Equine welfare

✓ Equine welfare is paramount and at the core of everything we do.  As an equine welfare charity, we have an equine-centred approach to our Equine Assisted Services.

✓ All equines at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary are protected by our Ethical Handling and Training Policy, based on current equine behavioural and equitation science.

✓ Every equine undergoes continuous health and behavioural assessments as part of our Equine Pathway.

✓ Each equine has an individual care and training plan, which includes regular vet reviews.

✓ An Equine Specialist is present wholly to support the equine throughout every session. Equine Specialists have special training and experience to act as an advocate for the equine/s, to safeguard the wellbeing and welfare of the equine partner/s in sessions and ensure everyone is safe.

✓ The horse or pony always has a choice whether or not to participate within equine assisted sessions and to engage with participants. This includes whether they leave the session.

✓ Our continuous health and behavioural assessments include indicators to identify when an equine needs a break from sessions or no longer desires to be involved in Equine Assisted Services.

✓ At a maximum, no equine is involved in equine assisted sessions for more than one hour per day and the rest of the day is spent in turnout within a familiar herd.

✓ All facilitators are trained in equine care and behavioural observations and have sufficient knowledge and experience to act as Equine Specialists in other sessions.

✓ Equines at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary have sanctuary for life, and we preserve every equine’s life for as long as they have quality of life. The End of Life Policy details our approach to end of life and euthanasia.



We were one of the first equine welfare charities in the UK to become federation members of the Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI) in 2018. As such we wholly adopt the HETI Ethical Guidelines.

The physical, psychological and social needs of our horses and ponies are fully met in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

As accredited members of the National Equine Welfare Council we adhere to the NEWC Code of Practice and the NEWC Guidelines for equines in equine assisted activities. We are part of the NEWC sub-group working on these guidelines.

In addition to the above, we also adopt and implement the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organization’s (IAHAIO) international guidelines on care, training and welfare requirements for equines in Equine Aasisted Ssrvices and international guidelines on education and training requirements for equine services.

Our practitioners

Our experienced team’s professional backgrounds are in education and equine welfare.  All team members are qualified equine assisted learning (EAL) facilitators, have completed specialist training and hold accredited qualifications relevant to their roles in addition to their initial qualifications in education. We strive for excellence through reflective practice and continuous professional development.

We are trained Mental Health First Aiders. Whilst we recognise that our outcomes may be therapeutic, we do not set clinical, treatment or care outcomes because we are not health professionals. We are aware of our professional limits as EAL facilitators. Where we believe the participant would benefit from support from a health professional, we will refer them onto relevant professionals whilst remaining in contact with the participant.  This could be for counselling or psychotherapy, which could be equine assisted therapy/psychotherapy, or to their GP, workplace occupational health team or another health practitioner.

Dawn Neil, Head of Education, EAL Lead Facilitator

BA(Hons) Primary Education, Qualified Teacher Status, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation, Mental Health First Aider

Alison Murray, Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator

L3 Beach Schools Practitioner, L3 Assessing Vocational Achievements, L4 Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation, Mental Health First Aider

Elaine Fawcett, Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator

L3 Forest Schools Leader, L1 and 2 Makaton, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation, Mental Health First Aider

Louise Sharpe, Accredited Professional Coach (BHS APC), EAL Facilitator

British Horse Society (BHS) Accredited Professional Coach Level 4 in complete horsemanship, Centre10 Applied Psychology Equestrian coaching, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation, Mental Health First Aider

 Amy Dearlove, EAL Equine Specialist Lead

Degree in Animal Behaviour and Psychology, L3 National Diploma in Animal Management, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation, Mental Health First Aider

Abigail Sparkes, Sanctuary Care Team Member, EAL Equine Specialist

BSc Honours degree in Equitation Science, L3 National Diploma in Horse Management, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation

Bethany Orchard-Mitchell, Sanctuary Care Team Leader, EAL Equine Specialist

Degree in Animal Science and Management, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation

Sally Burton, Head of Sanctuary Care, EAL Equine Specialist

L3 Diploma in Equine Welfare, Legislation & Field Skills, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation, Mental Health First Aider

Syra Bowden, Director of Equine, EAL Equine Specialist

BHSHM – British Horse Society Horse Masters, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation, Mental Health First Aider

Dawn Vincent, Director of Fundraising and Communications, EAL Facilitator

QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation, Mental Health First Aider

Sarah Jane Williamson, Chief Executive, EAL Facilitator

PGCEPG Cert Clinical Leadership, FCollT, MCCT, QQI L6 Festina Lente EAL Facilitation, Mental Health First Aider

How our services are evaluated

Our Equine Assisted Services are evaluated for their effectiveness and to identify their outcomes and impact. We carry out internal evaluation and have a current collaboration agreement with the University of Plymouth’s Psychology department for the independent evaluation of our Equine Assisted Services.

All evaluations are subject to an ethics committee review process. The Mare and Foal Sanctuary’s Clinical Reference Group acts as the ethics committee within the charity.

We use a range of outcome measures, depending on the individual programme.

We evaluate participants’ experiences, and the ways that participants can offer feedback on individual programmes are detailed in the Participation Agreement.


We have the utmost respect for people’s confidentiality and implement our comprehensive confidentiality policy. See our Privacy Notice for more information.

Participants’ information, including session notes, are kept according to our Data Protection Policy.


We are committed to safeguarding and safety. We are happy to share our risk assessments, safeguarding policies and more about our approach to health and safety. All our Equine Assisted Services staff members have enhanced DBS checks.

For more information, visit:

Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy

Safeguarding Adults at Risk Policy 

Safeguarding Reporting Procedure