About our Education Activities

Our education activities contribute to meeting the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of people of all ages. We do this through an inclusive, person-centred, developmental and experiential approach, creating a sense of sanctuary for people within our sanctuary for horses and ponies.

Equine assisted learning and therapeutic activities outdoors in nature with horses are of great benefit to individuals’ wellbeing. These activities support the development of transferrable life skills: increased self-confidence, positive attachment and relationships, improved communication skills, a clear sense of responsibility and a genuine sense of personal achievement and meaningful contribution.

Our relationship with horses and ponies becomes increasingly reciprocal and compassionate. We understand ourselves better and express more of our unique nature as individuals.


We offer a range of equine assisted learning and therapeutic programmes for children, young people and adults who experience difficulty or disadvantage, to enhance their education and make their lives better through opportunities for contact with horses and ponies, including riding.


We also offer educational activities for children of all ages in school holidays and to complement school provision.


We also offer outreach programmes, bringing our ponies to people in nursing and care homes, hospitals and prisons.


We provide advice and useful resources for the horse-owning community. We also organise talks and events throughout the year relating to equine issues delivered by our staff and a range of other equine professionals, for example, vets, university lecturers and equine behaviour specialists.

Education Team

Our multidisciplinary education team plans and delivers all our equine assisted learning programmestherapeutic activities and events 

We do this through an inclusive, person-centred, developmental and experiential approach, creating a sense of sanctuary for people within our sanctuary for horses and ponies 

We work with our rescued horses and ponies at our beautiful 80 acre Equestrian and Education Centre at Coombe Park, Littlehempston, just outside Totnes.

Dawn Neil

Head of Education

Dawn is passionate about ponies and people.  Her love of equines started at an early age and she has kept horses and ponies most of her life. 

Dawn’s background is in Primary Education, where she worked both as a qualified classroom teacher and Senior Leader.  The role of Head of Education really is her perfect job, as she gets to educate people about equines and equine welfare issues as well as and giving people opportunities to experience the magic of connecting people with horses and ponies outdoor in nature. 

Dawn is also Designated Safeguarding Lead for children and young people and adults for The Mare and Foal Sanctuary 

Picture of Louise with a horse

Louise Sharpe

Accredited Professional Coach


Louise feels privileged to be able to connect people with horses and ponies through our ground based and therapeutic riding programmes. She is a British Horse Society Stage 4 qualified Accredited Professional Coach. 

Louise originally trained at the Talland School of Equitation in Cirencester and Bicton College of Agriculture. She also has a small yard at home where she brings on young horses for showing and is a proud member of the British Skewbald & Piebald Association (BSPA).  

Alison Murray. Photo copyright The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

Alison Murray

Equine Assisted Learning Education Officer

Ali has a wealth of experience in education and learning from mainstream schools and colleges and alternative educational settings. She is Beach Schools practitioner and qualified First Aider. 

Ali spent 10 years living and working in Turkey where she loved the culture and way of life. She was also heavily involved with animal welfare, educating local people about how to care for their animals. 

Ali has always been passionate about horses and is excited to be working with people experiencing challenges in their lives who benefit so much from connection to horses and nature. 

EAL Education Officer Elaine Fawcett. Copyright The Mare and Foal Sanctuary (2)

Elaine Fawcett

Equine Assisted Learning Education Officer

Elaine is living her dream job! Shes a mother of three children, one of whom is autisticShe’s also had a long career in education, care and support for people with additional needs of all ages. 

Elaine loves nature and the outdoors and holds a Level 3 Forest school qualification. 

As a carer for a Sanctuary pony, Elaine also has a wealth of knowledge about the Mare and Foal Sanctuary which she shares through our education programmes and events. 

Education Horses and Ponies


15hh skewbald cob gelding 
Kind natured, laid back personality 
Loves eating and hacking out with his friends

Quest was abandoned when he was just a few months old and should have still been with his mum. He was found with two other young colts, and taken in by the local council while they waited for an owner to come forward and claim him. Sadly no-one did and Quest faced an uncertain future until the Sanctuary offered rescue places for Quest and his two young friends.


14hh bay cob   
Very sweet natured, has a fantastic temperament 
Enjoys being groomed, always gives a friendly ‘nicker’ (call) at feed time

Jenga arrived in the Sanctuary in Summer 2013 with her filly foal Jumanji, and in foal again. She was part of a large group of horses that had been fly-grazing (grazing without permission from the landowner) and were taken by the local council.  None of the horses were claimed, leaving the group of 25 horses desperate for homes. Luckily Jenga and Jumanji were able to come to the Sanctuary. Jenga had another filly foal, Jade, in the Summer of 2014


13.1 hh Skewbald Dartmoor Hill Pony gelding   
Easy going, gentle, chilled out chap
Enjoys in hand walks out and about in the green lanes

William was very sick when he arrived at the Sanctuary in 2010. He had been seized by the RSPCA, underweight, too weak to stand up by himself and covered in sores from laying down for prolonged periods of time in dirty bedding. For the first week we had to carefully lift him up every few hours and he even had to be on a drip when he first arrived.


11 hh Bay Dartmoor Hill Pony mare  
Friendly and loving, oldest member of the team at 24 years old. 
Loves being fussed over and stills enjoys agility! 

April arrived in the Sanctuary way back in 1998 as a two year old when the person caring  for her became to ill to look after her any more.

She hadn’t been handled much when she came to us, but with patient handling she soon became a lovely pony to be around and went on to be a brilliant child’s pony, having great fun on loan to families before returning to the Sanctuary for a slower pace of life in early 2017.


8.2 Grey Shetland gelding pony  
Calm yet confident, cheeky chap 
Loves rolling in mud and changing colour! 

Mari Moo*

15 hh Tri coloured Welsh part bred mare 
Curious and clever, sweet natured. 
Loves attention and going out for rides

*Kindly on loan to support our Education work


16.3hh Skewbald Crossbreed gelding 
Gentle giant, very relaxed, loving and calming nature  
Enjoys being groomed and grazing in the fields with his herd

*Kindly on loan to support our Education work


The Mare and Foal Sanctuary places the highest priority on safety and enjoyment. It recognises that it has a duty of care towards Children, Young People and Adults at Risk.  

We safeguard Children and Young People and Adults at Risk from harm and abuse in accordance with the Children’s Act 2004 and the Care Act 2014. 

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary fully adopts the British Equine Federation (BEF) Safeguarding Policies for Children and Young People and Adults at Risk.  Our full policies can be downloaded here: 

Safeguarding for Adults Download >

Safeguarding for Children & Young People Download >

Reporting Safeguarding Concerns Procedure Download >

All our Education Staff and Education Volunteers have enhanced DBS checks. 

Please contact Dawn Neil, Head of Education and Designated Safeguarding Lead directly for further details relating to Safeguarding or to report a safeguarding issue or concern on 01803 228255 or 07842 061996 .  You can also email us at: .

Education Programmes and Events

We are inclusive and work with all members of the public from the very young through our Happy Hooves Pony Club to older members of the community through our links with care homes in our local communities.  We believe that everyone can benefit from the positive impact that connecting with horses and ponies outdoors in nature can have. 

We offer a range of educational and therapeutic programmes and events throughout the year.   

Your Sanctuary Programme

Participants of the Your Sanctuary Programme are supported by the Community Grants project part funded by the ESF and ESFA.  The ‘Your Sanctuary’ Programme is our unique equine assisted learning programme which equips young people with transferable life and employability skills. The programme is aimed at young people classed as NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training schemes). We have developed a progressive pathway which encompasses employability skills and pathways to accredited training.

Equine Assisted Learning

What is Equine Assisted Learning? 

Equine assisted learning encompasses any specific activity that focuses on the personal development of participants and enhances the wellbeing of horses and ponies.  

Activities can include: 

  • Stable management tasks 
  • Caring for horses and ponies 
  • Therapeutic riding programmes 

We offer opportunities for both ground based equine assisted learning and therapeutic riding opportunities with our rescued horses and ponies at our beautiful 80 acre Equestrian and Education Centre at Coombe Park, Littlehempston, just outside Totnes. 

For more information about our equine assisted learning programmes please contact the Education Team on 01803 228255 or email 

School Visits and Outreach programmes

We offer fun and informative workshops and activities for groups and classes for a whole day or part of a day. 

Our knowledgeable, experienced education team can meet your curriculum needs whilst making sure the pupils enjoy themselves, get hands on experience and learn. 

We’re happy to work with you to meet all your requirements. 

School Visits 

If you are interested in booking a school visit please call our Education Office on 01803 228255 or email 

Outreach programmes 

As an alternative to visiting us we can bring an equestrian experience directly to your setting.  Our dedicated education team will bring suitable ponies and educational materials to cover various subjects.   

*In the interests of equine welfare we only agree to outreach visits for groups that would otherwise struggle to visit our horses and ponies at our sites. 

For more information about Outreach visits give our education team a call on 01803 228255 or email and we will be happy to help. 

College and University Career Students

Working in partnership with Duchy and Bicton Collegesnow known collectively as Cornwall College, the Mare and Foal Sanctuary welcomes equine, animal and veterinary students for work experience at our farms. 

If you’re interested in studying at Bicton or Duchy to work with horses or ponies please click on the following links: 

Work experience 

We also offer work experience placements, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator Kerri Luke for further information by emailing or call 01626 355969. 


BHS Approved Centre status means that our equestrian centre is inspected and approved by the British Horse Society.  All BHS centres are regularly inspected to ensure they meet high standards of safety, horse welfare and tuition. Three levels of grading are used: Approved (A), Commended (C) and Highly Commended (HC).

For added peace of mind, it also means that our centre is insured for public liability and complies with the latest health and safety and safeguarding legislation.

We are Federation members of the international organisation HETI.

HETI’s mission is to facilitate the worldwide collaboration between organizations and individuals whose objectives are philanthropic, scientific and educational in the field of equine assisted activities and therapies.

With members in over 45 countries worldwide, the Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy International AISBL (HETI) is a not-for- profit organization that was established in 1974.

Federation Members are an integral part of HETI.  Federation membership provides us with the opportunity to be actively involved in their organization, through connection, communication and collaboration with other HETI members in the UK and internationally.

Excitingly, we have been invited to host the Southern Autumn UK Forum 2020!

As organisational members of the institute for Outdoor Learning, we have demonstrated a commitment to professionalism, integrity and the future of outdoor learning through our membership of the Institute. We take all of the outdoor learning we deliver seriously and strive to be the best we can be.

As IOL organisational members we have agreed to uphold the IOL Code of Conduct, Environmental Sustainability and Managing Diversity policy. We actively represent the standards, future and reputation of outdoor learning through our outdoor educational programmes and events.