Sarah Jane Williamson
Sarah Jane Williamson
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.
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.
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 amazing 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.
Over the coming months and years, I look forward to sharing news about our non-stop work helping horses and ponies in greatest need and working hard to ensure we secure the income we need to care for them and fulfil our charitable objectives.
Outside of work, I love being with my family, caddying for my young son on the golf course and enjoying the great outdoors that Devon has to offer - the kayak comes out when the weather is warm enough and if there’s any spare time left, my husband and I have got a house renovation project to see us busy for the next 20 years! And as well as being horse, pony and donkey-mad, I am crazy about cats and dote on my two Bengals, Coco and Jax.
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.
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.
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.
So I got involved with the charity more than six years ago, including almost five years as Chair - a period which has seen us buy and develop Beechtrees and Upcott Park, as well as take fundraising in-house and expand our management team.
These steps have put us in a great place to do even more, creating opportunities for our people, enhancing not only horse care and research but also how these wonderful animals can help people in so many ways. Outside of my trustee role, we have four young grandchildren who keep us busy, and I also enjoy gardening, the natural world, walking, railways and watching sport.
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.
Having worked in the third sector several years ago, I’ve seen first-hand what a positive impact good trustees can have on an organisation and I wanted to find a way to combine my experience, my love of horses and my passion to give something back.
Whilst I have held many different public engagement roles over the years, including communications, government affairs, fundraising and patient engagement, I’m currently lucky enough to work for Jonson & Johnson. J&J allow employees a few days a year to volunteer for charities and causes that they choose themselves and so I was delighted to join the Board in the summer of 2017!
At this key stage in the Mare & Foal Sanctuary’s history, I believe we have the opportunity and obligation to really grow and become a greater force for good in the equine world. I’m a firm believer that charities have the responsibility to be the voice for those that can’t speak for themselves and I know that we can continue to care for hundreds of horses whilst finding our voice to speak out when we need to.
I have always had an infinity with animals of all kinds, moving out on to Dartmoor in my younger years and starting up a riding centre was the start of my passion with helping not only the wild life but also the feral ponies in urgent need of help on the moor. This was the start of South West Equine Protection, my charity founded more than 40 years ago.
I have helped literally hundreds - if not thousands - of horses and ponies, as well as managing the charity and staff, where my years of management training came in handy.
I was a great admirer of the Sanctuary's founder Rosemary Kind, as we started rescuing horses at about the same time, so when I decided that I needed to retire, but wanted to ensure the safety and future for our SWEP ponies, it was a natural decision to ask the Trustees at the Mare & Foal Sanctuary to merge with SWEP. And, now I sit on the Board of Trustees.
My passion will always be with the feral ponies on Dartmoor and Bodmin moor.
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.
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.