JESSICA DIXON: CENTRE MANAGER & TRAUMA INFORMED PRACTIONER
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 carer, 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 set out on a mission after the COVID lockdown to ensure Conquest Centre became the first Trauma Informed Organisation, in a non-school setting. Jess recently completed her Trauma Informed & Mental Health Practitioner training.
Jess is most likely to be found in the office, with a phone glued to her ear.
CHANTAL BANNISTER: TEAM LEADER, MENTOR TRAINING
Chantal is an RDAGI instructor qualified in Horse Boy Method and Movement Method, and is our back riding specialist. 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.
GEMMA ADAMS: TEAM LEADER, BHS & ENRICHMENT
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: TEAM LEADER, MENTOR
Claire is our Head Thrive Practitioner and is passionate about supporting the social and emotional development of children and young people. Claire has been instrumental in introducing the Thrive approach to the Centre and shares her knowledge with the rest of the team to educate and implement this practise throughout the charity.
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.’’
GERALDINE PING: TEAM LEADER, Animal Welfare
Hi! My name is Ger / Gerry / Geraldine / Grrrrr…. I answer to most things!
I have worked within the care industry for many years in different roles. I joined Conquest 3 years ago as a groom… returning to my horsey beginnings. I have since become a mentor/head of animal welfare/team leader, completing my Trauma Informed Practitioner Training with TISUK (Trauma Informed Schools UK). However, I’m probably most known for talking your ear off! I work both on the yard and with the students and love every minute of it! I enjoy working here due to the variety, physical demands, sense of community, and open-minded individuals I work alongside.
Outside of work, I’m often found walking on the hills, reading and spending time with friends and family.
HELEN SIMCOCK-ANTHONY: DATA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
Helen joined Conquest Centre as a volunteer in 2012 and soon got taken on as a member of staff to organise our equestrian events (eg. Show Jumping, Dressage etc). Her previous work experience of running conferences and weddings, data management and administration, as well as her natural ability to be customer focussed and well organised made her ideal for the role. Following the successful year’s placement, Helen was offered the permanent role of Centre Administrator and has never looked back. Helen’s passion for ‘all things equine’ started when she learnt to ride at the age of 5 yrs and is something which has never left her. “Returning home stinking of horses after a day at the stables” is one of her favourite childhood memories, a good thing, as that’s precisely what happens now after a day at work! Ha! Ha! Her riding experience proved to be a useful skill when she travelled around Australia for a year as it enabled her to work on two Cattle Stations in the remote outback, rounding up thousands of Brahman Cattle (on horseback) with the help of helicopters! Yeeha!
If Helen is not in the office staring at a computer screen, she will be found walking her best pal Monty (a lemon coloured working cocker spaniel).
LOTTA VON DER HEYDE: GRANTS & EVALUATION MANAGER
Lotta’s involvement with Conquest started in 2011 as a volunteer offering her experience as a Horse Behaviour Consultant. Having also had a successful career as a company director she was soon talent spotted by the board and invited to join as a Trustee. After a 3 year term Lotta stepped down as she had been voted in to became a Trustee of The British Horse Society and went on to become Trustee with Welfare Specialism and Vice Chairman during 2016– 2019. During this time Lotta continued to support the Conquest team with training and advice in developing ethical, sustainable training and management methods for the horses. When the Grants & Evaluations Manager position became available, Lotta leapt at the opportunity and now works part time, raising much needed funds to support the charity’s valuable work. When not at Conquest, Lotta runs ‘Learning Curve Coaching’ offering equine behaviour advice, talks and seminars, running Horse Agility and EE riding lessons. In her spare time, she can be found having fun with her own 3 horses, 2 dogs and much loved grand children.
Lotta says “I love being part of such a motivated and fun team and I am blown away by the difference our work makes to people’s lives”
ASHLEIGH PING: BOOKKEEPER & ADMINISTRATOR
Details coming soon …
MORAG WALSH: TEAM LEADER, SAFEGUARDING LEAD & WELLBEING OFFICER
Morag first discovered Conquest Centre as a mother with young children and they often visited to see the animals so when the Administrator position became available, Morag jumped at the chance! Her background in administration plus working in the education sector was ideal to help the office run smoothly, including managing the pathway for new volunteers. Morag is currently completing her Thrive Practitioner training; inspired by the natural environment, 1:1 sessions often involve crafts, glitter and glue – a wonderful mess! Her calm and friendly manner are key to her work, meeting the social and emotional needs of children and young people and of course it is useful in the office too!
Morag is often the first to greet you from her desk in main reception.
LESLEY DORRAS: RECEPTIONIST & ADMINISTRATOR
Years ago I used to volunteer for the traditional ‘Riding for Disabled’ in Surrey and Kent; so naturally when I moved to Somerset and finally semi-retired, I wanted to do voluntary work in a place that is close to my heart, which is being around horses and animals (the fabulous people that work at Conquest Centre are a bonus). I was so lucky to find CC almost on my doorstep. I’ve been an administrator/receptionist for most of my life but working in various settings: an art college in Maidstone and a marketing agency in London (just to name a couple). About 10-15 years ago I sort of fell in to supporting children and adults with disabilities, mainly autism; I’ve also worked as a support worker and a carer in the community.
LOUISA SNOOK: MENTOR
I have always worked with children in some capacity, from babies right through to teenagers and also have 3 of my own. In June 2021, I was extremely lucky to join Conquest, as a Mentor and have loved every minute of it!
I recently became a Trauma and Mental Health Informed Practitioner and this has further helped me to support all my students at Conquest in the best way that I can.
At home I am fortunate to own my own horse and pony, as well as having 3 cats, a black Lab and 2 Guinea pigs…. I love to bake and to relax I enjoy running, Pilates and walking in the countryside.
CLARE PARTRIDGE: MENTOR
Hi! I’m Clare. I’ve worked at Conquest Centre as a Mentor since September. Previously to that, I worked in a crisis team supporting young people. Before that, I was pounding the streets of London as a police officer! We moved to Somerset from Surrey in 2021 and I absolutely adore it!
I love my role at Conquest and I’ve truly found my calling. I’m about to start my diploma in Trauma and looking forward to soon becoming a Trauma Informed Practitioner and using my skills to help others.
PENNY MCGAHON: MENTOR
I am a mentor and I have been with Conquest for a year. The best thing about Conquest for me is working alongside the most amazing most, supportive team and watching our students make trusting connections with both the Conquest staff, horses, and animals. Just watching them flourish and grow is the most rewarding thing ever!! My hobbies are gardening and exploring Cornwall in our campervan.
HARRIET GALLAGHER: MENTOR
Details coming soon…
EMILY GORDON: MENTOR
Hellooo, my name is Emily/Em/Ems/Wormy! I joined the Conquest family in September 2021 and have been enjoying the antics ever since!
I work as a mentor and I’m about to start training to become a Level 3 Forest School leader which I’m very excited about. I love all the animals at the centre and have a particular soft spot for our mischievous goats. You can usually find me trying to round them up, with the help of my students, after they’ve escaped (the goats, not the students!) 😅 or in the barn, attempting to play instruments to the sheep.
When I’m not at the centre, I support another student privately two days a week, I also work as a Makeup Artist (though you wouldn’t know it when you see me at the yard 😂) and a vocalist! I’m very lucky to have such a diverse work life, which I absolutely love.
At home, I live with my partner Robin, our sassy cat Bella and 1 year old collie X rascal, Pippin. I also really love insects, wildlife, making stuff (especially if it’s squishy) and a good puzzle!
KATE HOLLOWAY: IN-HOUSE THERAPIST
Details coming soon…
SARAH PALMER: MENTOR
Details coming soon…
TAYLOR COTTRELL: PEER MENTOR
Details coming soon…
AMANDA BURNETT: MENTOR
Hi! My name’s Amanda. I started at Conquest Centre as a volunteer back in the Summer, 2019. I came to the Centre to help complete fencing work as we had just implemented our open barn / track turnout system.
At this point, I was absolutely terrified of horses and needed a human shield (literally) when being in the fields with them! Haha. Over the years I have gotten over my fear of horses and have loved being involved with DIY projects at the Centre, both as a volunteer in my spare time, and more recently as part of my job. After Volunteering for nearly 3 years, I was given the fantastic opportunity to join the Conquest team in May 2022, which I grabbed with both hands and haven’t looked back since. I have a dog called Cody who is my world, and he loves coming to the Centre too. I am soon beginning my Level 2 Forest School course, which I’m really looking forward to.
JO BYTHELL-WIXEY : MENTOR
Hi I’m Jo! I came to conquest initially with my son as a client in 2020. It very quickly became our safe place where we both felt totally accepted and supported. I am an adoptive parent and have had many job roles in life which have all largely involved working with children or animals.
I am a massive lover of all things nature and cannot be happier than when I am outdoors. I have a marine biology degree and will always be found chatting or chilling around a firepit or wood burning stove!
I absolutely love working at conquest and think it is a magical place, where the animals, community and rural environment help families and children connect.
SAMANTHA NEWPORT: MENTOR
Hi, I’m Sam. I used to own Bluebell (one of the new ponies at the Centre), but due to life circumstances I sold her to Conquest Centre in September 2022, after visiting her at the Centre a couple of times, I quickly realised what a wonderful and happy place it was to be! I couldn’t wait to become a member of Staff and join in with all the great work that’s done there.
Outside of the centre, I am in my final year of my medical science degree with Exeter university. I also coach an U11’s football team and enjoy spending time with my husband and son and our dogs Misty and Carson.