Using farm animals to help humans feel better

By on September 28, 2023

Frances Danner with one of the horse “therapists” (Credit: Brooke Mayo photographer)

Mane and Taill to host free workshops for high stress workers

When Christina Strayer and Frances Danner looked at the suicide rate for workers on the frontlines of public safety and public health, they thought, ‘What can we do?’ “It’s an epidemic,” said Strayer, referring to the high suicide rates in those professions.

As animal assisted therapists with Animal Assisted Therapy of the Triangle, Strayer and Danner use methods meant to improve physical, social, emotional or cognitive functioning—with animals as integral part of the treatment.

In order to create an environment where people learn stress management skills in a fun, interactive environment alongside farm animals, they are hosting a free weekly open workshop running from Oct. 3 to Nov. 21 every Tuesday from 10 a.m. till noon at Mane and Taill Farm in Jarvisburg. The sessions are designed for first responders, law enforcement personnel, healthcare workers and veterinarians.

“Traditional therapy groups for this type of thing haven’t been the most successful,” said Danner, explaining the concept behind animal assisted therapy. The workshop is a partnership between Animal Assisted Therapy and Mane and Taill Therapeutic Horsemanship Academy, a volunteer-based nonprofit dedicated to teaching children and adults with disabilities that is funded by a grant provided by the Outer Banks Community Foundation.

Typically, Strayer and Danner use the farm for formal one-on-one animal assisted therapy sessions with their clients. According to Danner, the difference between traditional talk therapy and animal-assisted therapy is the unique elements that animals bring to sessions. She explains that there are a multitude of tools and activities that can be used with the animals depending on the client’s needs.

Sometimes the therapists will take the client to observe the herd of horses, which they say mimics human roles and behaviors in society. To that end, they can use the animals’ roles in their communities to match up with situations and feelings that the clients may be dealing with. There is one horse that is pushed around in the herd, “so we can talk about being pushed around and walked over and stuff like that,” said Danner. “And then they’ll typically say, ‘Oh, me too.’ And then we can talk about that.”

Sometimes the therapists will conduct activities, like an obstacle course with the miniature horses, to teach about self-confidence, or they’ll do an activity with the fainting goats, to show how quickly they bounce back after they seemingly faint when their muscles tense up when they get overstimulated.

But many times it’s about letting the animals take control and use their innate compassion and understanding to allow clients to open up and heal, whether that involves taking a walk with the animals, sitting with the herd, or leaving the clients alone with the animal if they feel more comfortable talking with them.

“Horses are so intuitive. And they can hear your heartbeat. They can definitely tell what emotions you’re feeling,” said Danner.

At the pending workshops, it will be up to those that show up to decide if they want to do activities or if they just want to relax and spend time with the animals.

“We’ll leave it kind of up to the group that day, we’ll have a goal, like ‘today, we’re gonna learn a relaxation skill with the goats.’ But if the group shows up, and they just kind of want to process their week, or if they just need…the support from the animals and the other members in the group, it’s totally based on what they need that day,” said Danner.

Two years ago, Strayer first reached out to Samantha Iulo, owner of Mane and Taill, after her son and daughter-in-law had taken their children to an event and thought the farm would make a great partner for Strayer’s practice. She called and pitched the idea for the grant. Iulo was on vacation with her family and immediately greenlighted the idea.

Now, in addition to the workshop, Strayer has her local offices on the Main and Taill farm and sees clients regularly there. During the workshop, Strayer and Danner will be introducing what they call The Three R’s—Relaxation, Resiliency, and Reflection. According to Danner, what that entails depends on what the group is interested in.

“And our farm is incredible. It’s quiet, it’s, it’s so peaceful, and it’s just a really, really good spot to be,” Danner said. “So that was a big reason we thought of doing this workshop, because so many people when they come out here, like, ‘Oh, my God, I could just sit out here for hours.’ So even just being there, even if they don’t speak a word, it’s going to be beneficial.”

Strayer specializes in PTSD and has seen the powerful impact that animal-assisted therapy can have. Strayer, Iulo, and Danner say if this free workshop is a success, they are hoping to continue this program into the future. Through the grant, they were able to purchase a trailer to transport some of the animals, so in case any of the workers in these fields can’t come out on those days, they can bring the animals to them.

The workshop is “free, it’s open,” said Danner. “They can pop in for ten minutes, they can stay the whole two hours. They can come for one session, or they can come for eight. It’s not like you have to sign in and stay. It’s a come as you please, come as you want, come if you can type of thing.”

For more information visit Mane and Taill Facebook page.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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