Our Senior Management Team

David Spilsbury – Acting Chief Executive

When I left university, I wanted to develop a career in public service. I took the opportunity to join local government, and they helped me train to be an accountant.  

Building on that, I worked my way to becoming the Director of Finance at a council in Scotland. But I knew there was more to learn and do, so I moved on to become Director of Finance at two different national museum organisations, as well as working at a hospice and regional transport organisation for shorter spells.  

In my spare time I became Treasurer, then Chair, of an older people’s charity, Chair of a community interest company and Chair of the Audit Committee in a sizeable housing association.  

I joined The Mare and Foal Sanctuary in early 2023 and love being part of a team so full of passion, care, and expertise. 

When I’m not working, I’m usually fully occupied by my two young children. They, like me, love that I’m part of such a valuable charity that cares for the welfare of foals, horses and ponies. 

Picture of David Spilsbury, Acting Chief Executive at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

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.
In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family and have two Bengal cats.
I’m also a trustee of Navigate Charity, based in the South West.

Dawn Vincent

Iain Wylie – Chief Operating Officer

I have a background, built over the last 25 years, in traditional estate management, modern facilities management and environmental practice. My driving passion is ensuring organisational sustainability is at the forefront of the decisions that we make together as a charity.

I thoroughly enjoy the process of building and leading high-performing teams. I’ve learned this is best achieved through solid professional relationships based on trust, kindness and respect.

I bring my own style, a logical mind and common-sense approach to my role here at the sanctuary and I relish the daily challenges and successes that come with it.

I am privileged to be part of a charity with such a great heritage and I am looking forward to the future.

Syra Bowden – Head of Equine Welfare

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.

Syra Bowden
Irene Breckenridge

Irene Breckenridge – Head of People and Culture

I began working in People and Culture over twenty years ago and have mostly worked in the hospitality sector. I moved down to Devon from the Highlands around 10 years ago to be with my partner and continued to work within People and Culture in education and hospitality before coming to The Mare and Foal Sanctuary.

The world of People and Culture is constantly changing which means there is always lots to do. I have relished the challenge of coming to work at the sanctuary. Developing policies and approaches that align with the charity’s values has been particularly rewarding. For me, the key to People and Culture being successful and having a positive impact is building relationships and immersing yourself in the ethos of an organisation. I’m excited to make a real difference at the sanctuary and to play my part in moving the organisation forward.

As an animal lover, I’ve enjoyed learning about the equines we care for here at the charity. I am always impressed by the amazing impact our work has on these beautiful creatures.

Sally Burton – Head of Sanctuary Care

I have always loved horses and wanted to work with them. I’ve worked full time in the equine industry since I was 17 in showjumping, eventing, racing and private yards but since joining the sanctuary I‘ve realised how much I enjoy working in equine welfare and wouldn’t want to do anything else.  Alongside the practical experience I have gained, I’m qualified in Equine Legislation, Welfare and Field Skills. I am also trained as a fully accredited equine assisted learning facilitator.

As Head of Sanctuary Care, I lead our horse care teams and ensure we follow best practice.  I enjoy developing our approach to help improve the lives of as many horses as possible.

I strongly believe that every horse should experience the best welfare we can possibly provide. Welfare isn’t something we should only talk about when horses are experiencing poor welfare. Often, it’s the small but important changes that can have the greatest impact.

Sally Burton with horse

Dawn Neil – Head of Education

My background is in primary education as a qualified teacher with school leadership experience. I have lived experience of the benefits of being with horses and ponies from a young age and love being outdoors in nature with them.

I am passionate about the positive difference equine experiences can offer to everyone including children and young people and adults. Our Education and Equine Assisted Services team offer a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for people working with our rescued equine partners.

We have a unique approach to Equine Assisted Services that is both person-centred and equine-centred. For us, the key is creating a genuine connection and partnership between people and equines. Through our work, we support both people-based pathways in personal development, development of transferable life skills and steps towards employability, as well as supporting pathways to rehoming for our rescued horses and ponies.

Horses and ponies have made a huge difference in my life. I consider it a great privilege that I can now share the positive effects of human-equine interaction with others who may not otherwise have been able to experience it.

dawn neil

Colin Day – Head of Property

My background over the past 35 years has been built in the Maintenance and Facilities Management sector.

This has allowed me the opportunity to work across a diverse array of areas such as sporting venues, IT companies, educational college campuses in the private and public sectors, museums, historic tourist sites, and private estates.

My previous three jobs of 13 years were overseeing the maintenance and refurbishing of land and buildings in heritage settings where the focus was to work for the benefit of future generations.

I bring that same approach to The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, not only dealing with today but also thinking about the future of staff, horses, ponies, and visitors who will come to work or visit our sites.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary has great long-term plans that will not only benefit the equines but also the staff and visitors, along with the natural environment.

My main objective for The Mare and Foal Sanctuary is to provide a good quality level of service for the staff I work with.

Nothing gives me more job satisfaction than being able to deliver to a high standard, making a real and positive difference in the workplace.

I enjoy working in an environment where I can achieve, learn, and deliver the objectives set for me and hope I can make a difference by playing just a small part in a much bigger team here at the sanctuary.




Meet the rest of the team

Our Trustees

Meet some of the trustees enhancing the work we do at Mare and Foal.
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About Us

Get to know what we do at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary.
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Our Staff

Get to know our education team, and the work they do.
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