Who We Are

hannahDr Hannah Burgon PhD, MA DipSW, MSc, BSc, Cert in Counselling, Cert in Riding Therapy (CEO and Founder)
Hannah is a qualified Social Worker and has completed training in Riding Therapy and Equine Facilitated Learning. She also holds a Certificate in Counselling, and has a PhD into the benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy & Learning from Cardiff University. Her book ‘Equine-Assisted Therapy and Learning with At-Risk Young People’ was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.


Shaun Dérioz (co-founder)
Shaun is Hannah’s husband and a co-founder of Sirona. As well as being our fabulous photographer, providing promotional material and media support, he works tirelessly behind the scenes to maintain the grounds at Sirona and helps to look after the needs of our horses and ponies.





Josie Arscott, BA English and American Literature. Advanced Diploma in Humanistic Counselling. Certificate in Affective Neuroscience and Attachment Theory (Counsellor and Communications and Marketing Officer)
Horses have been a huge part of Josie’s life growing up. She recognised the power of the relationship that can develop between people and these wonderfully perceptive animals. Josie is also a qualified counsellor and values the opportunity that Sirona offers in bringing these two aspects of her life together.


emma 3Emma Matsambanye – Dip. In Counselling, BA (Hons) Steiner/Waldorf Education, MBACP (Counselling)
Emma has worked with children and young people for over 20 years. She has taught young people in schools and colleges for deprived families in Africa , and as a learning mentor in primary schools in the UK supporting and teaching children with emotional, behavioural and learning difficulties. She has a particular interest in child development research and is enthusiastic about combining it with her love of working with horses.

Sally Croft; Treasurer
Sally Croft is a retired chartered accountant with many years of experience working with small charities, social enterprises and businesses. She worked with Ernst & Young as the changes took place in Eastern Europe. Now semi-retired Sally is working with small charities and social enterprises mainly in the local community. She sits on the boards of both a charity and a small company.


Our team hold a wide range of skills and qualifications and include:

Angie Whitehead
Certificate in Education and Training, Forest School leader,  Certificate in Therapeutic Skills for Outdoor Leaders. (approved Practitioner through the Therapeutic Forest  CIC), Certificate in Counselling & Safeguarding Officer
Education Coordinator & Equine-Assisted Practitioner
Angie has worked with Children and Families for over 20 years and specialised in working with young people with disabilities, behavior and learning needs.  Angie has a life-long association with horses, training young horses for riding and driving.

Catherine Elson- Equine Project Worker

National Certificate in the management of horses, Qualified Equine Veterinary Nurse and Trust Technique Practitioner: teaching owners and animals’ mindfulness. 

Catherine is our Equine Project Worker who looks after the horses and ponies on a daily basis. She has always loved being around horses since a young age. She has 8 years’ experience working with horses in Thoroughbred and Arab studs and 6 years’ experience working in the veterinary industry nursing horses. At home her 8 month old puppy ‘Laila’ keeps her busy.

Zoe Hayter BHSAI
Zoe works as a Freelance Riding Instructor at Sirona. She has a foundation degree in equine sports performance and coaching and owns her own horses whom she competes mainly in dressage.




Charlotte Walker BSc Occupational Therapist
Charlotte is a qualified Occupational Therapist and Playworker with experience in supporting people with physical and learning disabilities and mental health challenges to enjoy the outdoors. Horses and nature have been a huge part of Charlotte’s life and she has a passion for the unique therapeutic opportunities they offer.



Kate Ford – BA (Hons) Social Work – Level 2 Apprentice (Equine Groom)

Kate has returned to Sirona, after 4 years in Bristol working with young people experiencing homelessness, as our  Level 2 Equine Groom Apprentice. Kate is passionate about the positve effect being in the natural environment and particularly around horses, can have on mental health and overall wellbeing.


Cora Willingham- Level 3 Apprentice (Equine Groom)

Cora found her love for horses at the age of 12 when she began riding at Oaklands Riding Centre, Exeter. She has worked part time at a local equine rehabilitation yard and also helped out at a local Pony Club for young people. She has completed her Levels 1 & 2 in Equine Studies at Bicton College and joined the Sirona team in October 2020 to start her Level 3 Senior Groom Apprenticeship.


Diane Cleave – P/T Administrator

Diane is our part-time administrator who supports the Sirona team with their HR, IT and fundraising needs, as well as the general office organisation. Horses are her passion. She has three horses of her own and is always learning from them.




We also rely on fabulous volunteers such as Hesti, Jan, Shirley, Louise, Nicole, Sue B, Sue P, Amber P, Natalie B, Ann R, Kate M, Rhys, Tracey, Christina, Jane, David, John, Richard, Amanda and Ginny who bring support in all areas such as poo-picking the fields, admin, running our website (thank you Lea!) and support on sessions. Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering at Sirona to see what vacancies we have available.


Sarah Urwin; Chair and Health & Safety Lead
Reg. BACP Accredited Counsellor/Psychotherapist, Adv. Dip. Couns, Dip. Supervision, FdA (Health Care), EAGALA Cert. Sarah has a background in local government as well as agricultural management and training. However in the past seventeen years she has worked in Health and Social Care, ultimately as a Counsellor/Psychotherapist, latterly using Equine and Animal Assisted Therapy as an intervention. Sarah is a Supervisor and Trainer of practitioners across the UK and is passionate about this work, a fact which is often commented upon by her students and supervisees!

Sue Bicks; Safeguarding & IT
BSc Human Communication(Psychology and Linguistics), MA Lexicography, Diploma in Counselling
Sue originally studied psychology and linguistics and has recently completed a diploma in counselling. She also worked in IT consultancy. Sirona combines her love of horses and interest in natural therapeutic counselling.

Laurel Ellis; Social Work & Landscaping
BA Hons Geography, Diploma in Counselling in the Development of Learning, Certificate in Transactional Analysis, MA Social Work, Dip SW, NVQ3 Certificate in Sustainable Horticulture. Laurel worked as a Health/HIV/Aids Advisor with North Devon District Hospital, and as a counsellor and therapist with the Exeter Mental Health team, before taking a Master’s degree in Social Work. Laurel has worked in Devon Children’s Services in assessment and safeguarding, as a supervising social worker in fostering, and a senior social worker with at-risk families in Torbay.
Following a private passion, Laurel re-trained in Horticulture and ran a therapeutic horticulture project in Totnes, while working in garden design and maintenance. Laurel co-founded a successful community enterprise – Food in Community CIC-which collects surplus organic food and redistributes it to vulnerable groups in the community.

Deidre Ford; Deputy Safeguarding & Social Work
BA, MSc, CQSW  Deirdre is a registered social worker with a background in multidisciplinary teams supporting people who have learning disabilities and mental health problems. She has taught on social work programmes at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth, and has worked extensively with service user and carer groups in education and practice.


Sarah Matthews; Education
BA (hons) MA, PGCE, PgDipPsych Sarah began teaching English and Drama 23 years ago. She  became increasingly drawn to working with vulnerable young people in various settings including family intervention, as well as teaching in special and hospital schools, focussing on young people with mental health issues, medical needs and autism. As well as supporting therapeutic horsemanship for its enormous potential for humans, she is also passionate about giving healing to horses themselves. She has recently qualified as an Equine Healer.


Nicholas  Evans
Author of the bestselling novel ‘The Horse Whisperer’
“When I was researching The Horse Whisperer, I became aware of the astonishing transformative effect horses can have on young people who, for various reasons, are finding life difficult. Since then I have been looking for an organisation that uses human/horse contact to build self-confidence and trust. And now, right on my doorstep, here is Sirona. I’m really thrilled and honoured to be involved.”

Lucy Rees
Lucy is a renowned  horse trainer, equine ethologist and author of the acclaimed book ‘The Horses’ Mind’. We are privileged to have Lucy as a patron of Sirona and hope that she will come over from Spain to give us many more training clinics in the future.



Heather Moffett
Heather is an international specialist teacher of the Classical Seat, and author of the book ‘Enlightened Equitation’. Heather is well known  for her innovative saddle designs and  a great believer that the seat is the foundation of everything in riding. Horse welfare is dear to her heart and she has campaigned for better riding for the last 4 decades.



Susie Thompson (MA Dramatherapy (Distinction)    2015; Post Graduate Certificate in Environmental Arts Therapy, 2016

Susie is an HCPC registered Dramatherapist. She also works therapeutically outside in the natural world making art, exploring stories, creating life changing drama and ritual. She works with young people and adults experiencing life changes, physical illnesses, mental health difficulties and learning disabilities. Susie was fortunate enough to learn what horses can teach us about ourselves from having her own wonderful horse, Angus, for 18 years. Susie has loved co-developing Equi-dramatherapy experiences at Sirona.

Ollie Frame (Bsc,MA,Adv dip Integrative Counselling, member of the BACP)
Ollie Frame works as an integrative therapist, mindfulness teacher and retreat leader. Trained in Mindfulness-based approaches with the University of Exeter, he runs mindfulness courses for the general public, for teachers and students in schools and colleges, and for various other client groups on behalf of Devon County Council. At Sharpham House, he teaches the Mindfulness in Nature course. Also qualified to teach Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living (MBCL), he is especially enthusiastic about self-compassion and Metta meditation. In his work as an integrative therapist, Ollie has a particular interest in Psychosynthesis, depth psychology and inner journeying.

Chris Hope (BSc Medicinal Horticulture)

Chris is an experienced forager and foraging guide and has an ongoing love affair with both our native and exotic naturalised plants. With a keen eye for plant identification, especially for our edible, medicinal and useful plants, Chris can show you the easy-to-remember basics of botany in a day, and share a lifetimes worth of foraging experience to help you help your horse! Chris has worked with the Equine practitioner Jo Rose in Oxfordshire, teaching foraging and plant identification, while learning about the self selection characteristics that horses naturally employ in the wild.