• Staff

    To be considered for future job openings, please forward your resume and salary requirements.

    Lara Katz

    Executive Director

    Lara joined NCTRC in 1992, and has served in various capacities including sidewalker, leader, instructor, and board member. Lara holds a BA in Communication Studies from UNC-Greensboro, and an MBA from Elon University. Lara has ridden horses since the age of 4 (when her 2 year old sister convinced their parents) and has competed in hunters, jumpers, dressage, intercollegiate, and for one scary day, eventing. She is passionate about sharing the horse experience with those who would otherwise not grow up with them.

    Jackie Cole

    Program Director, Instructor

    Jackie has been involved with NCTRC since 1987, when she began volunteering as a way to stay involved with horses. She holds a bachelor's degree in Medical Technology from Duke University, and is a PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor and mentor. Jackie loves watching her students build confidence, develop a love for horses and horseback riding and most of all have fun!

    Margie Muenzer

    Participant Coordinator, Physical Therapist, Instructor

    Margie joined NCTRC in 1993 as a physical therapist and PATH-certified therapeutic riding instructor. She holds a master’s degree in Physical Therapy from Case Western Reserve University, and received training in hippotherapy through the American Hippotherapy Association’s Level I and Level II courses. She never tires of the joys of helping children and adults with physical challenges begin to overcome these and thrive through the partnership with a willing horse or pony and team of dedicated volunteers.

    Tess Sevelow-Lee

    Volunteer Manager, Instructor

    Tess received her BSW in 2009 from Illinois State University. Her mom would say she was born in a barn, and spent every available minute around horses. Formerly a Director of Alumni Affairs for an international study abroad program, she decided to pursue her greatest love of working with horses and people.
    Tess received her Instructor Certification through the Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel, and has just moved back stateside after nine years abroad. She is certified as a PATH Int'l riding instructor and is currently pursuing Equine Specialist certification. Tess believes wholeheartedly in the power of of animal/human connection, and is so excited to be a part of the NCTRC team!

    Katherine Miracle Bennett

    Equine Manager, Instructor

    Katherine joined NCTRC in late 2018, but has been involved with horses since the age of 5. She competed in Grand Prix show jumping from the age of 16, and represented the US in Europe on the USET Developing Rider Tour. Katherine holds a BA in Forensics Anthropology from Rollins College. She was inspired to join NCTRC after witnessing firsthand the changes in participants from therapeutic riding and hippotherapy.

    Kelsey Craig, LCSW

    Licensed Social Worker

    Kelsey received a BA in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology, from UNC-Asheville in 2013 and a MSW from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice in 2016. Since graduation, Kelsey has worked as therapist in a variety of settings, including inpatient treatment, group therapy, and individual therapy. Kelsey has always had a love and passion for horses, and began riding at the age of six years old. Kelsey showed through the Junior Hunters as a child, and is now competing as an Adult Amateur with her horse, Timmy. Being able to combine her passion for horses with her drive for helping others is a dream come true. Kelsey believes in the healing power of animals as well as the importance of psychotherapy.

    Chris Percy

    Equine Specialist in Mental Health & Learning

    Chris began volunteering at NCTRC in the summer of 2018 when he moved to North Carolina from Maine. He is currently studying clinical mental health counseling at NC State and is certified as a PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. Chris believes in the power of horses’ ability to respond to our behaviors, offering insights and invitations to reflect on our thoughts and emotions. Working in partnership with horses empowers humans to understand their challenges, heal, and exist in the world more harmoniously.

    Suzanne Case

    Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning, Instructor Candidate

    Suzanne is certified as an Equine Specialist by both EAGALA and PATH, holds a BA in Psychology from Salem College, and is pursuing her MA in Psychological Counseling at Goddard College, as well as certification as a therapeutic riding instructor. She also holds BHSAI certification, and has been teaching riding and training horses for 33 years, most recently incorporating yoga into her teaching through Vinyasa Dressage. She and Matt have worked as part of an equine therapy team since 2004. Suzanne is very passionate about equine-assisted therapies of all kinds and the NCTRC and feels that this work is invaluable to the human spirit; mind, body, and soul.

    Sarah Harris

    Physical Therapist

    Sarah has a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She primarily works at Duke Regional Hospital, but is very excited to begin seeing clients at NCTRC incorporating hippotherapy. Sarah completed AHA level I class with plans to complete level II soon! Sarah has over 20 years of horse experience as she began riding as a small child. She went on to ride horses in college for University of Tennessee at Martin.

    Amy Thomas

    Physical Therapist

    Amy joined NCTRC in 2019. She earned her Master of Physical Therapy from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1999. While a Fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill's Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning, Amy received the Tom Watson Trainee Research Award, in order to conduct research involving access to community recreation for people with disabilities. Amy also published an article about promoting community recreation and leisure in the Pediatric Physical Therapy journal of the American Physical Therapy Association in 2003. Amy has extensive experience with a wide variety of conditions, including various syndromes and associations, rare genetic defects, organ transplants, and unspecified gross motor delay.

    Francesca Nixon

    Physical Therapist

    Francesca joined NCTRC in August of 2017 as a physical therapist. Francesca has a BS in Physical Therapy and a MS in Exercise Physiology. She received training in Hippotherapy through the AHA Level I course and looks toward completing her level II course this summer. Francesca has 40 years of physical therapy as well as over 20 years of riding experience and feels she has found her niche here working with our children and adults.

    Kyrsten Spurrier

    Occupational Therapist

    Kyrsten and her husband moved to Efland in 2015 for him to pursue his dream job. She primarily works at Duke University Hospital as an Occupational Therapist in the Medical ICU, and also sees clients at NCTRC for hippotherapy. Kyrsten did 3-day eventing in high school then worked as a head wrangler at a camp through college; she says that the life skills she has learned from horses have made her who she is today, for which she is thankful.

    Jennifer Chalker

    Special Projects

    Jennifer started at NCTRC in the summer of 2017 as an APPLES intern from UNC Chapel Hill, where she graduated in 2018 with a BA in Public Relations and Political Science. Jennifer came to NCTRC with no horse experience, but throughout her internship, she has not only embraced the NCTRC mission but also a love for horses and what they can do for people with disabilities. After falling in love with the organization, Jennifer agreed to stay on the NCTRC team.

    Audrey Ganitopoulos

    Special Projects, Instructor

    Audrey joined NCTRC in 2007, but has been involved with this industry since 2004. She is a PATH-certified therapeutic riding and vaulting instructor, and holds a BS degree in Animal Science from NCSU. Audrey was excited to discover NCTRC after moving to NC from the west coast, where she worked at another therapeutic riding center. She has also generously shared her horses Six and Star with NCTRC.

    Brooke Weeks


    Brooke has been involved with NCTRC since 2015, and is a PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor. She holds a BA in Therapeutic Horsemanship from St. Andrews University. After graduation she began working as a riding instructor for NCTRC.

    Courtney Niggel


    Courtney joined NCTRC in 2017 as a PATH-certified therapeutic riding instructor. She has been a part of the equine community for the past 20 years, but her love for therapeutic riding began in 2004 when she first started volunteering at Coastal Therapeutic Riding Program (CTRP). Courtney was a member of the United States Pony Club for 8 years, participating in regional and national clinics and rallies. After graduating from high school, she studied psychology and also joined the eventing world. She has been teaching therapeutic riding in Wilmington at CTRP for the past 6 years and created a ponies and princesses (or superhero) birthday party company that caters to children of all ages and abilities. In her free time, Courtney likes to create costumes and go to comic conventions.

    Elle Goertzen


    Elle joined NCTRC in 2017 as a PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor. She holds a Master’s degree in Equine Nutrition from NCSU and a Bachelor’s degree in Horse Science from Middle Tennessee State University. Elle has taught riding in several southern states and Michigan, and has taught locally since 2013, focusing on dressage, jumping, and behavior-based horsemanship. She is excited to be a part of a dynamic and knowledgeable team at NCTRC.

    Kristen Makohon

    Special Projects, Instructor

    Kristen has been involved with NCTRC since January 2015, and by June 2015 had decided to pursue a career in EAAT. She holds a BS in Biology from UNC-Chapel Hill, and is a PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor. Kristen also assists us with development and grant writing! She is in the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Central Piedmont Community College, and we look forward to her adding hippotherapy to her talents soon!

    Laura Michael

    Instructor, Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning

    Laura joined NCTRC’s staff in 2016 as the summer camp’s Assistant Director, and is certified by PATH as a therapeutic riding instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. She graduated from UNC Greensboro in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in American Sign Language and Deaf studies, and is currently enrolled in the Computer Aided Drafting program at Alamance Community College.

    Lissa Lutz

    Instructor, Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning

    Lissa has been involved with NCTRC since 1986, and is currently certified by PATH Intl as an Advanced Instructor and Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. Lissa holds a BS degree from Duke, as well as MD and MPH degrees from UNC. She loves teaching and seeing the positive impact that horses can have on people.

    Rachel Artz


    Rachel is a Sociology major in her junior year, interested in pursuing a career working with disabilities and service animals. She is currently part of UNC’s best buddies program, which matches a college student with a community member with disabilities. Her buddy this year is deaf, allowing her to refine her American Sign Language skills. Her dog Theodore (Teddy for short) takes up her remaining free time. She is thrilled to be part of the NCTRC as a Spring APPLES Intern as she explores the opportunities in this career.

    Tracy Franklin


    Tracy has been involved with NCTRC since 2013, and is a PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology from UNC-Wilmington and is a Certified Nursing Assistant. Tracy visited the farm in 2012 for a special event, instantly fell in love with the work we do and started volunteering, then came on staff to manage our herd, began teaching and pursued certification as an instructor, and has never looked back.

    Mallory Heffelfinger


    Mallory joined NCTRC's staff in 2015, and was certified as PATH riding instructor in 2019. She graduated from High Point University in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and in 2018 with a master's degree in Educational Leadership; she is now enrolled in a doctoral program to complete her studies. Mallory loves having the opportunity through NCTRC to make camp an empowering experience for campers of all different ages and abilities.

    Jennie Jager

    Barn Assistant

    Jennie is a sophomore at NC State university, studying Business Administration. She loves working with horses and has been riding since she was 13 years old. Her enthusiasm for trail riding led her to compete in Hunter paces, though she also loves working on technical skills in the arena. Her love for horses also led her to become a volunteer at NCTRC and then a barn assistant. At the NCTRC, she has been able to see and admire how horses can change people's lives for the better.

    Ryan Jones

    Special Events

    Ryan started at NCTRC in the winter of 2017 and works part-time as our barn assistant and on special events. She holds a BA in Political Science and a Master of Accounting from UNC Chapel Hill and now works full time as a Tax Associate at RSM in Greensboro. Ryan has enjoyed working with horses since she was young and is excited to share this experience with others.

    James Jeffries

    Facility Manager (medical leave)

    James has been caring for this farm since even before NCTRC arrived. He cares for the horses and maintains the facility in excellent condition. James describes working outdoors and with the therapy horses as "hog heaven."