Jen Pietsch
Orcas Island, WA

I love spending time outdoors, gardening, running and raising my fleeced friends!
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

postheadericon Halter Training ~ Taking the Lead!

Happy New Year! I realize that I have been on a hiatus... I didn’t think anyone was paying attention, and I'm happy to have been wrong. Thank you for all of your prompting!

There is no escaping it, show season is almost upon us and halter training must be done. I did take a half-hearted crack at it last fall, but I really wasn’t ready and neither were the animals. My inexperience made me think that the attention span of an alpaca should be at least as long as mine. This is not the case. You can not ‘cram’ halter training. I am taking a slower, more relaxed approach now, and I will share with you here how it is progressing.

Mother, Cria and a Handful of Grain

Last fall I tried to work with 'Channel', but was unsuccessful for many different reasons -- primarily because she wasn’t really ready to break with her mother, Ember. Ember was not interested in having Channel leave her side either! Mind you, Channel has been weaned for months, but the bond between mother and cria remains strong. Fortunately for me, her desire for grain is even stronger… usually!

I started the week feeding Channel in the catch pen with her sister 'Manhattan'. When the girls finished eating, I worked on having them get used to me handling their heads and ears in preparation for the actual halter (we’ll do teeth, tails and feet later). Manhattan is an old card at the halter, and it was actually great to have her near if for no other reason than to remind myself that I have done this before successfully.

Small Steps to Success

I rubbed Channel’s face and ears… gave her a little grain… rub, rub, rub… little bit of grain, etc..... I showed her the halter and let her sniff it. I also had it wrapped around my hand and let it jingle as she ate the grain from my hand. That is all we did the first day, once for the morning feeding and once for the evening feeding.

By the next morning Channel was eager to get into the catch pen not only her breakfast, but also for the extra yummies I was sure to provide! By the end of the second day, I was able to get the halter on and have her stand for me. We didn’t even try to walk.

On the third day we walked around the catch pen and left her sister out of the enclosure. It was just Channel and I; what a pair!

Well, by the end of the week we were out of the catch pen, using very little grain, and walking in what we call the 'runway' along the fence. Elated would be an understatement. We still have a LONG way to go, but we are now working together and not fighting each other on opposite ends of the lead.

What a terrific week! Stay tuned.