The screen protector on my phone is slightly cracked but I’m reluctant to swap it out for a new one. It’s such a good story when someone notices and asks me about it. I get to respond with a casual “Oh, a goat stepped on it.”
Living in a fairly metropolitan area, just outside of Disney World, they’re usually pretty shocked. It’s the perfect lead in to get to tell them about my experience at Grady Goat Yoga.
I had heard about goat yoga years ago but was unaware of anything like this close enough for me to experience. When I came across a Facebook ad for Grady Goat Yoga at the Hat Trick Ranch in Thonotosassa (about an hour south of Orlando) I signed myself and my friend Heather up immediately.
The date on our tickets finally arrived and we made the trek down to the ranch, yoga mats in tow. Heather, a serious workout buff, came prepared with a water bottle, flexibility and a willingness to actually do yoga for an hour and a half. I was happy to stop at a Dunkin’ Donuts along the way and was giddy at the idea of being able to pet some goats.
I had so many questions. How many goats will they have? Will I actually have to do yoga to be able to cuddle them? If so, am I capable of faking my way through such a long class without any actual athletic ability? Do you think the goats will judge me for this doughnut? No, that’s silly. Aren’t they known for eating everything? I guess we’re about to get some real answers.
We arrive at the Hat Trick Ranch and set up our mats in the back corner of the class. Most of the class is female and oddly, they’re almost all in their mid-20’s and hung-over. Apparently this isn’t the standard for Goat Yoga classes. We are a few minutes away from Tampa and it’s the Sunday morning immediately following a large pirate-themed festival they have once a year called Gasparilla. I didn’t realize there was such a large cross-section of people who were fans of both pirates and goats. Picturing a peg-legged goat with an eye patch and striped pants amuses me. He could buy all his rum at the “Baa-aaarrrrr!”
As we’re waiting for class to begin they have let loose an ambassador goat. This goat’s job is to welcome everyone into the class. Everyone is antsy hoping that this goat will meander over to them so they can take a photo. The goat seems oblivious to the popularity his ambassadorship has granted him.
Once the teacher is ready to begin, they go over a couple of quick announcements first.
Thank you for coming to class. All proceeds benefit the Grady Goat Foundation. This was started when a goat named Grady was born on the ranch with some neurological deficits. He struggled a lot with everyday life and needed a lot of extra care before passing away at a young age. This opened the eyes of the owners of the ranch to what parents of children with neurological disorders must go through on a much larger scale. They opened the foundation and started hosting goat yoga classes on weekends. Each classes’ proceeds go straight to the foundation which benefits children with neurological diseases. The teachers of the classes volunteer their time for this cause. Today’s class is being taught by a mom whose daughter is in the hospital and the fund is helping to pay for her care.
Now, they go over a couple of rules:
Be nice to the goats. If you don’t want goats climbing or jumping on you, speak now or forever hold your peace. If a goat potties on your yoga mat, raise your hand and someone will come by to help clean the mess. If you have any other questions, there will also be people around to assist. Otherwise, keep your phones out, have fun and get ready because it’s time to release the goats…
They open a pen in the corner of the area we are sitting in and about 30 goats come out in a mini stampede. They range in sizes and age from a few week old babies all the way up to full grown adults. The craziest one is named Bob.
As the yoga class progresses, very little yoga is being done. The goats are a massive distraction but that seems to be the expectation. No one is mad. Everyone is laughing and rolling around on the ground, taking pictures. Bob seems to love jumping on the few people who have managed to focus through the chaos and continue with the yoga class. If anything, he is exercise incentive. Do you want Bob to visit you? Then you ought to end up in some sort of downward facing dog position and Bob will hop on over. He even seems to be hopping from person to person without touching the ground. I think this is the goat equivalent of “the floor is lava!”
One of the ranch owners is wandering around with an apron full of treats like the Pied Piper. She is enticing goats to climb up on humans long enough for a photo. This trains the goats to enjoy goat yoga, the whole experience socializes them and is healthy for them, according to the staff there, and the humans? Let’s just say everyone seemed to have forgotten about their hangovers pretty quickly once that gate swung open and the goats came marching in.
By the end of the class, my yoga mat was filthy. Heather had her water bottle chewed on. My shoes might have been munched a little, too. I had done just enough yoga to say that I did some yoga and take a few pictures. My soul was happy. I had laughed for nearly the entire hour and a half. I stopped laughing only when I was melting because the tiniest baby decided to fall asleep in my lap. It was a beautiful way to spend a Sunday morning.
Maybe my back was sore the next day (humans aren’t meant to be goat stairs) and maybe my phone’s screen protector is cracked, but I crack a smile every time I look at it. Would I do it again? I already have. Guess what mom got to do for Mother’s Day this year! It’s my goat-to gift! I’m kid-ding. I have to milk these puns for all they’re worth.
For more information about the Grady Goat Foundation or about Grady Goat Yoga, visit https://gradygoat.org/goat-yoga/