There is joy in goat yoga

June 9, 2019

Yesterday I took a yoga class with a herd of energetic goats. People from all age groups tried to strike traditional poses while baby goats, ages 2 months to 2 years, nibbled our mats and our pants. They were playful, affectionate and yes, joyful like their business name – Goat Joy!

Their website explains: “The goats bring us joy, and we are sharing them with you in a fun, exciting format ... They have a way of restoring you.”

Located in Harbeson, behind St. George’s Chapel, the Ritter farm has been in business for five generations. The Ritters grow corn, lima beans, soy and wheat. But in 2017, Amanda, a student at the University of Delaware, came up with a new idea.

She wanted to raise money for her agricultural sorority, Sigma Alpha, so she held a fundraiser. It was a huge hit, so why not offer classes to the public? Who would want to be an instructor?

Enter Susan McCarthy, owner of Lewes Yoga. “One day my clients were talking about goat yoga after reading an article in class. So I googled goat farms in the area and found this one. I knew I wanted in,” said Susan.

About 15 of us are now sitting on purple mats in a lovely shady spot in the family’s backyard. As our teacher Susan instructs us to bend at the waist into a forward fold, my hands reach the ears and eyes of an adorable face.

Later I learn the breed is called Oberhasli, a dairy goat found in the Brienzer region of Switzerland. You can learn about a variety of goats on their website.

Laura Ritter is described as “the business-minded part of the operation.” Laura has selected all of the goats that are part of their herd except for Sweety – the very first one that started it all. She chooses breeds for top genetics and milking ability.

Laura places a goat on the back of participant Kathy Reinhart from Rehoboth. Her friend Anna Fecker from Milton giggles and reaches for her cellphone to snap a picture.

Reinhart confides, “I thought this would be a fun activity to do with my BFF, and we are animal lovers!”

I accompanied my friend Ruth to the class, and she loved the goats so much, she didn’t want to leave. That evening we texted pictures back and forth of each other with our goat friends.

The Ritters now house 65 goats and enter some of them in shows. Laura tells me the judges look for nice straight backs, and straight legs and feet to support their weight just like humans.

And now we have straight backs while we’re on our hands and knees in bridge pose.

“Who else wants a goat on their back?”

Everyone did. Sigh. Another great photo to put in My Senior Yearbook!

(The delicious strawberry vendor at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market that I promised to mention was Parson’s Farm from Dagsboro.)