• 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. Jackie loves watching her students build confidence, develop a love for horses and horseback riding and most of all have fun!

    Isabella deSantis

    Equine & Volunteer Manager, Instructor

    Isabella joined NCTRC in 2017 with previous volunteer experience at another therapeutic riding center near Asheville, and almost twenty years experience riding, competing and caring for horses. Isabella is a PATH-certified therapeutic riding instructor. She currently trains and competes in dressage and eventing, and recently graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in English and Creative Writing.

    Jennifer Barber

    Volunteer Coordinator

    Jennifer started at NCTRC in the summer of 2017 as an APPLES intern from UNC Chapel Hill, where she is majoring 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 while she finishes school.

    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.

    Meredith Pope

    Licensed Professional Counselor

    Meredith joined NCTRC in spring 2018 to offer equine assisted counseling services. Prior to joining NCTRC, Meredith founded and directed the New Leash on Life Prison Dog Training Program in Raleigh. She holds a BA in Religion from the University of Virginia, and an MA in Counseling Psychology from Bowie State University. Meredith is also certified through the Delta Society in Animal-Assisted Therapy, holds a Level 1 certificate from the International Institute for Animal-Assisted Play Therapy, and is working toward her PATH Int'l Equine Specialist in Mental Health & Learning certification. Meredith is particularly interested in the intersection of wellness, psychological growth, and animal interactions. She has extensive education in mindfulness, trauma, life transitions, and anxiety.

    Matt Case

    Licensed Professional Counselor

    Matt is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Chapel Hill. He has worked in community and private settings since 2002, and was certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association in 2004. He and Suzanne have used equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) to treat children and adults with a wide range of issues from schizophrenia and trauma to anxiety and parent-child relationship struggles. Matt draws heavily upon Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an evidence-based approach that teaches mindfulness and acceptance skills to let unwanted thoughts and feelings come and go while creating a rich and meaningful life. ACT dovetails nicely with EAP, as they both utilize metaphors, direct experience, and present-moment awareness to nurture human potential and growth.

    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.

    Kristin Stange

    Occupational Therapist

    Kristin joined NCTRC's staff in 2017, but she has been involved with hippotherapy since age 16! Practicing therapy in this setting has been a long-awaited dream, as it allows her to combine her love of horses and 20+ years of riding experience with her professional interests in OT. She especially loves watching how this unique setting and horses help clients discover strengths and talents that may be more difficult to uncover in a traditional therapy clinic. Kristin holds a BA in English and an MS in Occupational Therapy - both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (go Badgers!), and completed hippotherapy training through the American Hippotherapy Association.

    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.

    Toby Freeman

    Speech-Language Pathologist, Instructor

    Toby joined NCTRC in 2017 after relocating from New Hampshire, where she has operated HorseTalk Hippotherapy since 2005. She holds an MS in Speech/Language Pathology from the University of Michigan, and is certified by the American Speech and Language Association. She is also a PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor, and has completed training through the American Hippotherapy Association. Toby has three of her own horses and participates with them in dressage, showing, a Friesian drill team, versatility, cow and ranch work, and trail riding.

    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 also teaches at Horse & Buddy Therapeutic Riding in New Hill, and around the Triangle as an independent instructor. She is excited to be a part of a dynamic and knowledgeable team at NCTRC.

    India Johnson

    Development/Volunteer Services Intern

    India joined NCTRC in January 2018 as our UNC APPLES intern. She has worked with non profits consistently for the past 2 years. She is a current senior at UNC Chapel Hill studying Sociology, Women's and Gender studies, and African American studies. She plans to attend graduate school to obtain a Master's degree in Social Work, and to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is passionate about serving people with disabilities, and excited to witness the growth and success of individuals who participate in equine activities and therapies.

    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!

    Laura Michael

    Assistant Camp Director, Instructor

    Laura joined NCTRC’s staff in 2016 as the summer camp’s Assistant Director, and is a PATH-certified therapeutic riding instructor. She graduated from UNC Greensboro in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in American Sign Language and Deaf studies. Laura is now working to complete a graduate program at UNC Charlotte in Special Education Adapted Curriculum. Laura is excited to have the opportunity to work with all of the children at NCTRC’s summer camp!

    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.

    Tracy Franklin

    Special Projects, Instructor

    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

    Camp Director, Instructor Candidate

    Mallory joined NCTRC's staff in 2015, and plans to attain certification this summer as a therapeutic riding instructor. She graduated from High Point University in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and her master's degree in Educational Leadership is now underway. Mallory loves having the opportunity through NCTRC to make camp an empowering experience for campers of all different ages and abilities.

    Ryan Jones

    Barn Assistant

    Ryan started at NCTRC in the winter of 2017 and works as our barn assistant. She recently graduated with a BA in Political Science and is now back at UNC Chapel Hill finishing her Master of Accounting. 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."