We’re delighted to introduce you to some of our key people – who bring dedication, skills and experience to our charity.
Our senior management team
Sarah Jane Williamson – Chief Executive
My career has spanned education, public health management and the charity sector at national level. I have extensive experience of leading innovation and improvement in health services and in organisational design, transformation and governance.
The Mare and Foal Sanctuary’s work in equine welfare is more relevant than ever from an ethical, environmental and ecological viewpoint and we are in a unique position to contribute to the global conversations about these.
The charity was founded on the principles that horses and ponies, as sentient beings and close companions to humans over the centuries, have a value and a purpose. We – and our wonderful supporters – believe this continues to be relevant in the 21st century, if not more so as people of all ages risk becoming disconnected from the natural world.
Having specialised in the mental health of children, young people and adults throughout my career, our work to reconnect horses, ponies and people to benefit each other’s health and wellbeing, is close to my heart.
Dawn Vincent – Director of Fundraising and Communications
Since a young age, I have been involved with horses, ponies, donkeys and mules and I absolutely adore them.
I was delighted to join The Mare and Foal Sanctuary in March 2019 after a career of more than 20 years working at The Donkey Sanctuary, a charity my Granny (Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE) founded. There, I had the privilege of working alongside Granny for many years, and I developed an extensive breadth of experience and knowledge of the charity and its fundraising and communications needs.
I was really drawn to this role at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary as I felt I could help make a difference at another deserving charity. I loved the ambitious strategic plans created by the team to make the world a better place for horses and ponies, and now I’m here playing my part in it, together with our incredibly loyal supporters who so generously donate and help us out in various ways.
Jerry Longrigg – Director of Human Resources and Compliance
I concluded my university education by undertaking a post graduate diploma in Human Resource Management which took me very briefly into the public sector.
I then joined a regional PLC supplying contractors plant, spending several years there as HR Manager before moving on to work in a variety of other roles including general and operational management in industries as diverse as catering, vehicle rental and e-commerce.
I came to the Sanctuary in 2011 intending only to broaden my horizons by experiencing the third sector then moving on. However, I was so taken by the extent of the charity’s work and the commitment and dedication of the people that I decided to stay!
My role is often challenging but always rewarding and the views of ponies from my office window a constant reminder of the wonderful work that our staff do in their rescue care and rehabilitation work.
Sarah Martin – Director of Finance / Company Secretary
After 12 years working in accountancy practices as a charity specialist and ten years in the public sector I became a member of the Mare and Foal Sanctuary Team in October 2014. It is a great responsibility to have control of the purse strings and ensure every penny of our supporters’ money is used to best deliver our charitable objectives to rescue, retrain and rehome as many horses and ponies as we can,
The best thing about the Sanctuary is the fantastic team of staff I get to work with and the wonderful care they give to horses and ponies who have not had the best start in life. We are all so grateful to our amazing supporters who make our work possible.
I am privileged to be part of a charity with such a great heritage and I am looking forward to the future.
Outside work I like to spend time with friends and family, especially my four grandchildren. We like to swim in the sea all year round and get the most out of the beautiful part of the world in which we live.
Syra Bowden – Senior Director of Equine
As my mother founded the Sanctuary, I have been privileged to follow the journey of every horse and pony we have rescued, from the moment they come in.
In the early days where we struggled to make ends meet; ‘making do’ and stretching every penny to its limit, where we often shared yards and relied on people’s kindness to get by. Now, the support for mum’s legacy has grown and developed into a successful charity thanks to the extensive support we have from our loyal donors.
Throughout I have got to know and work with some incredible people. Their commitment and dedication is truly humbling and inspiring. I love what we do, the difference we make and I am looking forward to what the future holds, as I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
Liz Gaffer – Chair of the Trustees
Animals have been an interest, maybe I should say ‘passion’, of mine ever since I can remember – I think I organised my first table top fundraiser aged 11!
Whilst my very enjoyable marketing and PR career has been within commercial organisations, selling everything from carpets to frozen foods, I have given time also to voluntary roles where I can use the experience that I have gained to help charities, small and large. I am currently Director of Marketing and Charity Services for an organisation that both provides charitable support and runs independent schools.
I applied to be a Trustee of the Mare & Foal Sanctuary and was particularly impressed by how professional the charity is run and the impact its work is having on so many horses.
Now Chair, I am so proud to work with the great team the charity has across all of its sites and a highly skilled and generous trustee body.
I hope my passion, combined with my business skills will help the charity achieve its aims of securing a better future for more horses and in enlightening people of the benefit of having a world with horses in it.
Rob Lovell – Trustee / Vice Chair
I’ve always been fascinated by wildlife and being at one with nature gives me huge satisfaction. Perhaps that was why I started my career teaching biology, but I soon discovered the draw for being outside.
After a couple of years at an outdoor pursuits centre I applied for a job as education officer at Paignton Zoo. Little did I realise at the time how this would lead to 35 years filled with the most wonderful and ever changing experiences and challenges. Initially, I saw the zoo as a stepping stone rather than, as it transpired, a launchpad into a deeper understanding of people, animals, plants and global issues.
Both my wife and daughter were very successful at national level in Endurance riding and over the past 30 odd years we’ve inevitably shared the joys, sadnesses and everyday matters with a number of our equine friends.
Since retiring I’ve realised how much there is to learn about horses. Previously I thought little of a 50 mile ride, now I have a horse capable of 100. I just need to sharpen up a bit! There’s no such thing as problem horses – it’s the problem horses have with people.
Donna Hallett – Trustee
My connection with the Sanctuary started when I was a teenager when I used to attend the annual horse show that was held every September in aid of the charity. Rosemary loved my palomino mare – and my mum’s cakes and jams!
Over the years my family and I became firm supporters and friends of the charity and to this day sponsor the mountain and moorland classes, in memory of my mare, at the annual show now held at Coombe Park. When the opportunity arose some three years ago to become a trustee I could think of no better way to further my involvement of this wonderful organisation.
I think one of the best things about the Sanctuary is that it has a real family feel and a core set of values set up by Rosemary that still ring true and is evident in everything the teams do day in day out.
Outside of my trustee role I have had a 20 year management career in the retail sector and more recently have moved in to the logistics industry, managing operations and working within compliance functions. My spare time is spent fulfilling my love of being with horses, travelling and helping my husband with his woodworking business.
Sue Cockayne – Trustee
I’ve had a love of horses from a young age; studying the different breeds and reading books on how to care for them in the hope that one day I would have my own.
I have also ridden since a child until I realised that what I actually enjoyed was caring for them and just spending time with them.
I was lucky enough to end up with a beautiful, black Shetland pony called “Bubbles” who very kindly taught my children to ride and who I spent many happy hours grooming and caring for.
I have been fortunate enough to have a wonderful career in Human Resources and spent 26 years working as Head of HR with one of the UK’s largest equine charities.
Through my HR consultancy work I have also been able to support other smaller charities to develop their people strategies and create positive working relationships where people can thrive.
Yvette Bacon – Trustee
I have always had an interest in animals having had a variety of pets since my childhood. My love and interest in horses and ponies has developed when my daughter began riding at the age of 7.
Since then, our joint passions for all things equine has developed further including my daughter’s choice of career, Veterinary Medicine, hopefully specialising in equine when she qualifies.
I have 30 years of experience working in NHS finance and joint working with Social Care, particularly in financial and strategic planning, management reporting, and commissioning and developing services. I hope to be able to use my experience to support the charity in a continuing successful future.
Lisa Compton – Trustee
I have worked as a Financial Director/Non-Executive Director for some 20 years, from family owned Small to Medium Enterprises to a major Ministry of Defence construction joint venture.
My formative years were spent in jodhpurs and boots, smelling delightfully of horses and stables, looking after friends’ horses and working for a local racing livery yard.
It is a huge privilege to work with this progressive and professional organisation to improve the lives of these wonderful companions to humans.