Friday, September 24, 2021

Natalie, our intern, tries ‘Goat Yoga’ at Dove Haven Farm, Hudson Falls

By Natalie Barden, Chronicle Summer Intern

Dove Haven Farm, located in Hudson Falls, is indeed a haven for yoga, animal and nature lovers alike.

I discovered this first-hand last Sunday during a goat yoga class, one of the many offerings by owners Lisa Catalfamo-Flores and her husband Omar.

The couple opened the farm to the public for the first time in June, though they say love for animals and interest in farming led the pair to start the farm 15 years ago.

My experience

I’ve always been a big fan of goats. They’re adorable, entertaining, social, curious and in my opinion, underrated.

Naturally, I expected to love goat yoga, and spoiler alert — I did.

Before class, students paid the $25 fee and signed a one-page waiver, recognizing the inherent risks of being around farm animals.

After a few minutes of hanging out with Poncho, an Australian Shepherd and one of the four farm dogs, we were led into the small outdoor enclosure behind the barn where class was held.

Yoga mats are available, but students are advised to bring their own.

Instructor Heather Prindle described the class as “20% beginner yoga, 80% goat fun.” I’d say this is a perfect summary.

Natalie is second human from the left.

The next 50 minutes were spent copying Mrs. Prindle’s poses as goats wandered and bleated around us. After a few poses, Mrs. Prindle would pause class and encourage us to interact with the goats.

During breaks, Mrs. Catalfamo-Flores, volunteer Heather Jones and the “unofficial farm interns,” Hazel Jones, 9, and Ila Fisher, 11, offered to place goats on students’ backs or hand us a goat to hold.

If you go, I recommend saying yes to both offers to enjoy the full experience.

The class environment was extremely laid-back and relaxed. I broke out of poses many times to play with the animals, and no one gave me the stink eye.

A few animals took mid-class bathroom-breaks. It got on a few people’s mats, but it was easy to shake off and class leaders were quick to offer cleaning help.

Mrs. Catalfamo-Flores was available to answer any and all farm questions before and after class.

I was mainly focused on petting the goats, and I’d say the majority of my nine classmates shared this focus. Goat yoga is a great time, but if you’re looking for a serious, advanced yoga class with minimal distractions — this probably isn’t it.

Goat yoga is, however, a calming, entertaining, animal-lover’s paradise.

It truly was a highlight of my summer.

There is a small chance Mrs. Catalfamo-Flores will find me stowed away in her barn, hiding among the goats and waiting for the next class. I think I’m kidding.

More on goat yoga

Mrs. Prindle is a yoga instructor at the Glens Falls YMCA. She says Mrs. Catalfamo-Flores “cold-called” her, asking if she’d teach goat yoga at the farm.

Two of Dove Haven Farm’s ‘unofficial farm interns,’ Ila Fisher, 11, left, & Hazel Jones, 9. Chronicle photo/Natalie Barden

Despite having never taken or taught a goat yoga class, she recalls responding “Sure, I’m up for anything.”

Compared to a traditional class, Mrs. Prindle says, goat yoga “offers more freedom” and “that playful, childlike feel.” Movements are “a little more stagnant here,” and she doesn’t always plan a sequence like she would for an in-studio class. She individually tailors each class at the farm off of the moods of both her students and the animals.

“Sometimes I can tell it’s all about the animals, which is fine,” says Mrs. Prindle. She tries to take advantage of days when the goats are more interactive and playful.

Mrs. Prindle’s ultimate goal? “That everybody feels included.”

About the farm

Dove Haven Farm is home to 19 Nigerian Dwarf goats (the stars of goat yoga), over 20 show-quality Boer Goats, 2 cats, 4 dogs and “a lot of chickens.”

Beyond yoga classes, Dove Haven offers farm visits, goat walks around the property, private events like birthday parties and photography services.

Unofficially, they’re open to ideas and accommodating unique requests. Mrs. Catalfamo-Flores says, “If people want to come and experience the farm, we’re here anyway and we’re happy to share it.”

She says before opening the farm to the public, “Acquaintances would just show up and visit to see the animals.” These visits encouraged her to, “try and do something to offer it to the public.”

Hazel and Ila are among the several youths who regularly volunteer at the farm. Mrs. Catalfamo-Flores calls the girls “a good example to other kids,” because of their responsibility and work ethics.

“They’ll come regularly and they’ll do the dirty work. They’re really helpful.”

There are currently no concrete plans for public offerings during the winter, though Mrs. Catalfamo-Flores hopes to buy a Yurt to serve as a gathering place.

With over 25 years of experience as a school social worker, Mrs. Catalfamo-Flores says her ultimate goal for the farm is, “To make sure that it’s inclusive and accessible to people with different experiences. We just want it to be a place where anybody can come and feel comfortable.”

To book a class, farm visit or discuss a private event, visit Dove Haven Farm on Facebook or at dovehavenfarmny.com.

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