No “kidding” around, the newest phenomenon gaining momentum in Elgin County is Goat Yoga. Every Wednesday evening Full Circle Ranch hosts a Yoga class where participants are able to interact with these adorable, friendly little barnyard animals. Goats are naturally curious creatures who love to play, jump, and run and their presence makes for a lighthearted atmosphere during the weekly classes run by a Yoga instructor from Oceans Yoga and Pilates in London. The classes are held in an indoor arena so they run rain or shine and participants are encouraged to wear clothing they aren’t afraid to get a little dirty.
“The goats add such a sense of playfulness to these classes and lots of laughter as well,” says Morrigan Reilly-Ansons, Owner of Full Circle Ranch. “They allow participants of all ages and skill levels to relax and enjoy themselves while getting some exercise.”
Morrigan launched the Yoga program to help people connect with nature, animals, and themselves. She has a passion for working with both animals and people and has spent the last 10 years combining these two loves to help individuals achieve wellness with the aid of animals, especially horses. She believes that with the pervasiveness of technology and the focus on productivity, society has become disconnected from the natural environment and anything that can bring people back to nature is a good thing.
Morrigan holds a Masters Degree in Counselling Psychology from Prescott College in Arizona, a Certificate in Grief and Bereavement from Continuing Studies at the University of Western Ontario and is trained in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). She started Full Circle Ranch in 2011 and moved the business to Central Elgin in 2013. In addition to Goat Yoga classes, Full Circle Ranch offers a series of counselling and therapy programs, community outreach programs, and horsemanship programs for both children and adults.
Both children and adults can learn horsemanship through one-on-one or private group lessons. The Ranch works with students to achieve individualized learning goals and provides opportunities for trail riding and joining the Full Circle Ranch show team that competes in both the English and Western styles of riding. The facility also offers summer camps and other special events throughout the year.
Counselling sessions can be conducted individually or in a group setting and help clients to overcome anxiety, depression, grief, loss, and trauma, to navigate life changes, and to achieve personal growth. Morrigan’s methods include talk therapy as well as Equine Assisted and Animal Assisted Therapies. Sessions are tailored to each individual and goals are entirely dependent on the client’s wants and needs.
The Full Circle Ranch team also takes some of their animals into retirement homes, schools, and community agencies to provide therapeutic outreach. The animals are used to facilitate various activities related to mindfulness, wellness, leadership, and team building.
Morrigan explains that horses are ideal animals for assisting with therapy sessions because they are by nature prey animals. Most animals that people interact with on a daily basis, cats and dogs for example are predators which mean they have a completely different mindset than horses. A prey animal must always be assessing its surroundings to determine whether or not it is safe, this makes it very in tune with its environment and everything and everyone in it. Horses can detect a person’s emotional state and can sense when someone is feeling anxious. As a result, when interacting with horses, people must be in tune with how they themselves are feeling.
“It is a way for people to gain awareness of their own emotional states, patterns and thinking processes,” says Morrigan. “It gives them the opportunity to do this in a safe and non-judgemental environment.”
Additionally according to Morrigan there is an honesty to horses and animals that isn’t found in humans. Animals don’t pretend to feel one way when they don’t actually feel that way and this honesty puts everyone involved at ease.