Stephanie Morrison worked in a retirement home earlier in her career and developed a love for older people. She knew about the elderly who don’t want to leave their rooms, are reluctant to communicate and seem lost. That all changes when she brings her collection of animals from Giddy Up N’Go Ponies outside of Auburn to their homes.
“When I put a bunny in their arms or they see ducklings paddling in a little pool, they talk to the animals and they’ll start talking about the past and the farm they had growing up,” says Stephanie from the farm she and husband, Robert, purchased last year to create a business that offers animal therapy, pony rides, farm visits, petting farm events (at fairs, retirement homes, museums) and birthday parties. “They’ll have tears in their eyes.”
The hardest part for Stephanie is leaving because she sees how the animals bring such joy to the elderly. She has also taken her “petting farm animals” to Ronald McDonald house in London where she says the sick kids can “forget about what is going on in their life for a little while as they focus on the animals in front of them. It gives them a break.”
These are the soul-purpose reasons Stephanie is building on her business and travels hours with her animals, of which there are quite a few.
The star is Kooska the llama with his affectionate demeanor and wonky white-blue eyes. Kooska is not a spitter, loves selfies and any kind of attention she receives.
There’s also horses, ponies, dwarf goats, chickens, ducks, pot-belly pigs, sheep, bunnies, quail, a mini-donkey and a dwarf Zebu steer named Ruben. They are tucked in straw inside homemade penning made by Stephanie’s handy husband and father.
The work, though, of caring for the animals and travelling with the collection is hers with the help of her three daughters.
All feeding and pen cleaning is done by hand and Stephanie also loads and sets up the petting farm for customers hiring her to bring her farm to their home or business.
“It’s a lot of work but I do love what I’m doing,” says Stephanie. Her daughter, Alyssa, says she’s proud of her mom’s personal approach and says it is what makes her mom’s business unique because her mom cares so much about both the animals and the people.
The latest offering from Giddy Up N’Go Ponies is goat yoga. Classes at the REACH centre in Clinton this winter attracted up to 30 participants
Many came for the novelty; as something to cross of their bucket list. Other attendees found the goats such a sheer delight with their bouncy antics they took the class repeatedly.
Claire Day of the Yoga Den in Goderich is the instructor teaching the yoga and she says the goat’s contribution to the class is bringing tremendous joy to participants.
“At first I thought it was just a novelty but when Stephanie contacted me I was totally down with it. I love goats!”
She was surprised how many people came to the class who had never done yoga before. The goats were the draw. However, participants left the class realizing yoga was something they enjoyed as well.
During class, Claire says it’s “like constant smiles, laughter and happiness.
“These goats are small. Like the size of large cats and I feel like they love to perform,” says Claire. “They love it when we do plank pose and they’ll jump on people’s backs.”
The best part is during shavasana when the goats will often cuddle in with class participants as they liedown. “They are really cuddly. Soft and hypoallergenic.”
As to the mess, Claire says Stephanie is quick to clean up after the goats. Stephanie says only one person has been peed on. The pebble poops also appear and generally incite a lot of laughter among the participants. Much of Stephanie’s job during class is cleaning up and sanitizing where the goat’s freewill offerings are left.
As the business progresses, Stephanie believes it can provide a living for her family. Though her husband works full-time, Giddy Up N’ Go Ponies is self-sustaining. She has thought of having two trailers of animals on the road but wants to be able to be able to keep the personal touch and facilitate at events herself.
She does hope to promote more events at the farm itself. Birthday parties are very popular at the farm over the summer. Goat yoga will be offered outside in the summer as well. Stephanie does have a therapy room where indoor functions can be held during the cooler months.◊