01823 433614

A charity that welcomes the community,
embraces the family and engages with nature.


Jessica Thresher, Centre Manager

Having worked for Conquest Centre since 2000, starting as a Head Groom, Jess has worked her way up to Centre Manager. Her experience of every role in the Centre enables her to ensure our smooth running and continuing success. Previously an RDA County Instructor and a care, Jess understands what the Centre needs to keep ticking.  That, coupled with her enthusiasm and passion for what we do, makes her the driving force behind keeping the Centre a forward-thinking and progressive place to be.

Jess is most likely to be found in the office, with a phone glued to her ear.

Chantal Bannister, Senior Instructor and Resident Nerd

Chantal is an RDAGI instructor qualified in Horse Boy Method and Movement Method, and is our back riding specialist. Specialising in working with children with Autism, Chantal and therapy horse Murphy work together to help children get the most of their sessions. Chantal’s one-to-one sessions are child-led, involve the whole family and take place outside as much as possible. A firm believer in movement in learning, sensory work and the value of simply being with the horse, Chantal’s sessions are usually less about learning to ride and more about being together.

Chantal sometimes wears an IT hat too. Prior to this job, she gained a BSc(Hons) in Computer Science and worked in the IT industry for 15 years, so helps out with website updates, social media, database programming, mending printers, straightening cables, counting mousemats and anything else geeky that comes along.

Chantal is most likely to be found talking to anyone who will listen about brain science.

Kate Blackmore, Trainer

Having taught children and adults of all ages in Japan, Kate has gained many skills in overcoming communication barriers. Specialising in teaching the horses through positive reinforcement, Kate is currently working towards gaining a qualification in equine behaviour. She also makes sure the welfare of our equine team is well looked after, and ensures they have as natural and fulfilled a life as possible.

In addition to this, Kate has become our honorary chicken keeper, and donkey expert.

Kate is most likely to be found walking her funny half-womble dog Foosa.

Georgi Readman, Groom

Georgi grew up on the Isle of Wight, and has ridden since the age of 4.  She joined Conquest Centre as a student 2 years ago, completing a Work Based Diploma Level 1 & 2 in Horse Care.  Once Georgi completed her training, Conquest employed her as a Groom and she is now a fully fledged member of staff!

When she is not working on the yard, Georgi is most likely to be found riding Annie, her favourite pony.  When not work, you will find Georgi looking very different indeed dressed in vintage clothing!

Gemma Adams, Head Groom

Gemma has loved horses for as long as she can remember, “My earliest memories are of being sat on my mum’s 16 hand high black horse when I was only a few years old.  From then on I was hooked, having lessons, joining the pony club and going out competing. I then took a few years out from horses to have my 2 wonderful children one of whom shares my equine passion – we can be found most weekends traveling up and down the country competing. I decided to expand my knowledge further through the BHS training programs and have achieved recognised qualifications such as Safeguarding and Protecting Children, Riding and Road Safety and First Aid.  I have completed BHS Stage 1 and 2 and am working towards my Stage 3.  I love teaching and passing my knowledge on, so working at Conquest Centre and mentoring our BHS Students is my dream job – although I can’t really call it a job as I enjoy it so much!” 

If Gemma is not on the yard teaching the students she will be found schooling the horses – keeping them supple and teaching them new things to keep them happy and healthy!

Claire Cottrell


Claire holds the Blue Peter badge within Conquest family, she is always making things and thinking of different ways to help support the needs and progression of the BHS students and clients. Claire is passionate about helping everyone achieve their goals!

Within the team Claire is a BHS mentor and coach with recognised qualifications such as Safe Guarding and Protecting Children and First Aid. Working closely with other therapists Claire supports the physical needs of our clients.

Claire says, “Seeing and being part of what makes a difference to the people that join us here at Conquest is the reason I love my job! I love being able to make a difference with the support of our amazing horses and team, and most importantly I am always having fun.’’

Nicole Hawker, Groom and Coach

Nicole commonly known at Conquest as Nik Nik joined the team as a volunteer in 2012, after 2 years of wielding a broom and wheelbarrow Nik Nik became a fully-fledged employee.

Nik Nik works mainly on the yard with the horses and is gradually taking part in coaching. As a level 1 BHS student Nik Nik is excited to be moving towards her BHS level 2.


Nicole Hawker

Susan Brown, Development Manager

Susan has been working in the voluntary sector for almost 30 years and has broad experience of charity administration, grant-making and fundraising.  She has worked for a number of large national charities as well as several local Somerset organisations.  Susan is focusing on the enormous task of planning and funding some very exciting developments for Conquest Centre which will be taking place over the next few years.

Susan is most likely to be found asking lots of questions!

Helen Simcock-Anthony, Administrator

Helen came to Conquest in 2011 as a volunteer. Her experience of organising conferences and weddings soon came in handy as she took over running the show-jumping, dressage and showing events. She now updates processes, regulates paperwork and manages the main reception whilst supporting Jess and the Board of Trustees. Helen also writes press releases and basically makes sure all our ducks are in a line. Because of this, we have coined the phrase ‘We need to Helen-ise it!’

Helen is most likely to be found trying to herd cats, or near a whiteboard with a pen in her hand.

Rhoda Groody, Community Fundraiser

Rhoda is a new addition to the Conquest office team and holds a ‘jack of all trades’ title similar to that of Helen!

Rhoda started as a Social Media volunteer and quickly made herself indispensable by absorbing other roles. Much of Rhoda’s day is spent promoting Conquest via social media, updating the website, organizing events, collecting raffle prizes, speaking at community groups, publicizing Conquest recycling initiatives, the list goes on…


James Holyday, Chairman

James is a Director of Summerfield, a regional development company, with extensive experience of construction and property management.  He became involved with Conquest Centre in 2006 and joined the Board of Trustees as Chairman in 2008. He enjoys the challenge of working with a local ‘grass roots’ charity and especially the fundraising and management of the Centre.

David Hardy, Treasurer

David has been involved with Conquest Centre for a many years, as he is Jess’s step-father!  He has been drafted in to help out with many things from building our first website, to directing traffic at events.  So it was only right that he became a member of the Board of Trustees.  In Sept 2008 David was elected treasurer.  He works in the electronics industry, and is a keen pilot so keep your eyes peeled in the skies above Taunton!

Sandra Wickham, Educational Advisor

Sandra became involved in Conquest Centre in 2002 as a volunteer after she retired from teaching PE (which she’d done for 38 years in Derbyshire and Somerset). She became an instructor in 2005 and joined the Board of Trustees in 2008. In addition to helping at Conquest Centre, she coaches 5 to 18 year old girls and boys at a local hockey club. She has 2 children, a number of animals, enjoys gardening and sings in a local choral society.

Lois Kerrison, Technical Advisor

Lois originally got involved with Conquest Centre as a volunteer and then a Disabled Riding Instructor after moving to Somerset from London, with her husband and 2 daughters. As well as her daughters learning to ride at Conquest Centre, Lois also took up the sport and now has 2 horses and 2 ponies.

Since giving up work to raise a family, Lois has completed two degrees and has retrained as a Secondary Maths teacher and currently works at a comprehensive school in Weston-Super-mare.  Before children, Lois worked for a successful international software company as a Global Training Manager.

Claire Stoneman, Trustee

Claire is a Solicitor and Partner with Foot Anstey LLP, leading the clinical negligence team in the Taunton office.  She specialises in brain injury cases and birth injury cases leading to cerebral palsy. She has represented a number of families over the years, helping them to arrange rehabilitation, ongoing care, therapies and financial support.

Claire became involved with the Conquest Centre in 2013 and joined the Board of Trustees in 2016.  She is also a Trustee and Vice-Chair of Headway Somerset. She has a life-long love of horses (despite having had a cantankerous New Forest pony as a child!) and, as such, is keen to help the Centre continue to thrive.


Horse and Soul


Kate and Michaela offer equine therapy onsite here at Conquest Centre. For more information, please visit the Equine Therapy page.


James runs forest school sessions on site here at Conquest Centre. For more information, please see the Forest School page.

James Maechler