Prancercise: Westchester native gallops, world follows

Joanna Rohrback's Prancercise video on YouTube had been Joanna Rohrback's Prancercise video on YouTube had been viewed more than 6.9 millions time as of June 23, 2013. Photo Credit: YouTube/Prancercise

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A Westchester native has become a fitness sensation as her Prancercise workouts on YouTube gain a global following, with one racking up more than six million views.

Joanna Rohrback, now of Broward County, Fla., said she created Prancercise as an alternative to standard exercise programs.

"I developed Prancercise because I am not in line with conventional workouts," she said in a telephone interview Sunday. "It evolved through power walking and other training I did with weights."

Rohrback, who attended elementary school in Scarsdale and high school in Poughkeepsie at Oakwood Friends School, said that unlike traditional exercise regimens, Prancercise, which mimics a horse's gait, adds spiritual elements of self-expression, nonviolence and conservation.

"I'm interested in the philosophy that goes along with my program," she said. "Most exercises are very shallow. Prancercise has messages with it."

In 2012, she wrote a book about the exercise and lifestyle program, "Prancercise: The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence."

One reviewer on Amazon.com reveled in the experience.

"This book finally let me experience my inner-horse," the reviewer wrote. "I was like a child again, prancing through the woods. At one point, I was convinced I had four legs. A smile radiated from my face. I punched the sky, knowing that I was free."

Rohrback said that she attended Westchester Community College but migrated to Florida, where she has lived for the "better part of 40 years." The advocate of vegetarianism earned a bachelor's degree in health sciences from Florida Atlantic University and has been employed as a social worker and realtor.

Fame found Rohrback when one of her videos went viral, collecting 6,902,088 views as of Sunday afternoon. CNN came calling and so did NBC's "Today" show. There also were interviews from media in Australia, New Zealand and Chile.

Rohrback said that singer John Mayer saw her appearance on "Today" and decided that the sound track to his new "Paper Doll" single would fit as the audio track on a video of Rohrback Prancercising. The result: another YouTube hit with 2.3 million views.

At the same time, the videos have spawned a stream of Prancercise satirical videos (think of guys dressing up in drag) and some critical comments. "Love the song," says one poster commenting on the "Paper Doll" video, "but seriously what is up with the lady? Like why??"

Still, Rohrback said fame came knocking unexpectedly, and she's enjoying the ride.

"Nobody plans on this kind of attention," she said. "I believe it's divine intervention."

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