Lainey Morse knows first-hand what it’s like to need an outlet to de-stress and get centered. She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease three years ago that literally stopped her in her tracks: both physically and emotionally. She thought she would have to go on disability because some days she couldn’t even get out of bed. On top of that, she was going through a divorce.
As a way to get through the day, she would spend time with her goats in the afternoons, being in the moment with them. She soon learned that by just being around them, their calm demeanors helped her relax.
“They’re funny, too,” Lainey says while laughing, “so it’s really a combination of calming you and making you laugh.”
Upon first being diagnosed, she didn’t tell people she was struggling, but eventually she shared what was going on and started having people over to visit her more. She called it “Goat Happy Hour” because everybody simply left happier than when they arrived. Soon, her friends were even bringing their kids to share in the goat visits. The response by everyone was the same – Laughter, smiling, and a sense of peace.
One day, at a child’s birthday party she was hosting, Lainey had someone over who was a yoga instructor. The two women were out in the field chatting when the instructor said, “You should let me teach a yoga class out here. It’s so beautiful. So peaceful.” Lainey scoffed at first, pointing out that her goats would be all over the place, roaming about and getting in the way.
The yoga instructor’s response? “That’s cool.”
And there you have it. Goat Yoga was born.
Lainey took pictures of that first goat yoga session – photos of baby goats jumping on the yoga instructor and the friends and family members who came to partake, and of the laughter that ensued. She sent the pics on a whim to Modern Farmer Magazine thinking it might be featured briefly as a funny personal interest story, but The Oregonian, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal wanted to feature the story too.
“When you think about it,” says Lainey, “equine therapy, for example, can be really scary due to the horse’s size whereas a baby goat might not be.” And talk therapy, she adds, can be a challenge for those who are closed off or don’t trust a human therapist. With the success of that first yoga session, combined with the ease of which her visitors got along with the goats, Lainey started questioning if goats could be used as actual therapy animals.
Lainey saw potential in the way a goat could lift someone’s spirits and provide unconditional love. Goats enjoy companionship, she explained, and as a true testament to this, while Lainey and I walked about her property, all 14 of her goats followed, occasionally veering off to munch on grass, but mostly staying close, eager to engage in some gentle human contact. As we sat in some Adirondack chairs and talked, goats cuddled up next to us, and a couple climbed into our laps. Behind us, the remaining lay in the grass or on top of their large peering devices quietly sunbathing. It really was peaceful.
Lainey finds that in a world of tense divisions, political strife, and just plain stress, her goats are making people happy. “It’s not healing diseases, but it is getting people out of their own heads,” she says. A scientist from Oregon State University even came out to visit the goats and thinks Lainey might be on to something. She is excited about the prospect of goats being identified as supportive to the therapeutic process and helpful in someone’s healing journey. Her ultimate goal would be to have her goats be utilized as therapeutic support for anyone who may need it.
Lainey has made connections with many individuals who are struggling in one way or another, whether it be a mental illness diagnosis or a medical one, or a life event that has led to difficulty. She reports that almost always, people are timid and uncertain as to how her goats can help, but by the end of an encounter, their whole body language has changed. They are less anxious, more jovial, and more willing to open up. Lainey relishes these moments. Seeing someone who is struggling with depression, self-harm behaviors, or body image issues gain happiness from her goats is a gift.
Lainey currently has nine Goat Yoga locations across the United States and she employs seven people who help her run the business. She’s even garnering attention internationally as she mentioned a SKYPE meeting she had lined up the next day with someone in Australia to talk about what she does. Her next business venture is a Goat Hotel or (The Goatel) which would allow visitors a chance to relax, away from hustle and bustle of the world and enjoy a retreat experience. Her hope is to be able to offer lodging, a farm-to-table food option, and yoga classes.
Today, Lainey still needs treatment for her autoimmune disorder, but things are getting better and the goats are a big part of her sunny disposition. The medication she takes can be hard on her physically, but she looks forward to spending time with her goats and being the creative force behind her business. It keeps her active, engaged with the community, and most of all, moving forward.
If you’d like to learn more about Goat Yoga or sign up for a class, visit HERE!
As an added bonus, Lainey has generously donated four Goat Yoga class spaces with tastings at Emerson Vineyard to Trillium’s upcoming live auction at the Black & Gold Gala on May 12th. If you’d like to support Trillium and win a chance to do some Goat Yoga yourself, click here for tickets!
We are truly thankful for Lainey’s great work in the community and the happiness her goats bring to those they visit. As the Goat Yoga motto goes, “I’ve Goat Your Back!” Namaste.