TALES FROM THE TRAILS
Goats! Yoga! Helping out a good cause! All of these came together on Saturday, July 1 at Eden’s Edge Stables. The barn is home to the Heavenly Horses 4-H Group, which also held a yard sale that same morning.
“We’re raising money to help with the cost of attending the state championship horse show in Tampa,” group leader Katie Wagner said. “Heavenly Horses is a wonderful group of 14 girls, ages 5 to 18. Our primary focus is on riding and horsemanship. Every member rides, although they don’t all own their own horses. And we always welcome new members, boys as well as girls.”
The group runs its own meetings once a month and decides on each year’s projects.
“They determine what kind of fundraisers to hold and which community service projects to get involved with. I enjoy watching them become better, more mature young adults,” Katie said. “Each member sets goals and keeps a record of what they’ve done each year, recording time, income, expenses and what they’ve done toward achieving their goals. They track everything… It really teaches them commitment and responsibility. It helps them understand how much work is involved with properly keeping and caring for horses. It’s not just about the fun of riding.”
Two young members helped out with the yard sale. Lily Gumbinner, 14, enjoys being part of the group. “I like learning to be a good horseman, meeting new people and going to shows,” she said. “Helping the younger kids with the horses is a lot of fun.”
Emily Schaffer, 12, enjoys the hands-on aspect of the group. “Helping out with fundraisers is fun,” she said. “Riding here, we learn to be the best we can be.”
Six members of Heavenly Horses have earned enough points at local shows throughout the year to qualify for the state championships. They’ll be competing in showmanship, halter, hunter classes, western pleasure, ranch and barrels.
“It’s great to see all the kids work together as a team,” Katie said. “Riding tends to be an individual sport, one rider and one horse, but this group fosters a real spirit of cooperation and support. Everyone helps each other. Members who aren’t showing come along to cheer on their friends. There’s great camaraderie.”
Saturday, July 1 was all about the fundraising aspect, and the turnout was substantial. Members, families and friends had donated all sorts of items for the yard sale, some horse-related, some not, and a steady stream of visitors stopped by to browse. The goat yoga session had more than 40 human participants, young and old alike, each plunking down $30, grabbing a mat and ball, and staking out a spot on a fenced-off section of grass.
“We heard about goat yoga, a new trend,” Katie explained. “We held two other sessions and did pretty well, so we decided to hold a few more. A couple of our parents own goats, and one parent is a certified instructor who volunteered to run it. So far, we’ve had a fantastic response. It’s fun, relaxing and you don’t have to know anything about yoga — or goats — to participate. Everyone seems to have a good time stretching and relaxing while having a goat jump up on your back or nuzzle your face.”
Cheryl Alker led the yoga session. Her daughter, Hannah, rides with the group.
“This trend has taken on a life of its own,” she said, signing up participants and looking around for the goats, which hadn’t yet arrived. “We focus on flexibility, stretching and core strength. No prior experience is necessary, and anyone can do this and enjoy it. The goats add something special. They’re sweet, funny and adorable. They make people smile. I would buy one, but my husband would move out… The best part is that 100 percent of the proceeds goes to help these kids attend the show. Riding is an expensive hobby. The nice thing about the 4-H group is its kids riding backyard horses they’ve trained themselves.”
People came from all over. A group of friends sat side by side: Miriam Hollon from Belle Glade, Susan McCarley from Clewiston and Erika Jernigan from Palm Beach Gardens. “They had me at goat,” Erika said. “Who doesn’t like baby goats?”
Roxy Pita-Romero and her boyfriend Lawrence Rooney came from Juno Beach. “It seems interesting, and it’s for a good cause,” Lawrence said.
“I hope to get a goat on my back,” Roxy added.
Jessica Prince said she was looking forward to doing yoga and hanging out with the goats.
But, where were the goats? They were playing hard to catch, but they finally arrived in the back of an SUV: seven Nigerian Pygmy goats. Everyone doted over then and held out offerings of animal crackers to bribe the goats closer. Some younger enthusiasts were all about the goats, never mind the yoga. The session finally got underway, and everyone, goat and human, had a fine old time.
To find out more about Heavenly Horses 4-H, visit www.facebook.com/Heavenly-Horse-4H-Club-701833719999367.