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Helping hooves: Goat yoga gains two-toed foothold in Moses Lake

by Sebastian Moraga, for the Columbia Basin Herald
| June 17, 2021 1:03 AM

MOSES LAKE — Donna Gillespie lay face down on her yoga mat, seeking calmness, seeking peace, seeking relaxation.

The setting was perfect, a bucolic grassy field, a few puffy clouds and a gentle breeze. All that was missing was that age-old mantra of “Om.”

Instead, she got a “Baaa,” and a few chuckles from her yoga classmates and her yoga instructor Tiffany Quilter, all of whom saw Daisy the goat jump on the woman’s back.

Welcome to the world of goat yoga, a new activity gaining in popularity around the Northwest, including Moses Lake. A dozen people do yoga while half a dozen goats keep things extra interesting, right in there with them.

Quilter began her classes two years ago, but saw her budding business shelved by the pandemic. A graduate of Central Washington University with a degree in exercise science, she always wanted to do something that combined her field of expertise with her love of farming life.

Enter Lainey Morse, one of the founders of the goat yoga movement in the Northwest. Based in Oregon, Morse was interested in having her discipline catch on in other corners of the nation, so Quilter’s interest and Morse’s dreams meshed well.

“She liked our location,” Quilter said from her farm just southeast of Moses Lake, “She liked that we had a lavender farm and thought it would be a good fit.”

Forty-acre Columbia Plateau Wellness Lavender Farm, 5653 Road L SE, was her grandfather’s land, and when she bought it, she wanted to turn the farm into an active place. That’s where the idea of goat yoga took on a firmer hold.

With the idea of goat yoga came months of study and research. Quilter had the land, had the desire, but had to learn which goats were the best for yoga. Nigerian dwarf goats are smaller, and if Quilter decided to milk them, she could make goat milk’s soap, so that was another plus.

A farm in Deer Park supplied the females and a farm in Wapato supplied the males. Then the pandemic hit, putting everything on hold for 2020. Well, almost everything.

“That big goat,” says Quilter pointing into the distance, “is the dad of this little one.”

The little one is Daisy, last seen giving Gillespie a back massage.

Now in 2021, the classes at Original Goat Yoga in Moses Lake are back on, and people are coming from as far as Ephrata and Richland to do yoga and hang out with the goats.

There’s no scientific research on the medical benefits of goat yoga, but Quilter said the relaxation and the interaction with the goats, coupled with the benefits of meditation, stretching and breathing, and that it all happens in a lavender farm, creates a very positive atmosphere for the students.

“They are so playful and fun and happy, that it makes you feel happy,” Quilter said of the goats.

Another plus is, their poop is easy to clean up, so if they have an accident in class, out comes the scooper and the class continues.

The goats in class are either female or the type known as wether goats, males who have been castrated. Bucks or uncastrated males tend to smell bad, Quilter said, which makes them less-than-ideal yoga companions.

There’s no training for the goats, but they were introduced to people from the very start, with Quilter and her family spending time with them every day. The Quilters also surgically removed the goats’ horns when they were little. As a result, goats like Daisy and her relatives aren’t the least bit aggressive, nor shy to suggest you need a goat next to you. Or on top.

“They jump on everything,” Quilter said.

Classes started in early May and that session sold out fast. Since goats are social animals to begin with, being with a “herd” of humans became second nature to them. Every group needs an enforcer, though, and these goats are no exception. Their herd is protected, when they are not working a yoga session, by a llama.

“Llamas are really aggressive, but this one is really old. But if something comes around, she perks her ears up, and stands on guard. That’s why we have her. We have never had any trouble with any predators.”

About 178 miles away from the nearest ocean, the llama and the goats are but a few of the animals in Quilter’s boat-less Noah’s ark. She has ducks, a grown cat named Houdini, chickens, kittens, puppies, and a big dog. The cat is a master at mooching water from the goats’ dish.

Quilter has been asked whether she would try chicken yoga, but the thought of the mess that would occur cools those plans right up.

So, until the chickens learn some gym etiquette, and for the foreseeable future, it will be the goats helping folks breathe in and breathe out.

“When you bring the goats into it, it adds a layer of fun and a layer of relaxation,” Quilter said, adding she hopes to have a walking path around the lavender farm someday.

Quilter said she never had any qualms about having people come from two or three counties over to a spot in what is essentially her backyard. Besides her background in coaching and teaching, she’s always treasured having the chance to get people to be enthusiastic about exercising.

“I love helping people find things that they really enjoy, so I never thought of inviting people here as an issue,” she said. “It never occurred to me that it would be weird. We had a pumpkin patch here when I was a kid, so we had people come out back then, picking out pumpkins.”

And now that it’s OK to socialize again thanks to masks and vaccines, Quilter could not be happier. It’s been a long wait, so bring the people on.

“I’m so excited. So excited to give it a try,” she said.

To contact Quilter for a future goat yoga session, email her at moseslake@goatyoga.net. For more information, visit https://moseslake.goatyoga.net.

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Sebastian Moraga/For the Columbia Basin Herald

Donna Gillespie, of Moses Lake, gets a little massage from Daisy.

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Sebastian Moraga/For the Columbia Basin Herald

Daisy, left, and Glory are hooved helpers at Original Goat Yoga.

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Sebastian Moraga/For the Columbia Basin Herald

A couple of Tiffany Quilter’s goats hang around their pen with their guardian llama.

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Sebastian Moraga/For the Columbia Basin Herald

Brenda Hill, of Ephrata, holds out her hand to a yoga goat.