Saturday, December 10, 2011

Llama Biography #3: SHAG Cattera

This week I'm being lazy and refusing to download new pictures from my camera, so I've decided to post another llama biography!  On a more current note, I will update that I have finished 2 more Christmas gifts (knitted items) and am working on an (optional) third!  Just one more to go, which after tomorrow may or may not be needed...

So on to Cattera...  Cattera was another of the three original llamas we purchased from Shagbark Ridge Llamas back in 1999.  She would be a companion for the first llama we purchased, Sheba.  When we bought her, Cattera was a beautiful 2-yr-old female, bred for her first cria (baby llama) (due in October 2000).  Like Duque, Cattera had been shown extensively by someone in Shagbark Ridge's 4-H program, and overall she was a friendly girl.  However, Cattera hated *me* with a passion!  No matter how nice I was, she just loved to spit on me!  Cattera quickly became another one of my sister's favorites, and Hannah also showed most of her crias.  I just stayed away!

Baby Cattera.

Cattera's sire, Mountain Cherokee.

Cattera's dam, SHAG Catterina.

Cattera and Hannah at the Great Lakes Regionals.
 I will give Cattera one bit of credit, she was a wonderful breeding female for our herd.  She had 7 crias on our farm, and 1 more after she was sold.  She was always a perfect mom, and gave us gorgeous crias.  Cattera's first cria was Cattessa, one of Hannah's best show llamas.

Next came Catanna.  She is easily the largest llama we've ever had born on our farm (34 lbs at birth) and matured to be the biggest too!  She was a bit stubborn to be good for performance, but she had beautiful babies.

Next was Catalina (are you sensing a trend in the names?  Every single Cattera baby had a name that started with *Cat*).  This little girl had a lot of potential, but unfortunately she didn't get shown much and didn't get to live up to it.

The first boy was Catlinite.  Amazingly he and Catalina (above) are NOT full siblings, they have different sires!  But they really do look identical!  Catlinite was my show boy for awhile, and actually did pretty well.

Next was the pride and joy of the farm, Catastrophie.  After all these white llamas we finally got some major color from Cattera!  Looking back at her progeny now, I believe Cattera produced crias with the coloration that the sire threw, and we were just unfortunate enough early on to breed her with males who threw white.  Taz was another of Hannah's show llamas for a little while, and then became one of our breeding females for a few years.

Once we finally got color, we really got color!  Cataleya is almost a carbon copy of her sire.  She was my show girl for a season, and did really well in walking fiber!

Another color mystery for you...Catallegre (below) is a FULL sibling to Catastrophie (above)!  We were obviously hoping for another reverse appy girl, but got this little tux boy instead.  He may be the most correct of Cattera's crias...he was a lot of fun to show for the few months that we had him.

After Catallegre was born, we decided Cattera needed a break from being a mom.  Instead, she got to be a grandma!  Here she is with Catastrophie's first cria, who looked remarkably like her!

This is Cattera at the ripe old age of 12, the summer before she left to go to her new home in Florida.

And the very last Cattera cria, Coosada Moon.  He also is a carbon copy of his sire, and was born at Cattera's new home in Florida.  I for one was not really sad to see her go, but it was still good to know that she would have such a great home!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Llama Biography #2: SHAG El Duque

Well I can't seem to come up with anything specific to write about, but I'm procrastinating on doing homework, so I thought I'd write up another llama biography.  I have over 30 llamas to work through, and I've only done one so far!

The second llama we added to our herd back in November 1999 (yes, we've had llamas over 12 years now!) was SHAG El Duque (we call him Duque).  He's also the only llama left on our farm from the original four we started with 12 years ago.  Duque started out as my younger sister Hannah's show llama.  He came already trained, so he was perfect for an 8-yr-old to show for the first time.  Hannah really has a way with animals, and she and Duque "clicked" like you would not believe.  Soon they were winning Championship after Championship in both halter and youth performance.  Here they are at the regional show- Duque won Reserve Grand Champion in Non-Breeder Halter.

Duque was also our #1 public relations llama.  He is not phased in the least by people, and really seems to enjoy the attention.  Hannah used to ride him all the time, and we even let our younger cousins take a turn when they were small.

One of the last years Hannah showed Duque our family made the long trip to Lincoln, Nebraska for the ALSA Grand National show.  Duque showed in halter and youth performance with Hannah.  This picture was taken at the national show- wouldn't it make a great ad?

In his younger years Duque was also a great hiking companion.  Due to his superb performance training he didn't mind wearing the pack (or anything else- I showed him on costume one year) and would follow anyone anywhere!  This is Duque with Hannah (right) and her best friend Anna (left).

If you're into llama genealogy, Duque is the son of the famous LW El Cid.  Cid came from Llama Woods farm in Oregon, and was the main herdsire for Shagbark Ridge Llamas (where we bought Duque and several other llamas) for several years.

This is a baby Duque with his mom, Mariette.  She was a beautiful big girl!

Low pasterns forced Duque into retirement prematurely.  He is still a farm favorite, and is living out his days with "his" girls.  He spent a few years playing alpaca guard- protecting the little male alpacas from our big herdsire Ridge.  He is still best friends with our one remaining alpaca, Ralph (left).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Sale on Etsy!

I'm furiously trying to get the rest of my handmade items listed on my Etsy site, and have made pretty good progress.  The handspun yarn is all on there, just a few more knit items to list, and hopefully my new beaded stitch markers.  Here's some of the new handspun:

And the big news, from now until December 1, take 20% off everything in the shop with the coupon code HOLIDAY20.  Stock up on Christmas presents now!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Big Etsy Update!!

Well I'm finally working on the big Etsy update! (amid doing schoolwork and playing with the puppy)  I've got brand-new pictures of all my current knit items and handspun yarn, and just finished listing my knit wire beaded candle holders (brand new to the shop!)

These are the candle holders.  I started the project as a way to use up old beads I had leftover from my jewelry-making youth, but they turned out to take a lot longer to knit than I thought they would!  I have 6 done, and am planning on finishing the other 6 (I bought 12 glass holders and candles) before I give up the project.  They are about 2.5" wide and 2.5" tall, and come with cinnamon, vanilla, or fresh linen candles.

Some of the knit stuff I have listed, all photographed with my new glass head model!  The hats are both handspun (upper right is wool handspun by my mom, bottom left is llama/alpaca and angora rabbit (from our herd!) handspun by me).  The cowls are both acrylic, but still very gorgeous and soft, and priced right!

Some of the handspun I have listed.  Blue silk, pastel alpaca/merino, pale blue/purple merino/tussah silk, and multicolored merino/tencel/silk.  Two of these are Indiana State Fair winners!

For those of you looking for Christmas presents, make sure to check out what I have listed so far, and keep checking back for new items!  I'm hoping to have everything listed in the next week or two, and plan on rolling out a coupon code before Christmas!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Performance Training

After doing quite a bit of performance training over the weekend while I was home, and receiving a question from a llama friend on the subject, I decided it was time to tackle the huge post about obstacles for performance training.  I took a bunch of pictures of our obstacle course last summer, so I'll go through what each obstacle is, how to build it (though many are just things I found around the farm), and how to train your llama to do it.  (I'm going to attempt to put these in order of increasing difficulty, at least in my opinion.)

Our whole obstacle course.
The first obstacle I'll start with is weaving.  You can use anything in place of the cones, but something tall is ideal so the lama knows it has to move around the object.  This is a good obstacle for any lama once it is halter trained- it teaches them to follow you no matter what.  You don't have to do a simple weave pattern, try skipping cones, or circling certain ones.  Once your lama knows how to back, you can practice backing around the cones too.

Next is deadfall (often called "step lightly").  Again, almost anything can be used in place of the branches, but branches are really easy to find!  For this obstacle, stick with small branches that sit on the ground.  Starting out, space them fairly well apart so it is easy for the lama to walk through them.  As they get better, add more branches or pile them closer together.  The basic idea is that you want the lama to walk through the branches calmly, without tripping.

Next is my assembly of different surfaces.  From left to right, the picture shows plywood, foam, plastic, wood lattice, tarp, and plywood.  Use any scraps you have lying around- linoleum, carpeting, sheet metal, etc.  By getting your lama used to many different surfaces, you have a leg up on many obstacles.  The plywood and lattice are usually pretty well accepted, but the foam, plastic, and tarp often scare the lama.  You just want the lama to walk calmly over all of the surfaces.

This is my backing obstacle (focus on the patch of bare green grass, not the obstacles on either side).  I used to have PVC pipes marking off my backing obstacle, but they kept getting misplaced so now I just position other obstacles to make a 4-5' lane to back through.  The slightly-raised obstacles are actually better barriers than the PVC- if the lama starts to not back straight, their foot hits the obstacle and they correct themselves.  Start with a straight backing obstacle, you can upgrade to an "L" shape, a square, or a circle.  Again, the idea is to get your lama to back up when you say a command.  I start by pushing the lama's chest gently, giving the command, and pushing backwards on the lead all at the same time.  Our lamas learn quick because they have to back out of our chute to get out.

This is the upgraded deadfall obstacle.  Here the lama really has to watch where they are going, and lift their legs higher (but not quite jump).  These are still just dead tree branches, but many people use 2x4's or PVC raise on one side.  Like the easier deadfall, start with the branches spaced far apart, and move them closer together.

This one is pretty obvious- a jump!  We used PVC with deck umbrella weights, but many people use logs or barrels.  Start with the jump low, and increase it over time.  For pack class, you can also use it low to teach the lama to step over something instead of jump.  You can also put the bar high, and practice ducking under.

The hula hoop is a very versatile tool for the obstacle course.  This can be 4-5 different obstacles all at once.  1) Have the lama stand with any combination of feet in the hoop (both front feet, both back feet, possibly all four feet if you have a small lama or a big hoop).  This is very popular at shows, you will often have to put both front feet in a hoop and pick up a foot/show teeth/put something on your lama.  It's pretty easy to forget about practicing things like picking up feet and showing teeth while obstacle training, so the hoop is a great reminder to practice those while you're going through the rest of the course.  2) Put the hoop over the lama's head, and have them walk through it.  3) Have the lama back through the hoop.  You can start with the hoop on the ground, have the lama stand with their back feet inside, pick up the hoop, and back the lama through the hoop, ending by bringing it over their neck and head.

This is another form of "step lightly".  It's harder than the deadfall obstacles because it is so narrow.  For that reason it is good practice for other narrow obstacles such as a raised plank.  I think this is an old ladder from our barn with some of the rungs missing.  Just like the deadfall, you want your lama to walk straight through the middle, without tripping.

This is the teeter-totter.  My dad built this obstacle- it is plywood on a 2x4 frame.  There's a notch in the 2x4's on either side, so that the log fits in the middle and it can move from side to side.  I painted it (added sand on top, and painted over the whole thing again once the first coat was dry) to give it a less slick surface.  Start out by walking your lama over just the flat surface (without the log) until they are comfortable, then try it moving.  Be prepared for your lama to spook the first time the frame moves!

This one is also pretty self-explanatory- a kiddie pool!  I bought this one for $5-10 at a chain hardware store in the summer.  Many shows use a plastic tarp over a 2x4 frame- anything that will hold water.  The plastic surface is pretty scary to most lamas, so it is good practice even without the water.  You can fill it with water or even packing peanuts and practice walking through those too.  Be careful though, my alpaca punctured many holes in this one with his toenails!  Some lamas love the water and won't want to leave, others hate it!

This is my make-shift stairs.  I have a big obstacle (see below) with stairs, but it is very narrow and steep, so not ideal for training.  This is simply made of 3 wood pallets.  You can also practice on stairs around your house, but don't use them if they don't have backs (many wooden stairs don't have backs- your lama could break a leg!).  At first, you can start with all the pallets flat on the ground, and get your lama used to the surface.  Then stack one on top in the middle and practice going up and down the stairs.  You can also use the top one as a ramp, just put it halfway up the other two on the side.

The dreaded tires...our lamas seem to hate these!  They are all old tires my dad had laying around the farm.  Make sure to cut holes in the bottom so they don't hold water, otherwise you will start breeding mosquitos!  For this obstacle, just place them haphazardly on the ground, and practice walking (calmly!) through them.  You'll probably have to start with gaps between the tires, and work up to the lama walking through the tires, not around them.

Once your lama is used to walking through tires, you can practice putting 2 feet in a tire.  Front feet are usually the easiest, but advanced classes often have to do the back feet or both the front and back feet (in 2 tires side by side).  Practice "placing" the feet with the hula hoop, and move up to the tires.

The most cryptic picture- this is my side pass obstacle.  It's just a piece of PVC pipe, but you can use a branch or a piece of wood.  You can put your lama on one side of the bar and yourself on the other side, or have your llama straddle the bar (front feet on one side, back feet on the other).  You'll probably have to start by poking your lama gently in the side to get them to move sideways, but you want to get to the point where you just put your arm out or even just use the command.  Make sure to practice both directions!

This might actually be the hardest obstacle, but maybe just for my herd.  This is a raised plank, about 6-8" off the ground.  It is just made of scrap lumber, painted like the teeter-totter above.  Most lamas have no problem stepping up on it, but they have trouble staying on the whole time.  If you can, get some helpers to stand on either side so the lama can't fall off.

Once your lama will put their front (or back) 2 feet in a tire, practice stepping up on something tall like this metal bucket.  Advanced classes often have to side pass in a circle with the front feet on top of the bucket!  You can also turn it right-side up and put feet inside the bucket.  It is also good for practicing side-passing or backing in a circle.

And last but not least, the big combo obstacle!  Ramp, bridge, and stairs all in one.  My dad built this one too.  Once your lama is good about going over the teeter-totter and stairs, you can try something like this.  Try it with helpers on the sides at first if you can, we had a llama once who fell off something like this (before we got him), and he wouldn't ever do obstacles after that!  With short steps like this, make sure not to let your lama skip steps on the way up or jump off on the way down.

I know it may seem strange to talk about obstacles after the show season is over for the year, but now is the time to start training for next year!

If anyone else has questions they'd like me to address, just let me know!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Puppy!!! And other such news...

Well this time there is a cute, cuddly excuse for me not updating the blog...I finally got my puppy!

Autumn Hill's Absaroka (aka Abby) came home with me last Sunday, and it has been a whirlwind of a week!  She's still pretty young (9 weeks on Monday), so potty training is a constant battle.  She's also not too fond of eating her food, so I'm trying to come up with something to tempt her.  But she's cute as a button, and very smart!  We've already started training, and she will sit on command and come to me most of the time.  We start puppy class next week, which should be a lot of fun.  Here are some pictures to make you melt...

Checking out Hank, my roommate's dog. 

In other news, my new gelding llama (CNS Mr. T) finally made it home to our farm!  He didn't finish his ALSA Halter Champion at the Noblesville show, but that just means I get to finish it next spring/summer!  He has quickly melded into the herd, and has a new best friend in Ralph.  I can't wait to go home next weekend to start working with him!  We're going to focus on desensitizing, a few obstacles (before it gets too snowy), and ground driving this winter.

T with his new herd.

Strutting his stuff in the pasture.

Look at the lock structure in that fiber!  Can't wait to shear him next year!

I'm also in the process of (finally) updating my Etsy shop with all of the new items that I've made over the past year but didn't sell at the craft fairs this summer.  I bought a glass head from Pier One last week, and just finished my light box this afternoon.  Now all I need is a nice sunny (and dry!) day to go out and take pictures of everything!

I had pictures of the light box, but they won't load...

And one last order of business...would anyone be interested in me writing a short article on doing fecal exams?  I need to test our herd next weekend when I go home, and I'm going to do my best to take pictures of the process.  Hopefully I don't have too many gross "bugs" to show you when I'm done!