Goat Joy goat yoga pairs traditional poses with Nigerian dwarf goats./Photo by Maria DeForrest
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On this sunny Sunday afternoon, it’s the goats more than the yoga that have brought Margaret Colvin out to the Goat Joy goat yoga class at Ritter Family Farms near Harbeson.
“The baby goats are so cute,” says the retired educator from Rehoboth Beach, one of two dozen students in today’s class. “It’s not a real yoga class, but it’s a great way to get away from the beach noise. I really enjoyed it.”
Goat yoga, an interactive class that combines basic yoga poses and baby goats, got its start on a farm in Oregon in 2016. The experience became so successful that it’s been modeled nationwide.
Photo by Maria DeForrest
Laura Ritter and her daughter, Amanda, a pre-veterinary student at the University of Delaware, embarked on the goat yoga opportunity in 2017, following a very successful goat yoga fundraiser for Amanda’s Sigma Alpha professional sorority. “It was a huge success,” Amanda says. Sigma Alpha continued the tradition with three classes in May.
Goat Joy takes place Sunday afternoons from April through October at Ritter Family Farms.
“We just let them be goats. They hop on people’s backs. They view you as toys,” Amanda explains. “People aren’t used to goats. You have to experience it, and everyone leaves with a smile. The goats are so silly. At the end of a class, people just sit and cuddle the goats, and we take pictures.”
Amanda’s love for goats, specifically the Nigerian dwarf breed, started with her first goat, Sweety, her Cape Henlopen High School Future Farmers of America project. The herd has grown to more than 50, and all are registered dairy goats. Laura, in fact, is perfecting cheese recipes with a goal of opening a creamery in the near future.
Humans pay $20 per class through online pre-registration for the opportunity to practice cat-cow and down dog with baby goats hopping on their backs or cavorting on their mats. The fee helps pay for the goats’ feed and care.
Classes, led by instructor Sue McCarthy, are limited to 25 students and 10 to 12 young goats, and are held outdoors inside a fenced-in, grassy area; mats are provided. McCarthy, who owns Lewes Yoga & Meditation Center, originally reached out to the Ritters last year after reading an article about goat yoga and conducting some online research, coincidentally about the same time the Ritters were seeking a qualified teacher.
“I didn’t know anything about goats, and the first time I went to the farm I spent about two hours with Amanda and Laura,” says McCarthy, whose enthusiasm for the goat yoga experience is obvious.
“It’s fantastic. It elevates the mood and releases endorphins, which are so needed in this day and age. It’s a connection to nature and animals. When I’m teaching, I hear nothing but giggling and laughter,” she says. “It’s a surge of happiness. I can tell you each class is different every week, but it always works. I’m so glad I found them.”