Namastay with the Goats
Situated along the beautiful country landscape of West Chazy, Sapeliro Farm and Wellness Center has become a blissful retreat for animal lovers and wellness fanatics since co-owners Lauren Ladue and Justin Fleming added goat yoga classes to the calendar.
It’s a trend hailing from Northwestern Oregon that has been popping up around the country, catching on with small farms and yoga studios. Goat yoga, simply a yoga class with goats running around the room, offers mental and physical health benefits. Participating can relieve stress and lower blood pressure. Just being around the soft baby goats has a healing effect, according to Ladue.
“I always say there is something about the outside of them that is good for the inside of us,” says Lauren Ladue.
On a 45 degree spring day in 2019, Sapeliro Farm held their first goat yoga class. A cold wind whistled through the barn. As bundled participants arrived, Ladue put the kettle on and passed out coffee and tea. She offered her own mittens and hats to keep people warm.
Everyone found the goats’ antics endearing. Warrior poses were thrown off balance by bucking kids. Downward dog sent the goats hopping and bouncing from one person’s back to another helping put newcomers at ease. As they nibbled participants’ hair, Ladue was close behind with hair nets for those less keen on becoming a snack. She made sure everyone was comfortable as the class progressed. It went so well they now hold monthly classes and private sessions for parties of four or more. Ladue admits her face hurt after that first class — not from the cold, but from the laughter.
Ladue says it’s beginner-friendly and much less serious than a typical yoga class.
“It is hard to take anything too seriously when a goat suddenly starts licking your belly,” says Ladue.
It’s a child-like experience that anybody can find pleasure in and she insists no one is limited by their age. So far, participants have ranged from age seven to 77.
The goats enjoy it just as much as their human playmates, if not more. Their spastic movements, unruly antics and amusing demeanors spark joy in all those involved.
Initially, Ladue was not interested in raising goats. They are famously mischievous. She once saw a goat eat clear through a window frame. Naturally, she worried what type of havoc the kids might wreck on all the hard work they had put into the farm.
“Justin pulled the yoga card,” Ladue says, with a laugh.
When he brought up the idea, she thought it was ridiculous, but Fleming insisted. After watching news reports and YouTube videos, Ladue, won over by the cuteness, came around.
“We love our goats,” she says. “I would never take it back.”
Sapeliro Farm turned a year old in the fall of 2019. When the couple obtained the property, it was a disaster. There were trees growing out of the barn. Garbage filled the garage and workspaces. Slowly, the pair started reshaping the buildings and landscape. They dug out four paddocks for their horses, erected their own telephone pole, and ran an electric fence in the middle of December. They removed the old garbage, rusty machinery and boxes of papers; they pulled old clawfoot tubs and couches out of the woods where they had been discarded.
Ladue comes from a background in animal rescue. She ran a shelter for almost seven years. She has always had a passion for this work and constantly seeks to help critters in need. However, having been immersed in sad animal stories for so long, she decided to leave the job once she learned she was pregnant with her first child.
“I didn’t realize all the stuff I was carrying around with me, all the sad stories and losses, all the crazy stuff you see,” she says.
She did not want to subject her children to all the tragedy she saw at the shelter. Still, she wanted to continue rescuing animals. Now their farm is filled with all kinds of animals with unfortunate backstories. Recently, the couple rescued five goats from an emergency situation and gave them a second chance. At Sapeliro Farm, the once neglected goats are now pampered yoga guests.
The farm has over a dozen goats that participate in the yoga classes. Most are rescues. Two especially rambunctious siblings, Moose and Toots, were brought to the farm after their mother rejected them. They lived in the house with Ladue and Fleming for the first few weeks, getting bottle-fed every two hours. When the vets came to check up on them, they couldn’t believe they were still alive. With a host of medical issues, their lives have not been easy. One is speculated to have had failure of passive transfer, a failure to obtain a sufficient amount of antibodies.
Now they have been given a new lease on life and enjoy making other people’s lives better as well. The goats help students relax, preparing their minds and bodies for the ancient practice of yoga, while still occasionally attempting to eat a mat or two.