Gravel crunches as you walk towards the farm and a faint bleating cry sounds in the distance. The smell of fresh manure fills the air. You are welcomed by “Good morning! You ready to have some fun?” Dew still lingers on the grass outside of a small fenced corral. You walk in and lay down your yoga mat. Hay straws cover the ground and it tickles your toes. As you get into child’s pose, a baby goat gallops onto your back. You let out a yelp of mixed excitement and surprise. All of this is nothing new to attendants of Thonotosassa’s own goat yoga.
Hat Trick Ranch is home to Debbie and Rob Canton, along with more than 70 goats. Every weekend, they open their home to 25 eager people ready to experience the eclectic activity known as goat yoga.
The activity consists of an hour-long yoga session combined with animal therapy provided by the goats. The goats wander around, lay on your mat, jump on your back, and occasionally leave a few surprises that are quickly cleaned up by Debbie Canton
This couple long dreamt of hosting a goat yoga class on their farm. The dream became a reality when Grady was born. Grady the goat blessed the farm with a fight to live despite being born blind, deaf, and unable to walk.
Debbie Canton rehabilitated Grady so he could walk and interact with other goats. He never regained his sight or hearing but fought for six long months to be the most positive baby goat on the farm.
“We always knew we were going to do goat yoga, but he was our inspiration to actually do our yoga for a cause,” Debbie Canton said.
The couple began hosting the yoga classes in April 2017. To attend class, participants purchase a ticket that supports the Grady Goat Foundation. Any profits made go directly to local charities in the Tampa Bay area.
“We support local charities that support children with disabilities facing adversity,” Debbie Canton said.
According to the Grady Goat Foundation website, the purpose of the non-profit organization is to inspire children so they can persevere through difficult circumstances and come out stronger, just like Grady did.
Debbie and Rob Canton are no strangers to the world of charitable actions. Rob Canton is also the founder and CEO of Athletes+Causes, a non-profit organization that “improves the lives of children by supporting the philanthropic efforts of athletes, artists and influencers that protect, educate, mentor and instill hope.”
Grady Goat’s yoga classes are held every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. Chanel Lobdell teaches the Saturday morning class and Leiko “Koko” Bergers teaches on Sunday.
“I am a mother of four, and my oldest has cerebral palsy. You all being here and supporting this organization means tons to me,” Bergers said.
Bergers guides the class through several yoga poses but encourages guests to prioritize their interactions with the goats. In the hour-long class, students can anticipate an abundance of laughter along with a great deal of cuddling and back scratching for the furrier participants.
Debbie Canton wanders around guests, cleaning up yoga mats soiled from goat related messes. While Rob stands close by photographing the student and goat interactions.
In the past, guests of goat yoga had the pleasure of meeting Grady at the beginning of every class but he lost his fight in Sept. 2017.
“We keep the foundation going in his honor and we had him six months longer than we thought we would,” Debbie Canton said. No previous yoga experience is needed to attend the class. You just need a positive and loving spirit.
“If you don’t want goats around you, jumping on your back and laying on your mat, you’re at the wrong yoga,” Debbie Canton said.
Hat Trick Ranch is located in Thonotosassa. You can keep up with The Grady Goat Foundation through their various social media platforms that include Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Donations can also be made directly to the foundation through the website at https://gradygoat.org/.
To learn more about Athletes+Causes, visit http://athletesandcauses.org/about/