ROBERTS, Wis. -- As someone who has never done goat yoga, I assumed that the single baby goat in the yoga area when we arrived at Have Ya Herd, a farm east of Hudson, would be the only furry friend joining us during A 90-minute yoga session. Because I knew I would spend time with the little one shortly, I went in to greet the roughly 20 goats that were held within two pens inside the barn. Their size varied from large dogs to small babies, and everything in between.
As we waited for the rest of the class to arrive, I also said hello to cows and pigs hanging out in the barn (those, I am told, have not been introduced to yoga).
Shortly after 9 a.m., the 10 people in the class filed into the yoga studio (a hay-covered rectangle with a roof and one wall; the exterior of the barn) and we greeted the young goat that was zooming around the space. As I unfurled my mat, provided to all participants, I watched the owner, Jess Lubich (who runs this family company with her husband, Kevin, and three, soon to be four, children) walk over to the other side of the studio, bend down, and open a small door in the wall that I hadn’t noticed. Before the door was fully opened, all of the goats that had been in the pens inside the barn came flooding out, each running to greet the people sitting on mats.
It was impossible to count the goats because they kept running, jumping and head-butting, but is seemed that there was about two goats to every participant.
As in most yoga sessions, we began by sitting on our mats and trying to focus on our breathing. This was a little more difficult than in a more conventional yoga studio because we were nudged and nibbled on by the goats until we pet them or had to push them away so they would stop chewing on shoe laces and scarves. (Before we began, we were told to put long hair up or tuck it into hats. My mother, who was doing yoga for the first time, did not have a hair tie. So, by the end of the session, she had a mat on the side of her hair that was slobbered on by a couple of goats.)
The actual yoga that we did was fairly simple, moves and positions that can be done by those who have never done yoga before. The instructor explained as we worked on balance and stretching that she would not be offended if we didn’t do every move. Some past participants, she explained, just sat on their mats petting goats throughout the session.
Even with the intention of doing every move and taking each deep breath, we found impossible not to pause -- to move a goat or try to remove your sweatpants from their mouths.
When the goats first rushed into the studio, some of the smaller ones began trying to climb onto the participant's shoulders. At the end of the session, we learned why they were so intent on climbing: the instructor had everyone make a table with their back (knees and hands on the ground with a flat spine) and go hip-to-hip with people next to them. Once everyone was in this “goat bridge” formation, the goats began jumping up and walking across the participants. Despite the hooves, it didn’t hurt, it felt more like a massage, especially because it was mostly the young, smaller goats that were excited about climbing on people. The older, larger goats seemed content just putting their front hooves on people or going to the other side of the space to headbutt and intermingle.
The goats clearly knew what they were doing and enjoyed yoga sessions. The instructor recounted taking goats on the road for yoga sessions. She explained that when the pen is set up and the goats are roaming in it, they will all leave the fresh grass they were munching to go sit on a yoga mat, patiently waiting, if one is placed in the pen.
Throughout the session, many people were chosen by a goat to become their person for the entire session or a portion of it. After the goat bridge, I sat and stroked (ignoring the remaining stretching poses) a brown, long-eared goat named Roco, who was medium size. According to Lubich, he was a breed that was supposed to be at least twice the size but he had some kind of goat dwarfism.
Each goat at Have Ya Herd is a family pet. They are treated by the vet just as other pets are and have names (Linus, Lucy, Harry Houdini, Bunny, Moji, etc.). The instructor's favorite is “Duke” -- he received that name because he was born on the same day that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married -- because she has known him since he was born.
When yoga came to a close, we were given time to take pictures with the goats, hold the babies and pet them without trying to do a stretching exercise. When most of the participants had left, the instructor opened the small door leading into the barn again, and the goats all filed into the pen as quickly as they had filed out an hour and a half earlier.
If you go:
What: Have Ya Herd
Where: 517 County Road SS, Roberts, Wis.
When: Most classes are held at 9 a.m., Saturdays and Sundays, April to November.
Cost: $30 per person.
Notes: Some days are reserved for private events. If you attend, wear clothes that can get dirty and remember to tie up long hair or put it in a hat. Photos are encouraged.
For more information about goat yoga and other events at Have Ya Herd, visit haveyaherd.biz.