Sunday, June 3, 2012

Halter Training

I've been busy playing with the llamas for the past few weeks, and have completely forgotten my blog!  But I'm back, and thought I would talk a bit about halter training, since that's what I've been doing with our new cria, Kara.

Most people tend to wait til the cria is 3-6 months old to halter train, but I've always had better luck starting much earlier.  I like to start at 1-2 weeks of age, and always go slow.  Crias that young don't have much of an attention span, but they're usually very willing and absorb training like a little sponge!

Autumn Hill's Trillium, Catastrophie, and Inali, with Inali's dam, Alder Crest April Showers, in the background.  All 3 crias were halter and performance trained at an early age, and Inali went on to be a Performance Champion in 4-H.
First I start just letting the cria wear the halter around the pasture, not bothering to attach a lead rope.  Make sure to use a tiny cria halter- a halter that is too large can pose a hazard to the cria.  Most crias will shake their head and not move much at first.  I usually wait until the cria is walking around and behaving normally (trying to graze or nurse is a good sign that they are comfortable with the halter on) before taking the halter off.  Repeat this as many times as possible, leaving the halter on for 5-15 minutes, until the cria is completely comfortable wearing the halter.

Autumn Hill's Karakoram wearing her halter for the first time.  1 week of age.
Next I'll start leading the cria around with the mom.  The cria will want to follow its mom, so it won't fight the pressure on the lead.  I usually only do this once or twice, but would do it more if the next step didn't go well.  Again, limit this to 5-15 minutes of training.

SHAG Cattera and her 3 month old son Autumn Hill's Catallegre walking around the front yard. 
Then I will start taking the cria out on their own.  I like to start just by walking the cria around the pasture they are in, so that I'm not adding more stress by putting them in a new environment.  I usually will walk 1-2 laps around the pasture, depending on their behavior.  Repeat this until the cria knows to follow you and will respond to gentle pressure on the lead rope.

Little May Flowers sporting a bandanna (training for a later costume).  2 months of age.
And finally you can take the cria on walks in new environments.  Start slowly, and never have the cria out more than 15 minutes at a time.  You can start teaching the cria to stand still as well.

Autumn Hill's Charity expertly standing to have her picture taken.  1 month of age.

Once the cria is walking well on lead and responding as an adult would, there's no reason you can't start with more advanced training.  I have obstacle trained crias as early as 2 weeks of age!  A well behaved, halter-trained cria is going to be safer if you take them off the farm for any reason- I've safely taken 2 week old crias to shows and to other farms (to rebreed their moms).  Crias put up much less of a fight when they are trained at a younger age, and typically become better behaved adults.

Overman Bluff & Fluff and her 3 month old cria, Autumn Hill's Rainier, at the 2009 Indiana State Fair.  Rainier showed in 2 classes with Bluff at the show, including costume where he wore a modified dog pack.  Rainier has since gone on to place well in huge novice performance classes for his new owner.

Oh, and last but not least, I took a video of Kara during her first halter session.

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