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Minnesota couple finds success with goat yoga

This Nigerian dwarf goat climbed on the shoulders of Chris Pappenfuss of Alexandria, Minn., cocked its head and wondered what she would do next. (Ross Evavold / Forum News Service)1 / 7
A goat fell fast asleep in Joellen Petrick's arms following class Saturday, Aug. 25. (Ross Evavold / Forum News Service)2 / 7
One participant got an earful during a goat yoga session Saturday morning, Aug. 25, in Forada, Minn. (Ross Evavold / Forum News Service)3 / 7
Goat yoga brought out a lot of smiles and laughter from its participants. (Ross Evavold / Forum News Service)4 / 7
It was hard to tell who was enjoying the goat yoga session Saturday, Aug. 25, in Forada, Minn., more, the people who signed up for it or the star attractions. (Ross Evavold / Forum News Service)5 / 7
Danielle Carlson of Alexandria wonders what she got herself into when a goat perched on her shoulders. (Ross Evavold / Forum News Service)6 / 7
When yoga participants got on their backs they were easy targets for the goats, as one got up close with Charity Kuperus of Alexandria, Minn. (Ross Evavold / Forum News Service)7 / 7

FORADA, Minn.—When instructor Heather Godfrey of Alexandria asked her yoga class how many had participated in goat yoga before, not one arm was raised.

It was a new experience for all three dozen people who came to a residential area of Forada Saturday morning, jumping at the chance to have their yoga session interrupted repeatedly by goats. Some were a bit skeptical, but judging by their reactions and what many said afterward, they could not wait to try it again. In fact, some have arranged to bring goat yoga to their houses.

"This was great. We just came to play with goats, and maybe do some yoga," said Charity Kuperus of Alexandria, who had goats at one time on the farm where she grew up in Osakis.

"I have been wanting to do it all summer," said Stephanie Schuett of Alexandria, who proposed T-shirts bearing the slogan, "I'm just here for the goats."

"There was so much laughter and fun. I would do it every Saturday if I could," she said.

Joellen Petrick of Fergus Falls appreciated the change of pace from more traditional yoga.

"It was fun to do yoga and laugh. It's usually so serious," said Petrick, who following the yoga session was holding a goat that fell asleep in her arms. "They were more interactive than I thought, and they went to the bathroom a lot."

"Oh, my gosh, it was amazing," said Lynn Williamson of Alexandria, who was talked into participating by Godfrey. The goats made the event the G.O.A.T.—"The greatest of all time," Williamson said. "It was awesome."

We're doing what?

The goats were supplied by Tracy and Ed Becker of Glencoe. The animals represented a second chance for the Beckers, who had cows until 2009, when the milk market bottomed out.

"We were renting a farm and couldn't hold on. It was a really difficult time," Tracy recalls. "You get real with what's important in life. For us it shook us to our core."

By then they were a family of six. Ed went back to managing a large dairy herd and they moved to Glencoe. They also had four goats.

"Eddie, our oldest, has always loved goats," his mother said. "He got his first when he was 5, so we knew the goats had to come with. It was just super important for us. We didn't want our kids to lose that responsibility part, too."

They now have 70 Nigerian dwarf goats, which come in many colors. The Beckers milk them twice a day, and Tracy said they have the highest butterfat in their milk of all the breeds. But it's their personality that most people respond to.

"They're really personable. They think everyone wants to be their friend," she said. "A goat is fun-loving, and especially Nigerian dwarfs. They just want to have a good time. It's positive attitude all the time. Some nights when we're doing chores, you just go to the pen and they just swarm you."

Goats are also very inquisitive animals who love attention, Ed said.

The Beckers developed skin-care products to sell at farmers markets and natural food co-ops. Then two years ago they got a phone call from a friend in California that changed their lives.

"She said they're doing goat yoga there, and just knowing our goats and all the joy they bring us, we thought that would be perfect. Let's try this," Tracy said.

Not everyone was instantly on board. Ed remembers thinking, "You've got to be kidding me." Tracy said her family's reaction was: "Have you lost your mind?" Even now there is disbelief.

"It sounds like the craziest thing, because I never thought we'd be doing this," she said.

However, the goat yoga has filled a niche, and people began calling them to bring the goats to events. In Minneapolis they had to turn people away.

"It's getting more and more popular," Becker said. "It's really popular in the Cities."

Now the family has Goat Shine skin care products, goat milk fudge and plans on moving into ice cream. They operate goat therapy for rehab facilities and nursing homes and businesses, and goat yoga. Becker is planning to be a certified yoga instructor this fall so they don't have to hire a teacher for classes.

"It's a little bit of yoga and goat therapy all at the same time. People say thank you so much, that this is so what we needed," said Becker, who said she also been transformed by the experiences.

"To see the joy that they bring to people, that's just priceless. That's what I want to do the rest of my life."