten's organized Down and Dirty Work Days, Events and
Programs or any combination of those.)
- When we both feel you have the education, skill sets and safe handling competencies that you need and we
require to successfully participate in the People Project, you must pledge to spend quality time (grooming, training, ground
work, bonding) with your Project Animal 6 times per month.
- Participation in our Natural Horsemanship/Natural Animal-Ship educational handling sessions. Usually
$35 per person; FREE to People Project participants. (Tuition for Natural Horsemanship clinics taught by guest clinicians and hosted by Tomten Farm
and Sanctuary is additional.)
Together, we are Tomten Farm and Sanctuary.
When you participate in the People Project, you might even discover you have a gift for being an "animal whisperer," giving horses, sheep, goats, donkeys and more the love,
attention, training and people skills they need to politely interact with visitors at farm events like Senior Visitors' Day or Kids' Reading Partner programs and our Public Farm Tours.
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Beatrice Poppins Braymore
Just one of the animals available who would love to be your People Project.
See more on Tomten Farm and Sanctuary's Instagram page.